Kirstin Hoefer, Sr. Director of Product Management at Ebay, Leads the Company’s Strategic Initiative to Improve the Buying Experience on eBay.com on an 80% Schedule
Benefits of this Flexible Arrangement to the Company
The primary benefit to Ebay of offering Kirstin Hoefer a custom schedule was their ability to attract her to the company. Kirstin, who joined Ebay on a 4 day a week schedule, came from Excite @Home where she handled very similar product responsibilities on a 3 day a week schedule. The GM who hired Kirstin at Ebay was notoriously selective in hiring. The Director opening that he originally hired Kirstin into had been open for 8 months before she accepted the job. Since then, Kristin has been promoted and grew her original team to an organization of 19 before being offered her latest role leading a team of 20 overseing the Buying Experience at eBay, all on an 80% schedule.
Hiring Kirstin, and her success at the company have also had the additional benefit of helping to evolve the work culture at Ebay. Though her arrangement was unique at the time, Kirstin feels that management at Ebay supported hiring her on a reduced schedule because they recognized that the arrangement embodied the spirit of what the company is, an organization that values talent, and works creatively to attract and retain the best in the industry.
Motivation for Flex Career
Kirstin’s motivation for a custom schedule was not unique. She and her husband were both working full time in fairly demanding roles when they had their first baby. The couple needed to restructure their work hours to create more time to be involved parents while their children were young. The two evaluated their options, and Kirstin’s management at Excite @Home, which was downsizing and near bankruptcy at the time, was very open to working with her on custom schedule, so Kirstin opted to reduce her schedule to 3 days a week.
How it Works
At Ebay, Kirstin works an 80% schedule in 4 days a week, taking Fridays off to spend with her family. Consequently, she is paid 80% of her full time salary. Per Ebay’s standard policy, because Kirstin is working more than 30 hours a week, she receives full benefits and full vesting of her stock options. Kirstin is fairly disciplined about not working on Fridays, rarely rescheduling her day off to take a meeting. Rather, she and her team consider her Fridays out of the office a growth opportunity for the team, allowing her direct reports opportunities to handle
senior meetings in her absence. Kirstin has reported to 3 different managers in her 4.5 years at Ebay, all of whom have been very supportive of her arrangement, helping her to build a strong team of direct reports that make it easier for her to delegate and keep her schedule in check.
Kirstin started at Ebay as a Director managing a smaller team of individual contributors. While she welcomed organic growth of her team and responsibilities through an acquisition and hiring, Kirstin declined several promotion opportunities in her first few years at Ebay that would have had her take on more responsibility faster. After 3.5 years in her role, Kirstin did accept a promotion to Senior Director that brought with it greater responsibilities and a larger team. She recently accepted her latest opportunity to head up the company’s strategic initiative to improve the buying experience on eBay’s core site, a role that now manages 4 direct reports and an overall organization of 20 Product Managers and managers of Customer Support Policy and US Trust and Safety Initiatives.
She admits that each time that she has taken on a new role she has felt a bit stretched for the first two quarters as she’s settled in to the new responsibilities. She has generally worked long evenings in her 4 week days to keep up and come up to speed. She generally gets her schedule in check as she settles into the role, but always plans to reevaluate her workload with her manager after three quarters and either delegate or restructure her part time arrangement to compensate her fairly for the hours required in the new role.
Kirstin has recently taken on a new responsibility leading a new team of 20 product managers (with 4 direct reports) responsible for improving the user buying experience on the core eBay site. This is a strategic and high visibility project that if done well could position her for the next step in her career at eBay. She also recently took on responsibility for
US trust and Safety as well. Kirstin previously managed a team of product managers responsible for the definition, creation, launch and ongoing product strategy of Ebay’s Tailored Shopping Experiences, the primarily non auction based markets that are a strategic growth area for Ebay.
When Kirstin started at Ebay, reduced schedules at the Company were very rare. The General Manager at Ebay that first hired her championed her pioneering part time arrangement because he was convinced she was the right person for the job. That certainty was based partly on the strength of Kirstin’s experience and partly on the strength of a recommendation from an ex-Excite @ Home colleague of Kirstin’s that had also joined Ebay.
Part time career opportunities, while certainly not commonplace at Ebay are much less rare now. The company now has policies and HR infrastructure in place to support these part time positions. But by and large, like at many companies today, part time career opportunities at Ebay are very manager driven.
Advice for Others Interested in Proposing a Reduced Schedule
Kirstin feels that building a strong reputation and choosing the right manager are key to securing and succeeding in a part time, career track position. She highly recommends that you develop a track record of success that makes you the best candidate for the job even on a reduced schedule. Plan ahead as you are selecting a company and manager. And if your manager isn’t supportive, use your network and references to find one that is.
Kirstin also feels that coming into her position at Ebay 4 days a week, rather than trying to cut back from a full time schedule to a reduced schedule, was very helpful in setting her up for success in her position. She highly recommends that approach, where possible. If you do need to cut back in your current role, it can be done, but be prepared to specifically call out what responsibilities you are removing to get to 80% and to live with some awkwardness in the transition as you hand off or delegate these responsibilities. Whether you are starting on a part time basis or cutting back to a part time basis, Kirstin recommends that you set clear expectations with your management and your team about how your arrangement will work.
According to Kirstin “In my own experience, as well as through the encouragement of a professional coach, I also recommend not being afraid to ask for what you want. Be very specific and paint a picture for how you personally, your manager, and the company will benefit by considering a flexible arrangement. How you approach this ask (strategically, with confidence, unapologetically, with details about what you want the reduced schedule for, and citing examples of others who have done it and how it can work) will have a huge impact on whether it is accepted. For those who fear even asking might not only have them denied, but then put on a “mommy track” – I’d really push on that.”
Kirstin also reminds that it will take some discipline to keep to your part time commitment, “It is very easy to let your hours creep up. And you will inevitably need to manage your workload and arrangement over time.” Kirstin checks in with her management and peers on a regular basis to make sure that her responsibilities and schedule compare appropriately with their full time roles. And she has been thankful that several of her most trusted management, peers and team have checked in with her at various times to let her know when she’s taking on more than she’s being paid for.
This is the latest in a series of profiles by the Flexibility