Meet the Herd: Say Hello to Derek

People & Culture

Say "hello" to Derek Yang!

Derek made the trek all the way from San Francisco to Atlanta last June when he joined our Herd as a talented and enthusiastic product manager! 

If you're unfamiliar with what a product manager does, listen up. The product manager is the person responsible for defining the 'why', 'what,' and 'when' of the product that the engineering team will build.  Obviously, this role is crucial to the growth and development of any tech company, but with fast turn-around times, finding the right product manager is especially important to startups like Yik Yak. 

Derek has used his breadth of knowledge, experience, and passion to take great ideas and transform them into even greater products. Not only is he a true team player, but his positive attitude and smile are infectious...even after a disheartening ping pong loss.

Perhaps his laid-back attitude can be attributed to his upbringing and former life on the west coast? It's like the saying goes: you can take the guy out of Cali but you can't take the Cali out of the guy. Er, something like that, right? :)

Q: What inspired you to work as a Product Manager?

A: Ask my close friends and they'll tell you I'm a huge nerd when it comes to puzzles, riddles, and anything of the sort. Building great consumer products that solve high leverage problems is a very interesting challenge, and feels a lot like working on an ever expanding puzzle.

Working alongside some fantastic product people at Facebook further showed me this is a role that would let me work on meaningful challenges in a way that plays to my strengths and interests.

Q: Why did you decide to work at Yik Yak?

A: Aside from the company mission resonating with me, culture and people were very important factors in my decision. I loved the people I met. I remember thinking how passionate, ambitious, and grounded everyone was. 

People throughout the organization seemed to really understand that great ideas can and do come from anyone in the company. It was clear that folks felt empowered to be open and authentic, and to voice their opinions without fear of criticism and rejection. This spoke volumes to me about company leadership and team cohesion.

Don't get me wrong, things aren't always perfect :) but the team's willingness to communicate objectively, listen to feedback, and be transparent ensure that we'll continue to get better.

Q: Who inspires you at Yik Yak?

A: A lot of people. I'll talk about Richard Guy, our mobile dev lead, who inspires me a ton, and I'm very thankful to be able to call a friend.

He's a rockstar teammate in every sense. I've seen Rich really embody Yik Yak's values of putting the herd first, being super authentic, and grinding hard. It's difficult to imagine that someone can do all that he does and still maintain a good balance with his personal life and family time, but apparently it's possible. 

An intangible part of his presence at work is how much he genuinely cares about people's best interests. It's quite telling when a person this busy will still take the time to listen, listen, and listen some more.

Richard, you the Guy. Except on the Ping Pong table.

Q: Who’s the funniest person at Yik Yak and why?

A: Probably Brooks - it's amazing, if not hilarious, that he can spin up jingles using people's names on the spot. I think everyone in the office has three theme songs at this point.

Honorable mentions:  Haris is regular funny, but does an awesome impression of Herbert the pervert from Family Guy. And Marcus has the laugh that makes you laugh.

Q: What are your hobbies outside of work?

A: Reading, board games, power lifting, food, and dance. Guilty pleasure: Anime.

Q: What’s the best life advice you’ve received, and who was it from?

A: I'm a sucker for catchy one liners, so it's probably some combination of "failing to prepare is preparing to fail" and "stay hungry, stay foolish." Ben Franklin and Steve Jobs are probably credited with popularizing these.

Q: What is the highest number of upvotes you’ve received on a yak?

A: 47 upvotes. But it had a lot more total votes than that. #controversial

Q: What’s a fun fact that no one would guess about you?

A:  I only spoke like 50 words of English when I was 10 years old.

Q: What songs are included in the soundtrack to your life?

A: Pretty different stuff over time, here are a few:

  • Glass Animals - Gooey
  • Zhu - Faded
  • Odesza - Say My Name
  • Childish Gambino - Heartbeat
  • Drake - From Time
  • Hoodie Allen - No Interruptions
  • Nujabes - Luv sic (1-6)
  • Fort Minor - Remember the Name
  • Pokemon - Gotta Catch 'Em All

Q: If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?

A: Magic, which I probably won't learn because I don't want to ruin it for myself.

I'm super curious by nature, and typically want to find out how everything works. But when it comes to magic, I'm pretty content just being mesmerized and fooled by illusions :)

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Q: What is your favorite part about living in Atlanta?

A: Atlanta has grown on me. There's a ton of life to be lived here, and a lot of culture, personality, and city pride. If I had to pick one thing, it would be the abundance of great food in all parts of town. It's ridiculous.

Q: If you could give one piece of advice to someone looking of a job in tech, what would it be?

A: Stop waiting and starting doing! :) It's easier than ever to access information, learn skills, and meet people. With the tools available today, it's also easier than ever to take an idea from being disjointed thoughts in your head to being a magical experience that improves people's lives.

Q: Would you rather be a tiny elephant or a giant hamster?

A: TINY ELEPHANT!! Have you watched Ant-Man?? Imagine Phant-Man.