Inside Story: LinkedIn’s VP of Mobile on Driving in the Snow, Houzz and Anticipatory Computing

June 12, 2014

Editor’s Note: This is the first post in a new Q&A series called the Inside Story where we sit down to learn more from the people behind the products at LinkedIn.

LinkedIn’s VP of mobile, Joff Redfern, chats with us about how he became a great winter driver, why Houzz is one of his favorite apps and the investments his team is making in anticipatory computing.

Q: We access LinkedIn via phones, tablets and our desktop. Does that pose challenges for you and your team?

A: Of course. People have shifted from using just a PC to using multiple devices throughout the day. They might start their day with their phone, use a desktop during work hours, and then a tablet in the evening. On top of that we also have members using more than one of our five mobile apps. So throughout the week we have lots of potential touch points with our members across devices, across apps. We’ve been focusing more of our attention on how our products work together in symphony versus as stand alone instruments. For example, if you have our flagship app, but then download our Pulse news app you shouldn’t need to login or register again. Since we already know you are a member we just let you press a button on the new app confirming it’s you and voilà you are using the app. This is just one of the many ways we are trying to compose a score for our instruments to play better together.

Q: Why does LinkedIn have five apps anyway?

A: While we don’t envision having dozens of apps, we also don’t want one single monolithic app. We want to keep simple, simple, so we build apps that are dedicated to specific use cases or experiences. In fact, you’ll see a brand new app coming from us in a few weeks. Our apps are like an à la carte menu. Obviously we’d be thrilled if you order one of everything on the menu, but for the most part our members just pick out a couple apps that make sense for them.

Q: As someone who oversees mobile for the company, you must also be well versed in new and interesting apps. Do you have a current favorite non-LinkedIn app?

A: Houzz is one of my favorite apps right now. My family has strong real estate and architecture ties. My grandfather emigrated from Italy and did a lot of residential and commercial building work. My mother was the first woman building inspector in Massachusetts and one of my brothers is an architect. I love looking at, and appreciating, great architecture and design. You learn a lot about people from the way they design and live in their home. It’s inspiring to see people who are able to get a ton of utility out of tiny spaces. I also enjoy seeing the different ways that people tackle similar space issues.

Q: You’ve been at LinkedIn for almost five years, how have things changed?

A: How our members visit LinkedIn looks very different from when I started. Just over three years ago mobile accounted for eight percent of unique visiting members to LinkedIn. Today it’s 43 percent and before the end of this year it will be over 50 percent. We went from being a desktop company to being both a desktop and mobile company. My goal is to have the whole company thinking about mobile and focused on making LinkedIn work where you want to work. Looking forward we will also invest more in what I would call “anticipatory computing”. Mobile allows us to better understand your context because we carry our phones everywhere we go and they are connected to the Internet and have lots of sensors. More and more apps should just infer what I need next. It’s like going to your favorite restaurant and they know your name, what you like, and how to cook it. As a result they anticipate what I need before I have to ask. It leads to a wonderful experience and we want to capture more of those kinds of moments with our mobile program.

Q: What’s your favorite LinkedIn tip you’d like to share with members?

A: If you don’t follow any LinkedIn Influencers you should. They are some of the top influencers in the world writing on a variety of topics. Be sure to check out the comments because they are often filled with the hidden gems. The comments are written by everyday professionals who have a perspective that is often as eye opening as the thought leaders. A couple suggestions of people I follow are Jeff Weiner (not because I’m sucking up, but because he’s talented), Michael Moritz of Sequoia Capital and Angela Ahrendts of Apple.

Q: What’s not on your LinkedIn Profile?

A: During my first four years at LinkedIn, I had one of the longest commutes. I lived in Lake Tahoe, California, but worked out of headquarters in Mountain View, California. It’s about 250 miles each way, so I put over 110,000 miles on my car. That’s the equivalent of driving around the world more than four times. It gave me lots of time to think and one of the benefits is that I’m pretty awesome at driving in the snow.