Q&A with J Crowley, Head of Product at Airbnb Lux, on what makes a great PM

The role of Product Manager can mean very different things at various companies. Should a product manager be technical? Scientific? Opinionated?

J Crowley has run product at three big-name companies. At Foursquare, he led the rebuild of Swarm after a rocky initial launch and eventually became Head of Product. He then moved on to Blue Apron as Head of Product, overseeing growth and monetization. This was right before Blue Apron went public, which ushered in a turbulent time for the company but one that yielded a wealth of life lessons for Crowley.

Now, he serves as Head of Product for Airbnb Lux.

I hopped on the phone with J to talk about what makes a great product manager, some of the lessons he’s learned, and how he’s made difficult decisions and communicated that to his team.

Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Jordan: How did you get into the tech world in the first place? You used to work in TV, right?

J Crowley: I worked in the television industry for about 10 years. Many years at NBC for a bunch of different departments. Started in the Page Program, and worked on everything from late night comedy, to sports, news, election coverage, digital programming.

I ended up leaving NBC to start my own company, which was a small digital studio here in New York City. We made hundreds of digital shorts and web series. It was probably the most challenging, but most fun three years of my career.

I eventually packed it up to join Foursquare as their Director of Business Development in 2010. There, I helped them grow their brand by securing hundreds of media partnerships with major publishers, sports leagues, TV networks, musicians, etc. That was actually my first job in tech. It wasn’t a product role. It was business development.