FSQ Faces: Archer Woods, VP, Product Management

We are excited to announce that Archer Woods has joined Foursquare as our newest VP of Product Management! Learn more about Archer’s experience in this edition of FSQ Faces.

Can you tell us about your background and experience in product and tech?

My first real exposure to technology was interning during high school at a company that wrote software for newspaper printing presses. I only took it because it got me out of school two afternoons a week, but ended up loving soldering wires and hooking up mainframes. 

My first real job was with Andersen Consulting (now Accenture), where I learned how companies leveraged processes and technology on a couple of really boring projects. In my early career, I worked on large enterprise systems, mostly CRM, ERP and in data centers. At Intuit, I caught the product management bug and switched focus halfway through my career. 

I have built many types of software products across a number of domains and have scaled product management teams as I moved into leadership roles. I am very passionate about the developer experience (a discipline I learned from Foursquare’s Engineering SVP, Jason Hudak), and enjoy working with highly technical product managers and building out PM teams.

What inspired you to join Foursquare? What opportunities do you see in the future of our product suite?

At this stage in my career, the most important consideration for me is the people. I am pleased to work with a group of passionate experts at Foursquare in the geolocation technology space, and I’m looking forward to learning all that I can.  

“Suite” is a critical context when we’re considering the future of Foursquare’s products. We have an opportunity to build a sensible suite of compelling products, based on both a common platform and a unified set of data. This is essentially Foursquare’s vision for success as I understand it. Having lived this journey before (more than once), it is not easy! But I am up for the challenge, and I am confident we are building the right team to execute.

In your experience, what makes a strong product team? How do you plan to bring those values to life at Foursquare?

Empathy for the customer, communication skills, and technical acumen.

As a product leader, it’s important for me to model and teach these values to product managers during our daily interactions. Most folks learn better when they experience values and behaviors reinforced habitually. I also try to instantiate these values through learning opportunities, and I rely heavily on real-time, in-the-moment feedback. I seek to provide practical projects that allow individual PMs to gain and grow their skills in these areas. Finally, I connect PMs to other professionals in my network outside Foursquare who can help share ideas and mentor.

A finer point on customer empathy–I expect every PM to spend significant time meeting with customers and deeply understanding their needs and pain points (whether the customers are external or internal). I try to prioritize these activities and give space for PMs to interact directly with our customers.

When it comes to balancing innovation with meeting market demands in product strategy, what’s your personal philosophy?

The key word here is “balance.” In order to balance market needs and innovation, we need to have a culture that 1) deeply and intimately understands the needs and pain points of our customers, 2) allows space and time for innovation, exploration, and experimentation, and 3) ruthlessly prioritizes the deliverables that will maintain and grow a sustainable business. I can already see that we are building this type of culture now at Foursquare, and I hope to continue to contribute to that.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

“Write it down!!!”  

I was incredibly fortunate during my tenure at Intuit to interact frequently with CEO Steve Bennett. He drilled into all of us the necessity and discipline of clear, concise, and persuasive written communications. I realize now how important the task of writing is to crystalizing your own arguments and influencing others. It’s always stuck with me.

When employees join Foursquare, they’re always asked to share a fun fact. What would your fun fact be?

My wife and I swam with humpback whales in Tonga. I’ll send you a video if you are interested! 

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