eBay Exec Takes a Startup Mentality in Every Role

Sarah Steimer
AMA Collegiate
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Key Takeaways

What? EBay’s Michal Langer says real life doesn’t always follow your plans.

So what? Langer says there are three key points she learned in her career: You don’t belong in a bucket, you should create your own opportunities and find the best combination of scared and happy.

Now what? People should be innovative, rather than expecting an innovative job.

​March 17, 2017

Be innovative; don't expect an innovative job, says eBay exec.

Michal Langer, head of strategy and operations for new product development at eBay, says she always had a five-year plan.

Those plans, she learned, consistently failed her. She thought for a long time she would be a scientist, but when it didn’t feel right, she shifted to working in product management roles at startups. She loved the pace and how engaging the work was, but she had to pivot once again upon moving to the U.S., where she found herself at eBay.

Part of what helped her remove the negative stigma she created around working for a major company was treating her position as a startup within a larger organization. She asked the manager for exposure to other groups and eventually moved up in the company, exposing herself to various opportunities.

Langer says she’s learned three key things in this time:

You don’t belong in a bucket.

“I think it’s a mistake to think of yourself that way. I am myself, I have my personality and my skills, and I happen to be doing these things for this company today.”

Create your own role and opportunities.

“There’s a lot of being at the right place at the right time. But when that happens, you need to make sure someone thinks of you first because there will be a lot of other people at the right place at the right time.”

Find the best combination of scared and happy.

“If you are getting to a place where you’re comfortable, you probably aren’t moving forward anymore. Don’t think you can only work jobs you’re 100% qualified for. If you’re only 75% qualified, that’s fine. Someone else with 75% of the skills will probably try for that job. Don’t settle for mediocrity.”

Langer described some of the issues eBay is currently looking to fix, including how customers need to do most of the work in finding a product. She says eBay has more than 1 billion products, and there’s no experience in finding something as a customer would have in a store: no one is there to help. To solve this eBay has been working with some artificial intelligence technologies.

“How do we get that experience of a salesperson, but scale it,” Langer says.

EBay is currently trialing its ShopBot technology on Facebook Messenger. Users log onto their Facebook Messenger app and click "Start Shopping" to get a message from ShopBot. The goal is to allow the ShopBot to use AI to quickly learn what, exactly, the shopper is looking for. ShopBot allows users to view curated collections or find something specific.

Langer’s key takeaway for attendees was to understand the job may follow their personality, and not vice versa.

“At the beginning of my career, I wanted to be in science because I thought it was the only way to be innovative,” she says. “Then I thought startups were the only way to be innovative. If you’re an innovative person, you’re going to create innovation. You should always be really tuned in to what you’re feeling comfortable with. The day I feel stale, I’ll move to a different place.”


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Sarah Steimer
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