Net Positive Growth - Carlos Gonzalez de Villaumbrosia

Carlos Gonzalez de Villaumbrosia shares how Product School is challenging the education industry and how he is maintaining a lifelong learning mentality.


Carlos Gonzalez de Villaumbrosia is the Founder and CEO of Product School, the global leader in product management training with a community of over one million product professionals. Product School instructors are real-world Product Leaders working at top companies including Google, Facebook, Netflix, Airbnb, PayPal, Uber, and Amazon. Carlos had a dream to connect product leaders to help them build for themselves or for organizations. Carlos has curated an environment of learning, growth, and networking that helps push people to their full potential.

Carlos recounted that the pinnacle moment of growth for him was moving to the United States 10 years ago. Hailing from Spain, where he studied computer science (driven by a love of computer games) his heart was set on Silicon Valley. He wanted to move there to follow some of his tech idols, like Steve Jobs. The first step on the path that he took to Silicon Valley was business school, studying a master’s in business at Berkeley.  

It was in business school that he had two major breakthroughs, specifically about his cohort. Firstly, at Berkeley, he wasn’t the only engineer who was interested in entrepreneurship or business, which was a refreshing change to expectations that he faced back in Spain. He was happy to see engineers not just confined to engineering, people were interested in leveraging their technical background in a different way. Secondly, he was aware that other students from different backgrounds like marketing or consulting were interested in technology. They were interested but felt as though their lack of coding experience or that they hadn’t gone down a traditionally technical route was holding them back.

There were two different groups trying to tackle the same problem but from different angles. Carlos realized that the two-year business school wasn’t the best solution to this problem. During the two years, there weren’t classes about product management, data science, or UX design, skills that would be applied daily for many in the technical industries. 

From this problem, the idea for Product School was born.

Entrepreneurial Change

The work that Carlos has been drawn to has changed him and his work style, yet he is far from done. Carlos sees learning as a lifelong pursuit and was blessed to be around people who embrace opportunity and hard work. While in this environment it encourages one to change their mind, to evolve, and to constantly look for and access different opportunities. 

Previously as an engineer, he was put into a box, with a defined role, he was supposed to code and be around others that looked like him. Instead, he found an environment with diversity, where he could contribute in different conversations and talks about topics other than engineering.

When he began Product School he hired different people, from all sorts of backgrounds with varying skill sets. This gave way for global thinking or high-level thinking. There were no models or playbooks they had to follow, there were no limiting beliefs. There was no direction to start small or no voice saying this was impossible. Carlos owes that freedom and mindset to the environment that was created. 

Learnings

Product School works in the learning space and offers an alternative path to the traditional educational system. Carlos believes in the pursuit of learning and takes some umbrage with the attitude of the educational system. One shouldn’t study until they’re 25 and then just work full-time, learning shouldn’t stop. Additionally, the traditional structure didn’t suit him, as he was frustrated by not learning from who he wanted to learn from, or what he wanted to learn about. The business school structure didn’t present him with the best opportunities to learn and he was not the only one.

Product School sought to change all this.

Product School

Product School is Carlos creating the school of his dreams, with classes on weeknights and weekends. This means that a student doesn’t need to give up their job or financial stability to keep learning. Students of Product School can still have a life, can still be social, and not be consumed by their studies.

Carlos really believes in the system and choice for Product School mentors and instructors. These instructors are all product leaders. They likely have notable roles at companies like Google, Netflix, Airbnb, or Uber. The flexibility of Product School means that these instructors can still work their full-time roles, just like the students. The instructors then have current experience and insight into their fields of study. This is in contrast with traditional teachers who have been teachers for 10 or 15+ years, with not a lot of recent industry experience. 

Challenges

Carlos believes that adaption is an incredibly valuable skill for a founder. When Product School was in development, it was just Carlos with an idea teaching the first classes. He was in search for the first set of customers, those who believed in the mission of the company and wanted to be involved at the ground level. 

Fast forward 7 years and the community has over 1 million members and is the largest community for product managers. The community has thousands of graduates, product leaders are not only instructors but work in events as speakers and mentors. Product School hosts thousands of events and conferences each year, helping books be accelerated to publishing and is a free resource for people who are interested in product. 

The challenges of Product School will never disappear. The goal is then to find a way to grow sustainably and be in line with their core values. One of these core values is quality over quantity. There are many other courses and communities which offer lots of content, but this doesn’t affect Product School and their high standards and expectations. If someone wants to be a Product Leader, they have to prove their worth to the community, engage with people and offer value. 

Desire, Drive & Motivation

There will always be difficulty in finding your passion, but once found it is incredibly important. The fundamental belief in the problem you want to solve pushes you to continue. It is incredibly difficult to fake or sustain passion that isn’t real. Product School was a solution to a genuine problem that Carlos himself had. The company has changed, and it will evolve in the future, but it is still trying to solve the same problem with the same core values. The original fire is still burning and it sustains him. Had Carlos chosen a different problem to solve, one he maybe didn’t resonate with as much or had chased a paycheck, then it could’ve been very different. 

Support

Carlos is a big believer in community and has experienced first-hand the positive impact that a community can create. Carlos wanted to create a community that offered an environment where people could help and empower each other, connect and network, and offer different perspectives to the problems faced. Product School isn’t marketed like University, with a start and end date. Product School will be constantly iterating and developing to try and best support the needs of the community.  

His support network has been crucial in his success. He owes a lot of that to his wife, she was there for him when Product School was just an idea. Carlos believes that you should never take for granted those that have supported you from the very beginning. 

The mentorship was another pivotal support for Carlos during his career, especially the mentoring within startup accelerators. He was a part of 500 Startups, the model for which helped inspire the concept of Product School. 500 Startups is a school for entrepreneurs, you do not pay to attend, rather, you are invested in. They want to prompt your growth and success. The people who are involved in this accelerator program are other founders and product leaders who are excited to share their knowledge and give feedback throughout the journey. This flips the traditional financial model for education where you pay money to attend a school and likely do not build anything, rather learn the core concepts. The incubators and accelerators focus on founders and the development of the companies they’re building. 

Product Accelerator

This model offered exceptional guidance for Carlos as he noticed there was a lot of overlap for building. Whether that be building a product as a founder for yourself or building as part of an organization. The elements that stay the same are the mindset required for building and the need to collaborate with others. Product School then offered the chance for product managers to learn about pitching themselves to better position themselves for future opportunities, 

A Builder

Carlos has been a builder all his life. He even tried to build a company before Product School. Today his title may not have the word product in it, but that doesn’t mean he has stopped thinking of himself as a product person. He is still a builder. Although he enjoyed his first company and then his role at General Assembly, he knew that Product School was an itch he needed to scratch. He saw the various educational platforms trying to teach a host of subjects to multiple target audiences. He took Product School and took it the other direction, he wanted to teach a specific thing to a very specific group of people and be the best at it. 


Different Mediums

Carlos knew that he had to start somewhere and that it would always be an iterative process. He values his focus and is always sure to pick his battles correctly. As the community built up he had to do more than just create and run a course. The business was evolving. This evolution means more channels to offer value became available and Carlos knew he had to take advantage of them. These include writing his own book, getting into events like ProductCon, and running his own podcast!

These days, Carlos has whole teams working on these different streams of value.

As a founder, Carlos was constantly requiring that he rewrite his job description and the difference in his role today to what he used to do, is night and day. Carlos is a builder and draws so much of his energy from people, and needs to have that constant interaction with students, instructors, and product leaders. He really enjoys that his role is customer-facing and helps him hear feedback about how he can best improve the experience for the next set of customers. 

Typical Day

Carlos definitely had trouble with coming up with two days that weren’t the same for him when it came to work. Although he does work incredibly hard to recruit and build the team that surrounds him. Additionally, he looks after the culture of the business, taking care of the values there founded upon. Carlos wants to look deep into the company identity and he’s so glad he has such a diverse team, representing over 25 countries.

Carlos also has to make time in the day for things he can’t predict. As a founder and CEO, there will always be unpredictable elements to his day, so he ensures he has the bandwidth and time to deal with them.

Staying Productive

It’s not possible to always be productive, like everyone else, Carlos is human. He sadly had to learn this lesson the hard way. He suffered from burnout, and it was just such a foreign experience for him. Carlos also acknowledges the role that priorities play in life, and he is so thankful now for his family, his friends, and his approach to self-care. Thanks to his family, he can prioritize better than before to avoid burning out. The mornings are really important, Carlos often works out, takes care of his mental health, and ensures he eats right.

Carlos knows that all these decisions compound into a greater effect on his life quality, treating himself like an athlete making the 1% changes. He sees his commitment to his health not only as a positive for himself, but it impacts his family in such a great way. It also means he is in top condition for his team, acting as an accelerating force, not a bottleneck.

Advice

Carlos believes that there is already a lot in the space of advice for people who are interested in starting. What he wanted to do was simplify it. He noted that there are always going to be reasons to not do something, but in the current climate, it's easier than ever to start!

You don’t need to be a software engineer or to have an MBA or even a lot of funding behind you. There are so many tools and programs that don’t require code, and the small things you need to do for creating your own business won’t take that much time.

The real factor is drive. To have the energy and effort to put something out there and test it with a user base. A lot of people get caught up in future thinking when the mindset should be about turning 0s into 1s. Move from baby step to baby step.

Future 

This is the best time in history to be building, especially after the pandemic hit. More businesses are working remotely and offering their services online. The area of product management isn’t just for silicon valley technology companies anymore. Any company with more than one employee and a software system helping them operate (whether helping internal collaboration or offering services externally) will need product management.

Carlos believes that we’re at a time where we need to empower more creators and builders to go out and create, to build. They can do it for themselves or as part of a company, but the key is, get started!

In challenging the very nature of the educational institutions, Upflowy also wants to challenge how businesses approach signup flows. We want to empower companies with a tool to create a signup flow. Previously this feature was only really available to companies with massive budgets and time for their developer and I.T departments. Check out our range of features and solutions and see how we can help you!

If you want to find more about Carlos, please visit:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/villaumbrosia/  
https://productschool.com/ 
https://productschool.com/the-product-book/  

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