Recently, Sean Ellis, entrepreneur and the author of Hacking Growth, joined our team on GoPractice. Sean brings years of invaluable experience in product management to our fast-growing community. But what is even more fascinating is what made him interested in Simulator in the first place and convinced him to help make it an even better experience. Here is the journey that led Sean to GoPractice.

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Growth expert Sean Ellis joins GoPractice team

Sean, you are a growth expert with several books and a deep experience in the industry. Could you tell us a little bit about your own path learning about growth?

Yes, my experience with growth and marketing on the internet really began before there were any books on the subject. A friend was starting an internet game company in 1995 and I decided to invest all of my savings into his business. A few months later, I joined the team. I think my investment helped me stay very focused on driving measurable results and generating a positive return on investment. I was quickly able to drive results with a search engine advertising buy, but realized that it was very unlikely that we would generate a positive return on the investment. I didn’t really know where we were losing people, so I began asking data questions from the development team. Over time we built a tracking system that was decades ahead of its time. Once we had a good tracking system, it became relatively easy for me to begin doing a lot of testing across all parts of the customer journey. This combination of data and testing was the seeds of much of my learning. We developed the business into the number one online game of its time and one of the top 10 websites in terms of total usage time. I continued the learning process across several other companies over the next decades.

Could you take us back a bit to where the idea to join the GoPractice team came from? You’ve gone through Simulator yourself, what was this experience like?

I was introduced to Oleg by the founder and CEO of Miro, who I met in the early days of Miro and had come to respect as he built a great business. Then when I learned about Oleg’s background, I knew he was a person that I wanted to meet. In fact, he was the first person I met when I arrived in Europe for a three-week trip that involved speeches and workshops. He walked me through GoPractice and I immediately wanted to dive in. Beyond my own desire to learn more, I felt like it could significantly accelerate the learning process for product, marketing and data professionals regardless of their experience level.

I was pretty busy on the trip but still found time to start the Simulator. I quickly fell in love with the program and asked Oleg if we could partner to make it even better. Throughout the process I learned a ton. While I thought my data and product skills were strong, I realized there was a lot of room for improvement. I’m confident that strong data, marketing and product skills are the killer combination for driving breakout results.

After completing Simulator, what did you change about your approach? How did it resonate with your experience and work?

The most important change for me was that it gave me confidence to find my own answers in Amplitude. In the past, I often relied on colleagues to help me gain an understanding of a business. The challenge with that is there is a big delay between a spark of curiosity and finding the answer to a key question. As I became more proficient with Amplitude, I found that I was asking more questions. Each answer led to a quick follow-on question that I could answer myself. These insights then helped me design better experiments. I also introduced GoPractice to some of my colleagues on a project, and as they began to develop better growth skills, I found we could all work more effectively together to drive better results.

What is so special about this new version?

I think the new version helps to build a better bridge to different business types. One of the great things about the simulator is that it is a specific story of a B2C mobile app in the file-sharing space. This keeps it interesting and practical and prevents it from becoming too theoretical. The specific story line means that you can actually gain experience driving growth. But this benefit also becomes a challenge for people who may be working in situations that are very different from the storyline. We’ve tried to build much better bridges to help students understand how the principles can apply to their specific situations. We’ll complement this additional content with weekly chapter review sessions where students will be able to ask questions about what they learned and get help in applying their new knowledge to their unique situations. By doing this in a group setting, all participants will gain a broader understanding of the material and become better versed in approaching growth for different types of businesses.

Who will benefit from the product the most?

I’m confident that anyone who completes the program with sufficient effort will become a world-class growth practitioner. Notice that I use the word “practitioner” and not “expert” here. Experts are very knowledgeable but often lack experience applying that knowledge to real-world situations. GoPractice builds both the knowledge and the muscle memory for applying the knowledge to drive results.

So who will benefit from the product the most? I would say someone relatively inexperienced will benefit the most. But I have a very hard time imagining anyone taking this program and not benefitting significantly. Some people may be strong in marketing, data or product. But rarely do you find anyone who is strong in all three areas. And cross-disciplined skills are the key to being successful in a growth role.

It might be easier to answer the question, who will benefit from the GoPractice the least? Probably someone who doesn’t approach it with a commitment to focus on getting better may gain limited benefit. Also, if a person is in a very traditional business-to-enterprise (B2E) role, the applicability of the lessons will be limited compared to a high velocity B2C business. But we’re seeing many breakout B2E businesses that are adopting data-driven experimentation approaches and outpacing their competitors, so even in that case there is likely a lot of benefit to be gained.

You mentioned there will be live sessions for the students who purchase the product before the end of September. What will they be like?

In the spirit of the program, these sessions will be a bit iterative based on what seems to be most helpful for the participants. The initial plan is to start with a review of the material covered in the previous week and answer any questions about that material. Then we’ll answer questions about the applicability of the key lessons in different business types. Given Oleg’s background in data science and product management at companies like Facebook, I’m looking forward to expanding my own learnings in these sessions. Oleg and I are definitely complementary in our skillsets. Really, this will be an opportunity for all of us to geek out a bit on growth, something we likely all share a passion for.

What is growth for you?

Growth for me is really all about impact. You may be able to attract many people to a mediocre product experience, but the impact will be relatively small. The ideal combination is a product that solves an important need, a clear articulation of this value, and an easy path to quickly experiencing the value. When you combine this with an efficient engine for attracting new prospective customers, you have the opportunity to create a significant impact on the problem and the individual people/businesses that experience this problem. I personally get a ton of fulfillment when I can work with a diverse team of people to get all of these parts working well together to drive significant impact.

Any advice for those who are just starting their growth journey?

Build foundational knowledge and experience quickly. Be really careful to stay curious. Never get arrogant and think you have all the answers. The right questions are always more important than the right answers. Data trumps opinions every time. Be coachable, but make sure your coach uses and understands data. Don’t be afraid to learn by doing and making a few mistakes along the way. Focus on getting better every day.

From a specific career development perspective, GoPractice can give you a big picture understanding of growth much more quickly than you could gain through experience alone. Then try to find a specific lane where you can add the most value through specialization. The combination of specialization and big-picture understanding will make you very valuable to most businesses.

Finally, try to find a company that has created a “must have” product for the people who have tried it and where you feel strong chemistry with the team. Life is much better when you like and trust your colleagues. This will free you up from distractions so that you and your teammates can focus on driving results.

→ Test your product management and data skills with this free Growth Skills Assessment Test.

Learn data-driven product management in Simulator by GoPractice.

Learn growth and realize the maximum potential of your product in Product Growth Simulator.

Join our discussion on LinkedIn. New topics to talk about every week.