Meet the people behind the product: Sandeep Rajan
Meet Sandeep, a leader on our Product team in New York. Sandeep tells us about his experience as creator, the unique pace of the creator economy, and technology’s ultimate promise to make the world more human.
Tell me about the journey that landed you at Patreon.
My journey to Patreon starts with my own journey as a creator. After starting my career in finance, I left Wall Street to write a book. I took a road trip where I researched the energy industry, recorded conversations with people working in the field, formed it into a book, and eventually shopped the book around. At the time, writing a book as a novice author was very challenging and it made me realize how hard the world can be for creators.
After ultimately self-publishing a different version of the book, I pivoted my focus toward a content technology startup where I had the opportunity to build up a company in the very early stages, and I made every mistake possible along the way. After that experience, I wanted to learn how large, successful organizations built products, so I joined Dropbox. While there, I got to build and ship several new features. I was focused on freelancers in my role, so I got to see them start hosting and selling digital content using a number of services adjacent to Dropbox. That made me appreciate what was happening in the creator economy.
What made you excited about joining the team?
I was introduced to Patreon at a time when I was getting really excited about the creator space, and Patreon was at a stage where I felt I could come in and make a difference. I became really excited about the opportunity to shape the product and culture that we want to build over the next several years.
At Patreon we love creators and admire their grit, creative process, and connection with their audiences. How does creativity show up in your work at Patreon?
For product teams, creativity mostly comes into play in framing and influencing the many choices we have to make. A huge part of the product manager role is to listen. We talk directly to creators, members, stakeholders, and teammates then distill their input into product choices.
Our goal is to understand who creators are and the problems they face, and from there we determine what choices Patreon needs to make to help them solve those problems. There’s so much creativity in how to define those choices.
What kinds of people do you work with in your role?
Everything at Patreon starts with the creator. There are a handful of teammates who are very close to creators and work with them every day, like our creator partnerships team, community teams, and research teams. They know so much about the issues creators are facing and how Patreon might help them, so ensuring that product managers talk directly to those teammates is critical.
We also work very closely with designers and engineers to determine what our product solutions look like and how we can actually build them. Once we begin building solutions, we work with data science teams and product marketing teams to measure success and ultimately bring the solutions to creators out in the market. For me, this is one of the best parts of product management. It’s such a cross-functional role and we get to help bring different parts of the organization together to solve a problem.
One thread I’ve seen through all the teams I’ve worked with at Patreon is a rare level of creativity. Everyone has a sense of connection to our purpose and to the creative spirit. Folks really bring a sense of wonder to their job in imagining what could be possible to make a better world for creators. This creative energy is such a fun part of our culture.
What kinds of things are you learning in your role?
I see my growth and development as happening on two dimensions: growing the number of tools in my toolbox that I can use to respond to a specific situation, and getting more experienced at identifying and diagnosing situations quickly and accurately.
In the world of creators, there’s always something more to learn. The creator economy is changing constantly. From figuring out what products are coming out in the space to how creators are thinking about their own businesses, there’s so much to understand. It’s constantly informing our strategy and approach.
What’s been surprising you lately?
The pace of change in this space has been really surprising to me. I knew it was moving fast, but I didn’t know it was moving this fast, or that the creator economy had already gotten as big as it had. Beyond the scale of the market at large, the scale of some of our creators’ worlds on Patreon is exhilarating.
Creators are growing their communities and transforming their art constantly, and it’s so exciting to have a front row seat to all of it.
A big part of this is because creators are that much closer to their fans now. Before, the gatekeepers and platforms stood in the way of that immediate fan feedback and energy. But now, creators create, react, and evolve at a pace that’s much faster because they’re plugged directly into what their fans think.
What’s different about building for creators?
Creators are experts in building an audience and developing their own voice. When they care about something, they know how to express themselves. This is obviously why creators are special, because they’re able to define and build an audience around expression. That means building for creators is about figuring out how to sift through all of these opinions and find the right solution for their needs.
What would you say to a future teammate considering joining Patreon?
Patreon is in a special moment because there’s this rare combination of personal impact and scale. We’re a company that is somewhat established and known in the market, but we still have a relatively small team that’s only beginning to build the future of our product and the industry.
I’ve been at both ends of the spectrum. I’ve been on a tiny team where you have personal importance but a small impact on a market and users, and I’ve been a small part of a much larger team with a huge reach.
We’re at this amazing sweet spot right now. If you’re part of the team, you get to shape the way the product and organization work in a market that’s already here and ready for innovation.
Outside of work, how do you spend your time?
My wife and I had our first kid last summer. In those crazy first few months, I was focused on figuring out parenthood while staying awake and keeping everything together, but now she’s at the age where she has a whole world to explore. The bulk of my time outside of work is keeping up with her and all of the new things she’s learning and trying out. It’s been so lovely to hang out as a family in a way that feels fundamentally different, and I’m sure will continue to feel different every month as she grows.
Who’s your favorite creator on Patreon?
I was in Montana earlier this summer and we wandered over to the Montana Grizzly Encounter, which is a sanctuary for a handful of bears who were rescued. When we walked in, there was a sign on the counter that said, “become a member on Patreon.” They have a few folks giving them money every month that goes toward feeding Max, this giant grizzly bear, and then as a member you get livestreams of Max as a benefit. I loved that in this remote corner of Montana, the notion of membership as a way to participate in an amazing cause was powered by Patreon.
I believe great technology makes the world feel more human. It brings us closer to the people and causes that we care about. This brought Patreon’s role to life for me in a way that I didn’t really think about before. It demonstrated the potential of what we’re doing — to get beyond the existing notions of creators and creation in order to think much bigger about how we help people feel more human by connecting more deeply with what they care about.