Startup #LIFEAFTERCOVID. Blend

When the first quarantine shock eased, when the team more or less adapted to work from home mode and goes out to the virtual bar on Fridays via Zoom, willy-nilly, the question arises – what awaits us after quarantine ends? What will the world be like after pandemic?

We, being optimistic by nature, want to see the light at the end of the tunnel and therefore started the #lifeaftercovid series of interviews with start-ups that found their way through the crisis and learn from them:

  • what is their approach to team management?
  • what will happen to the hiring?
  • what help they expect from recruiters?

Today, we talk to Clement Kao, Product Manager at Blend. Clement has launched four multi-million dollar products, and he’s actively tackling new problem areas to unlock the next generation of multi-million dollar products.

Outside of Blend, Clement is also Co-Founder at Product Manager HQ, a community dedicated to providing career advice for aspiring product managers and experienced product managers. He has written 60+ best practice articles and has been a featured speaker and writer for more than 15 different organisations.

Blend is a Silicon Valley technology company transforming the consumer lending ecosystem. Blend’s technology delivers speed and efficiency to lenders, so they can serve the modern borrower and safely navigate the industry’s changing rules and regulations.

Location: San Francisco

Team size: 201-500 employees

Hiring now?  Yes

1. Will your team remain remote after quarantine?

We’ve been thoughtful and deliberate about each of our roles, and that includes the location for each role. Even before COVID-19, we already had some roles that were remote and not tied to one of our physical locations. For example, we have Client Support roles and Customer Success roles that were remote, and will continue to be remote even after shelter-in-place has ended.

On the other hand, we fully expect to bring the majority of Blend’s employees back to their home offices once shelter-in-place has ended. While we’ve been incredibly effective at working remotely, we’ve built a great product and a fascinating business by being physically co-located. However, we strongly believe that it is crucial for particular roles to be in close proximity with others.

For example, as a product manager at Blend, I’ll be returning to the San Francisco office alongside my Engineering and Design counterparts. It is important for productivity to have moments of serendipity, where we sit next to one another and have the freedom to bounce ideas off to each other in real time.

2. What do you struggle the most with? And what is your main driving force?

We ask ourselves every day – what is the highest impact that we can deliver? And, since the landscape of consumer finance has changed so dramatically with COVID-19, that means that we need to quickly pivot towards meeting those needs.

For example, we’ve seen that many financial institutions are focused on refinance mortgages rather than purchase mortgages, because interest rates are at an all-time low. We pivoted from our originally planned roadmap so that we could quickly deliver new functionality that would better enable lenders to tackle record volumes of refinance mortgages, so that we can deliver the most impact we possibly can.

It can be challenging to stay this flexible, and to know when to be proactive versus when to be reactive. But, our driving force has always been the same: to make consumer finance better for all.

3. Will you evaluate an impact of the crisis on your team?

Absolutely. We’ve already conducted both formal assessments and informal checks to ensure that the team is able to work together as effectively as possible, and we will continue to monitor the situation so that we can empower everyone to do the best work that they can.

Our formal assessments have led to real policy changes. For example, we realize that transitioning to full-time remote work is difficult, and that home office setup is expensive. So, our leaders have enabled us to subsidize some of that home office setup cost.

I’m humbled to say that my colleagues are also my friends. We check in on one another every day to see how we’re doing, and how we can help one another make it through difficult times. It’s the informal check-ins that have made the most impact on me. I’m so glad that my teammates are looking out for me, and I’m so glad that I’ve been able to help my teammates have a smoother transition by supporting them at work and in their personal lives. 

4. Will you hire with the same speed or focus on developing existing employees?

We are actually trying to hire at a faster pace now! COVID-19 has forced a lot of consumer finance to go digital, and that means a digital lending platform like Blend is even more important than it used to be. We’re hiring for many open roles right now, and we’re even hiring more recruiters so that we can hire faster.

While we are accelerating the pace of our hiring, we are also doubling down on the development of our current employees. We are committed to everyone’s growth, and we are actively tackling new frameworks for how to strengthen our career paths within Blend. We want our employees to find their next role at Blend, whether that’s a promotion or a lateral transition into a different kind of role. We want Blend to be known for the quality of its people, and we are continuing to invest significant resources in our people.

Every week we will feature a new startup. Do you want to share a story of your startup #lifeaftercovid? Reach us on info@pitchme.co quoting “Startup story for blog” and we will get back to you!

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