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Fractional Product Leadership: A Journey of Flexibility and Value Creation

Written by
Adriana Landaverde Adriana Landaverde
Early stage Product Leader and Advisor
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In November 2019, my professional world took an unexpected turn. Fresh from working with a startup that eventually imploded, succumbing to administration despite a successful $150m Series C raise, I found myself reassessing my approach to product leadership. This tumultuous ride taught me a crucial lesson: much like dating, finding the right startup culture is a lot about compatibility. Sometimes, it's a seamless fit, while other times, you realize that you must break up and move on. But with every breakup, your confidence takes a hit, leading to a more cautious approach in the search for the next venture, informed by the risks involved.

Recognizing these risks, I contemplated a consultancy path as a means to mitigate them—a way to distance myself from the core culture while still adding value. Yet, fate had a different plan at that stage. A pre-seed fintech startup sought my expertise not as a consultant but as an integral part of their team. However, their budget couldn't accommodate a full-time role. Enter the concept of Fractional Chief Product Officer—an innovative solution aligning my expertise with their resources. A few months into this arrangement, the pandemic struck as I realized I was pregnant with my second baby. Being a Fractional CPO proved to be a lifeline, allowing me to maintain a work-life balance, particularly during the early stages of my second pregnancy.

"Like dating, finding the right start-up culture is a lot about compatibility"

Adriana Landaverde, Fractional CPO

Since then, I've embraced various independent engagements: Fractional, Consultant, Advisor, and Interim. Each role offers its unique insights and challenges, yet Fractional Product Leadership stands out for its blend of influence and adaptability.

As a Fractional CPO, I've embedded myself within the company’s leadership teams, shaping organizational culture and strategy. My role has extended to team building and OKR setting, with a direct stake in outcomes. This close involvement, paired with limited scope, has enabled a focused acceleration of product development. Given my industry experience, I am able to expedite the decision making process, leveraging the successes and failures of my past roles.

But what sets Fractional apart from other engagement types?

Interim engagements, while similar, are temporary and often full-time, meeting specific needs like maternity/ paternity leaves or expansion projects. Product consultants offer tailored support in product development stages, from prioritization to delivery and measurement of outcomes, typically with a narrower scope and impact. As an Advisor, I’ve fostered long-term relationships, guiding founders in strategic decisions, often extending beyond product development.

For CEOs and founders, Fractional Product Leadership offers a trifecta of benefits:

  • Quality without compromise: Limited budgets need not equate to compromised talent. Fractional leaders bring extensive experience, accelerating progress and fostering excellence.

  • Test before commitment: Finding the right fit for your product leadership team is daunting. Fractional leadership allows for a trial period, while founders figure out the seniority, scope and timing for a full-time product leader.

  • Time optimization: Quick access to experienced talent frees up founders' schedules, facilitating focus on critical tasks like fundraising or key hires.


For Product Leaders, Fractional engagements open doors to:

  • Risk diversification: The ability to work with multiple teams across industries mitigates the risk of sole dependence on one venture.

  • Lifelong learning: Exposure to diverse industries enhances fundamental product skills while broadening horizons.

  • Autonomy and scalability: Flexibility in hours, projects, and self-development empowers product leaders to own their professional journey, scaling impact across multiple ventures.

However, one caveat looms: You will be responsible for your own business development. While initial engagements may come inbound, proactive networking and marketing efforts are essential for sustained success. As Product Leaders, we’re not accustomed to exercising this part of our brain. Yet, it’s been a critical skill for this part of my journey and I’m proud to be better at it every day.

In the realm of Fractional Product Leadership, I've found not just a career path but a philosophy—one grounded in flexibility, integrity, and the pursuit of excellence. It's an approach that speaks volumes to the evolving landscape of tech leadership, where adaptability and authenticity reign supreme. As we navigate this dynamic terrain, let's embrace the opportunities that Fractional Product Leadership presents—a journey defined by growth, collaboration, and limitless possibilities.

Interested in exploring how we can collaborate? Please schedule a 30-min call to discuss your needs.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Adriana Landaverde

Adriana Landaverde
Early stage Product Leader and Advisor

Adriana is a strategic and commercially-minded global Product Leader and Advisor, with a proven track record of delivering exceptional value at start-ups and scale-ups in Silicon Valley, Europe, the United Kingdom, and Latin America. Her extensive experience has led to three successful company exits, including Trulia (IPO and acquired by Zillow), Nutmeg (acquired by JP Morgan), and Tiny Prints (acquired by Shutterfly).

As a Product Leader, she's been driving innovation since 2008, working across diverse industries such as Proptech, Fintech, and Travel. She possess expertise in various business models, including SaaS, Marketplaces, and eCommerce. Her ability to identify patterns and understand the core fundamentals of businesses, regardless of the industry, has been pivotal in achieving success.

Adriana thrives as a Product Leader at Series B or later-stage start-ups that have found Product-Market Fit (PMF) and are poised for Product-Led Growth. Simultaneously, she actively contributes as an advisor to promising early-stage founders, assisting them in shaping their products and processes.

Completing her Stanford GSB MBA, she brings a unique blend of education and practical insights to every endeavor. Born and raised in El Salvador, she embraces diverse perspectives and fosters a collaborative approach to problem-solving.

If you're interested in exploring potential collaborations, discussing innovative product strategies, or simply connecting, feel free to reach out.

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