Wednesday, March 26, 2008
From time to time we'll introduce you to a member of the Checkout team. Meet one now.
Alyssa: How long have you been at Google, and what role do you play on Checkout?
Prem: I've been a Google Checkout product manager for over a year. I work closely with our merchant engineering team in the greatest city on Earth (New York, for those of you who don't live here :)). Before Google, I worked for MIT Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington, Massachusetts, as an engineer on an airborne 3D laser radar wide-area mapping program. And before that, I was finishing up an undergraduate degree in electrical and computer engineering and biomedical engineering from Carnegie Mellon University. Though I'm not mapping things with lasers anymore, I am still excited about the work I do to enhance the overall ecommerce experience for merchants and buyers.
Alyssa: What sorts of things fill your day?
Prem: I work closely with our engineering team on building an easy-to-use service, and I coordinate with sales and operations to make sure we're focused on the features that make it simple for sellers to offer Checkout. Together, we look for ways to drive more traffic and increase customer conversions. I also spend a lot of time reviewing feedback from merchants to ensure that we're paying attention to the needs of potential and current sellers. As part of the Checkout team, I've worked on features ranging from our easily downloadable order reports to our Checkout for Non-Profits launch.
Alyssa: How do you go about taking an idea like Checkout for Non-Profits from conception to reality?
Prem: Carefully! In all seriousness, this idea was a fairly obvious one, considering the fact that Google has a history of supporting the non-profit world. I found an engineer who was interested, and together we spent the famous Google 20% time working on this. As a product manager, I need to worry about the entire project, driving it from idea to implementation. This means everything from legal and compliance work to guaranteeing a great user experience. With the non-profit launch specifically, we had to make sure that the experience wasn't confusing for the donors or for the charities. You might think that sounds like a lot, and it is, but product managers are known as jacks of all trades (feel free to insert master-of-none joke here!).
Alyssa: Any high points?
Prem: When first thinking about Google Checkout for Non-Profits, I wanted to create a new program that would really revolutionize the process of collecting donations for non-profits without huge technology budgets and I knew that getting the resources I needed would require executive support. When it was time to get approval for the service, I scheduled a meeting with Larry, Sergey, and Eric, prepared a 40-slide deck with numerous projections, and braced myself for what I expected would be a long, involved discussion. Instead, I presented the first slide and Larry said, "We should do this." Eric agreed. And just like that, the meeting was over. Coolest thing ever.
Alyssa: That's great. And what about when you're "off-duty"?
Prem: New York is a great city with lots to do. I love getting out of my apartment (also known as my room, since it's a studio) and exploring. I read a lot -– I'm a self-described news junkie, and the number of times I refresh Google Reader in a day is truly sad. I'm a huge Kurt Vonnegut fan, but I'll pretty much pick up any book ranging from fiction to non-fiction as long as someone else tells me it's a worthwhile read. I just recently read a great book called The Mouse Driver Chronicles. I travel a ton and completed a work trip to Japan, China, Thailand, India, and Israel earlier. I also get addicted to the tube, watching shows like Entourage, Heroes, 24, Lost, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Scrubs, and lots more (I'm always playing catch-up!).