Category Archives: Case Studies

Design Thinking: Out of the Classroom, Into the Fire


Aishwarya Natarajan and Dana Li, both Stanford University graduates, spent the summer of 2016 training with the PayPal Online Payment Product team as Product Management interns. They are coming back as full-time PayPal employees in Product Management in 2017, having successfully completed their Masters degrees in Management Science and Engineering from Stanford University. Below they discuss their experiences on the PayPal Online Payment Product team.

“You’re a Product Manager? Great. So what do you actually do?”

One of the great challenges of product management (PM) is explaining the elusive profession to those outside the tech world.

Product managers wear a number of hats, making it difficult to summarize the role succinctly—though the ability to do so is a core PM skill (notice what we did right there?). When we joined PayPal as PM interns last summer, we were both thrilled with the opportunity to learn and work with some of the best in industry.

Over the course of our twelve weeks with the Hermes Checkout team, we worked with product managers, engineers, and designers on product visions, executions, competitive analyses, and more. We each took on a primary strategy project. Aish conducted user interviews to identify ways PayPal can capture the millennial segment, and Dana worked on a strategic vision and roadmap projected for Pay with Venmo. We also supported other Checkout PMs with major features like PayPal One Touch and Consumer Choice, and volunteered with the Checkout Innovations booth at PayPal’s internal Tech Expo.

Traditionally, interns learn skills of the trade from their teams and mentors, and we did plenty of that. But as we headed into the second half of the summer, we also had the rare opportunity to teach our colleagues.

The Democratization of Innovation

Our director, Desmond Chan, is a huge enthusiast of design thinking, a methodology that is widely taught at Stanford. It is essentially a process, applicable to any industry or facet of life, to creatively solve problems and generate innovative ideas. Desmond wanted to bring design thinking to the ground floor of PayPal, informally coining his vision “the democratization of innovation.” Given our experience with it in classes at Stanford, he asked us to facilitate a few workshops for scrum teams and product managers.

The design thinking framework The design thinking framework. Source:

After planning, refining, and creating content alongside Desmond and UED and Engineering leads, we pulled off three design thinking workshops with the Guest Checkout scrum team, the Checkout PMs, and the Marketplaces team.

Though it was sometimes tricky translating classroom material to a company setting (we had to use “design thinking” on our design thinking workshops!) we loved the challenge. At Stanford, we learned design thinking in the context of large-scale issues: How might we make death less of a taboo subject? How might we close the gender gap in financial investing? And so on.

At PayPal, we aimed to bring the same level of innovation and ideation to specific products and create actionable steps: How might we use other sources of data in Guest checkout? How might we convert more guests to members?

Big Brainstorms and Birthday Hats

Teams participate in workshop activity Teams participate in the “6 Thinking Hats” activity in the workshop

The focus of our workshops was less talking and more doing. We took the teams through a one hour, hands-on crash course in design thinking via the Wallet Project. Participants paired off, and through interviews, distilling insights, and brainstorming, they prototyped an ideal wallet for their partner. We saw solutions that were traditional, futuristic, and not wallets at all.

Some of the wallet prototypes created Some of the (physical) wallet prototypes created in the workshops

After a (very brief) introduction to developing user point of view statements, “how might we…” questions, and brainstorming best practices, we challenged teams to redesign the ground experience at the local airport. In one session, our awesome, engaged teams generated 50+ ideas in 20 minutes.

This all happened before lunch. After our chocolate-fueled, non-stop initiation into design thinking, we spent the rest of the workshops focused on the teams’ specific product.

Integrating data and insights from UED, Analytics and Product Marketing, we worked with the teams to distill all the information and create problem statements they could ideate on. By the end of the workshops, we had 10-20 potential problem statements, close to 100 potential solutions for a few of them, and rapid prototypes of 1-2 ideas.

Numerous ideas posted via sticky notes Wealth of ideas

Version 2.0? In the spirit of design thinking, we actively sought feedback after each session. We, like our teams, were “prototyping” the workshops, learning what worked well and what didn’t so we could improve the next iteration.

We experienced the best of both in feedback we received: many loved the material and wanted to keep regular brainstorming sessions throughout the year, and many gave us constructive recommendations for improving the workshops.

Desmond’s vision of democratizing innovation was easy to get behind. Great ideas come from all levels of an organization, and it was a blast to be part of this new venture. We certainly hope to see some of those ideas, hastily scribbled on pink and green sticky notes in a conference room, become integral parts of PayPal’s product offering. Even more, we hope that design thinking further fuels the thriving culture of innovation here and sticks around for a long time.

Team workshop photos

Many thanks to Desmond Chan and Horace Lee for taking us in this summer and giving us these opportunities. Also thanks to Irene Yen, Jeff Harrell, Sunita Jasti, Debbie Bluestone, and Teddy Toms for being great teammates and supporting us!

How WooCommerce and Developer Agencies Optimize Payments for Small Businesses with PayPal


We recently had the opportunity to meet up with Michael Tieso, Developer Advocate at WooCommerce, and Jonathan Martin, President and Founder of Coolblueweb, an ecommerce development agency and gold level Woo Expert Developer. Developer agencies are an important part of our partner ecosystem to provide the best payment experiences for merchants around the globe.

WooCommerce is a highly customizable, open source e-commerce plugin for WordPress that is free to use. They work with merchants and business owners providing the flexibility to create online stores with numerous plugins and extensions that adds a variety of features to their store. Merchants choose WooCommerce because it’s easy to use, flexible and is a platform on which merchants can grow and expand their business. It’s also pre-integrated with PayPal and Braintree which enables merchants to create their store and start selling in minutes.

WooCommerce is really simple to use but given the ability for full customization, merchants will often look to developer agencies to get a unique look for their stores, including custom-built shopping carts that convert more shoppers.

WooCommerce created their WooExperts partner program for top-tier agencies to assist their clients in developing beautiful looking, high performing sites using WooCommerce.

Coolblueweb is a Gold level WooExpert developer agency, founded by Jonathan Martin. Merchants on the WooCommerce platform (and other platforms as well) who do one to twenty million dollars in annual revenue are typical of those who hire Coolblueweb to enhance their ecommerce stores.

They provide custom solutions to ensure the user experience on the site is seamless and that the shopping cart and checkout perform flawlessly.

Michael and Jonathan both highly recommend PayPal. Check out the video below to hear from WooCommerce and Coolblueweb on how developers work with PayPal partners to help merchants grow revenue and build great ecommerce experiences utilizing the latest technology and innovation in payments from PayPal.

PayPal Partner Marketing