Q&A: Kirsten Wolberg Discusses Product Innovation at PayPal
By: eBay Inc. Staff
Kirsten Wolberg, who leads PayPal’s Global Technology and Business Enablement team, spent much of her career in financial services but her enthusiasm for technology drove her decision to make a big change. In a Q&A that’s part of our new series on our company’s tech leaders, she shares how she tackles complex technology problems and drives her team to continually innovate for the benefit of our customers.
Wolberg has been with PayPal for two years, leading the Global Technology and Business Enablement (GT&BE) team for PayPal Technology group, which enables technology execution and innovation globally. She oversees technology strategy, planning and analytics, technology mergers and acquisitions, quality and release solutions, load and performance testing, enterprise transformation, technology engagement and the new PayPal Open Source office.
What got you interested in the technology sector and brought you to eBay Inc.?
For over 20 years, I’ve spent my career in financial services. When you work in this industry, you almost have to be interested in technology, because you use technology to deliver products and services to your customers. I’ve had roles both on the business side and technology side. I’m partial to working on the tech side because I have an opportunity to work with engineers. At the core, engineers are problem solvers and I love solving large problems at scale.
I came to PayPal because of the values and purpose of the company. I had stepped out of financial services and payments to work at a software company for a few years. It was a great company and I learned a lot, but I missed the industry. Most of all, I missed being surrounded by people who shared common values and are really passionate about the purpose of the company. eBay Inc. is such a great place to work. I feel really lucky to be here.
What are you working on that is helping to fuel eBay Inc.’s business?
The employees in the group I work with are focused on fueling innovation and business value.
On May 6, we celebrated the one-year anniversary of the launch of the PayPal Transformation. This team has been very focused on enabling 405 global agile scrum teams to transform the way we plan, build, and deliver products to our customers. In the time we’ve been working in this new way – the combined, cross- functional – teams have delivered more than 58 new products!
The Quality & Release Solutions Team has had a HUGE first quarter and innovated to make it possible for our engineers to release code five times a day through the new Open Window process. It used to take weeks or months to release new products, now it’s literally hours or days. This team has also had a relentless focus on developing automation and cleaning up our legacy code base, making the testing and release processes faster and more efficient for our developers.
Furthermore, our Technology Engagement Team is helping attract and retain the best talent for PayPal technology through multiple award-winning, innovative programs like the Small Business Challenge and the Technology Leadership Program.
How do you embody eBay Inc.’s purpose and values through your role?
In my group, our role is to look across the organization, the technology across PayPal and eBay Inc., and to make every effort to ensure that we are making the right decisions and doing the right thing at every level. It doesn’t always make us popular, but ultimately it is what will help drive customer and employee success.
A key example of how we’ve operationalized the principle of “Debate, Decide and Deliver” is the Cross Product Line Governance meeting that I chair with Angela Song from the Product Group. In this forum we evaluate resources and priority contention between product lines and make key trade decisions. These decisions are documented and shared so the teams know how to prioritize work requests.
I’m a fanatical user of PayPal’s products, and I am so proud of my team who consistently shows up at the top of the “Be the Customer” leaderboard.
I have a very open, honest and direct style of communication. I regularly talk about the differences between “the executive truth” and the “ground truth.” It’s important that my employees understand that I am open to, and really want to hear, the ground truth. I believe I’ve created a trusting environment that enables all employees to be open, honest and direct about what is working and what isn’t working across PayPal.
What’s the best career advice you’ve received and how has it helped you develop your career in technology?
The best career advice I received was back in 2002 when I was faced with a career choice to either stay on a business path, or to step “across the line” into a pure technology role. My mentor at the time coached me to answer the following questions for myself to help make the decision:
- What job will you learn the most from?
- What job scares you the most?
- What job will leverage your innate ability, your learned skills and your ambition the most?
After answering those questions, I took the technology job and I’ve had a very happy career in technology ever since!