Commercialization is Product Management

Ray Cao is Managing Director, Global Head of Product Strategy & Operations at TikTok.


Ray Cao came up through Google and is now managing director, global head of product strategy & operations at TikTok. He has wide-ranging responsibilities that culminate in ensuring TikTok’s customers — users, creators, and advertisers — experience joy when they interact with the platform, especially during the pandemic.

He breaks down the difference between his two roles — product strategy and product operations — and defines his work by borrowing an analogy from his wife: “Strategy is thinking about when you go to the kitchen, thinking about what you’re going to eat tonight. That’s what she calls strategy. It’s thinking about what you have to do to make it work. And then, the operations side of things kicks in when you know what is the recipe, when you know what you’re going to cook. And then you put all the ingredients here, you put all your cookware here, and then starting to cook, and to make it happen. That’s basically the operation.

“When you're really thinking about the strategy is, you figure out what you eat. But, at the end of the day, you have to make it work and make it tasteful, so the operation kicks in to make it better. These are the two proportions that are very similar to my work. 


To extend the kitchen analogy, Ray is not afraid to share how the sausage is made. He further breaks down his roles, his methods and his plans for more innovation on this episode of This is Product Management.

Download the transcript of this episode here:


Here are the highlights: 

  • The keys to TikTok’s tremendous growth: 12:06
  • The difference between commercializing and launching a product: 19:15
  • Ray’s preferred metrics: 23:22
  • The importance of consistent testing: 28:06

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