20Product: Shopify’s VP Product on Why the Founder is Always the Head of Product, What Makes Truly Special Product Managers, Why The Majority of Product Managers Need to Change, Why Top-Down Decision-Making in Product is Good & How Shopify Will Be Bigger

Posted on 8th March 2023 by Harry

Glen Coates is the VP of Product @ Shopify, leading the development of Shopify’s core commerce platform. He also oversees the core developer platform and Shopify’s partner ecosystem, which includes over 10,000 publicly available apps in the Shopify App Store. Originally a CompSci grad, Glen moved from Sydney to San Diego in 2008 to run US distribution and e-commerce for an Australian eco-products company. In 2010, he attended Columbia Business School for one whole day before quitting to start Handshake, a SaaS B2B e-commerce platform. Glen joined Shopify in May 2019 when the company acquired Handshake. Glen has been in the Vice President role since October 2020.

In Today’s Episode with Glen Coates We Discuss:

1. From Game Developer in Sydney to Running E-Commerce Warehouse in NYC:

  • How Glen made his way into the world of product and e-commerce having started life as a game developer?
  • Why does Glen believe that the best founders and product people often have their roots in gaming?
  • What does Glen know now that he wishes he had known when he joined Shopify?

2. The Art of Product and Product Management:

  • Is product more an art or a science? If you had to put a number on it, what would it be?
  • What is “product management”? Why can it not be reduced to frameworks?
  • What are “product principles”? How do Shopify use them? How should product teams set them?
  • What makes the very best PMs today? What are the commonalities in them?
  • What is the sign of a poor PM? What would Glen most like to change about the world of PMs?

3. The Art of Product Marketing:

  • What does Glen believe is the true art of product marketing?
  • How did a CEO group teach Glen how to tell truly great stories?
  • How can one tell great stories when you have to cater to multiple different customers/personas?
  • How does Glen evaluate the current state of Shopify’s product marketing?

4. Shopify and The Future of Shopify:

  • Why does Glen think it is important for Shopify to have a tops down decision-making process for product strategy?
  • What does Glen believe is the #1 reason why Shopify is such a large and successful company?
  • What is the single hardest element of Glen’s role today?
  • How does Glen believe that Shopify will be larger than Amazon in 5-10 years time?

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