Jun 25, 2024

A Product Journey #10 with Adrien Urlacher Director of Product at Aircall

Thomas Moussafer

Co-founder @ Jimo

Adrien, we're thrilled to have you. Can you walk us through your career journey and how it led you to become the Director of Product at Aircall?

Absolutely. My career path wasn't initially directed toward product management. Like many, I started out with entrepreneurial aspirations right out of school, which didn't pan out as expected. Unfortunately, that venture failed more quickly than I anticipated, leaving me at a crossroads. I pondered whether to start over or gain more experience. I chose the latter, driven by the belief that I needed to build a robust foundation of skills and market knowledge.

Starting out at the Faubourg Group as a Chief of Staff was a game-changer. It immersed me in the startup ecosystem and exposed me to various facets of business operations, especially software products. Over three years, I climbed the ranks and deeply involved myself in product development, which was incredibly enlightening. Eventually, I craved a bigger playground to test and scale my skills, leading me to Aircall—a company well-celebrated within the French Tech scene. At Aircall, my role has allowed me to delve deep into the mechanics of a sales-led growth company, enhancing my understanding of how product strategies can significantly impact business scalability and customer satisfaction.

In one of my previous interviews, someone mentioned that working in product management is the best training for becoming a successful founder. Do you agree with that perspective?

I do, and I might be biased because that’s the path I chose. Product management equips you with a crucial set of skills: market analysis, competitive insight, and an understanding of user needs—all essential for a founder. It's more than just business acumen; it’s about being at the intersection of technology, business, and user experience. In my role, I see firsthand how strategic decisions influence market positioning and growth. This holistic view is invaluable for anyone looking to lead a company. The best leaders I’ve encountered were well-versed in product management because it provides a comprehensive understanding of running a business from a granular to a grand scale.

With over six years in product management, how have you observed changes in this field?

The field of product management is perpetually evolving. When I started, there was a strong focus on rapid growth and scaling features quickly. Over time, I've seen shifts towards more sustainable practices, like prioritizing efficient, lean operations and deeply understanding user behaviors. Trends come and go—what's en vogue one day may be passé the next. However, the core of product management remains: it’s about finding the right balance between innovation, market needs, and operational efficiency. The rise of data-driven decision-making has also transformed how we approach product development, emphasizing the importance of aligning every feature with clear business outcomes and customer value.

As Director of Product at Aircall, how have you shaped your team's vision and approach?

Joining Aircall was a pivotal moment, especially as I entered during a transitional phase from high growth to a more mature market presence. One of my primary roles has been overseeing our integrations and marketplace, areas ripe with potential but also cluttered with legacy decisions that prioritized quantity over quality. In early 2023, we took significant steps to refine our focus—choosing to champion quality and strategic relevance over sheer numbers. We’ve become more selective about what we develop, which integrations we enhance, and how we communicate these changes to stakeholders. My vision has been to pivot Aircall towards a more product-led growth trajectory, emphasizing product discovery, user research, and measurable impacts through rigorous OKR frameworks. This shift aims to balance our historical sales-driven approach with a robust, user-centric product strategy.

Are there particular mentors or leaders who have profoundly influenced your approach?

Definitely. While I’ve had several mentors throughout my career, our recent CPO at Aircall has been particularly impactful. His approach to product thinking and his strategic insights have reshaped how I view our work. For example, his decision-making process regarding customer retention versus operational efficiency taught me the value of prioritizing long-term customer satisfaction over short-term gains. This has been instrumental in refining my leadership style and how I structure team objectives to align with broader business goals.

Lastly, what advice would you offer to those aspiring to leadership in product management?

Seek out mentors actively. No matter your personality type, finding experienced individuals willing to share their knowledge can dramatically accelerate your learning curve. Always stay curious, keep learning, and don’t hesitate to reach out to those you admire. Embrace continuous learning—whether through formal education, networking, or hands-on experience. Remember, the landscape of product management is always changing; staying adaptable and informed is key.

Thanks a lot Adrien! 💙

Author

Thomas Moussafer

Co-founder @ Jimo

Co-founder @ Jimo

Co-founder @ Jimo

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