The XY Problem, o Cómo Estoy Empezando en Platzi


hace 3 años

I’m now on my third week as the new Head of Product at Platzi, and it feels like both a lifetime and no time at all! I’m excited to get to know the product, the team, and most importantly the students. I’m also excited to bring my years of experience to an exciting problem space. I’m a lifelong avid learner and passionate about new ways to make education effective and accessible. And I’m grateful for that passion, because onboarding with the team has been quite demanding!

So, what is the XY problem?

The XY problem is a common communication problem where the real issue, X, is obscured because the person asking for help frames the problem as a secondary issue, Y. It’s especially common in tech support scenarios, but can also happen in any situation where someone is trying to solve a problem that is outside of their expertise and looks for help later rather than sooner. You’re ultimately looking for solutions to a symptom rather than the real problem.

For example, I’m an avid runner, and a few years ago I found that I was having to spend more and more time doing special exercises to help with foot pain after every run. I had purchased every kind of massage tool, had tried every kind of physical therapy, and had taken every kind of pain medicine. It just wasn’t working, and I accepted the pain as a part of my hobby. The next time I went to buy new running shoes, the clerk asked me if I was having problems with anything. I was so used to the pain at that point, it didn’t even occur to me to complain about it. Luckily, the clerk had me take some tests to check my gait and the shape of my feet. He recommended a different pair of shoes with a different insole, and like magic - months of pain disappeared. I was wasting so much time and pain when I could have just asked an expert! My X was that I was trying to stop my feet from hurting, but the Y was that I needed help in understanding how to buy running shoes that fit me.

How does this apply to my onboarding process at Platzi?

I find that the XY problem often happens when someone is motivated and curious, but also probably a little insecure about bothering someone or feeling stupid for not understanding everything right away. I’m certainly not immune to this - my running example is some strong evidence! As I work to become a member of the team, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the amount of information to learn and the number of new faces to meet. I’m also working in a language that is much newer to me than my native English as well as joining the team at a time when I can’t just go to the office to get to know everyone better. My strategy of baking cookies to share can’t help me!

But the more time I spend with the team, the more it becomes clear to me that a strength of Platzi culture is that vulnerability and humility can be rewarded. The more that I admit that I don’t understand something or even ask simple questions about where I can find certain information, the more guidance I receive. I have certainly worked with teams where this was not the case, and I still need to push myself to be more vulnerable, to ask more questions. I’m excited that Platzi is a safe space for this growth.

How can I apply this to Product in general?

Many years ago I was working in UX for an ad tech platform when a member of the accounts team reached out and asked me if I could help her format an image of a chart so that she could include it in a report. I was halfway through editing the image in Photoshop when something important occurred to me. The platform already had a feature to send reports to clients, including the graphic she needed. So why wasn’t she using it? It turned out that her client wanted the information in a different file format than we provided, so she was manually copying the information that she needed to send every week into a new file. She was solving for her Y of wanting to insert the graphic into a new file, but the real X was that the platform wasn’t giving her what she needed because we didn’t understand her clients. We changed the reporting feature to include the file format she needed, and suddenly she was saved from hours of work per week.

I realized that I needed to spend more time with the users to understand the root of their problems- I couldn’t just wait for them to come to me with a problem. I also needed to give our users the tools and vocabulary to come to us with their Xs, and not wait until they had an impossible Y. I had rarely spoken to my colleague in accounts before this problem, and that was a big part of the problem! She didn’t even know who she could ask! I often find that both stakeholders and users get accustomed to how things work and figure out their own broken ways to solve their problems rather than ask for help. They might be able to accomplish their goal in the short term, but they will waste time and feel frustrated. And they might not even know where to begin with asking for help.

This is something I want to reinforce as part of Platzi’s Product Culture - that we can get to the X faster by creating space and tools to help students and stakeholders ask the right questions, and that we can learn to reach out better and think more critically when what we start with is a Y.

Next steps

I still have so many things to learn, but I’m excited to begin working more closely with the team and with Platzi’s students to improve their experiences. In particular I’m excited to work with the entire Team Platzi to strengthen Product Culture across the company. I still have so many questions to ask, and I need to keep asking them. I hope that by sharing this experience on the Platzi blog, I can also encourage Platzi students to ask for help - sooner rather than later!



hace 3 años

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Welcome to Platzi!

I am so glad that you switch shoes for your running routine.


Welcome to Platzi Martha, if there is something that I can assure is the community is very warm, familiar, and of course we can help in everything you need from us 🤘


Thanks for share your experience with us. Platzi have a great comunity, i hope that u can enjoy it.


Welcome! 😄 Looking forward to know more about you at the PlatziLives and the many new great features will be coming in the near future.


Welcome to this community. I wanna see more information in English as part of Platzi.
Enjoy here!


This post inspired me a lot… also i was doubting about asking for my path to become a software developer on Platzi… but, after reading your experience… i will do that question 😄!!


Hello Matha and welcome, I’m also running into my third week here at Platzi (as a student), I hope to improve and prove myself that I can learn more and never stop doing it. Thanks for share your experience and that don’t know everything but also you don’t have fears to improve yourself.


Hi Martha, welcome to Platzi! and I extract this little section of your presentation:

“I often find that both stakeholders and users get accustomed to how things work and figure out their own broken ways to solve their problems rather than ask for help. They might be able to accomplish their goal in the short term, but they will waste time and feel frustrated.”

That was my feeling when I started in Platzi, many information but I didn’t knew to where I begin. Certainly Platzi always try to improve and iterate, but sometimes the channels to can ask orientation or questions are very confused and delayed or simply the solution offered isn’t enough. So, how you say in your quote, I searched my best path, with the new features implemented, to take advantage of this knowledge.

This is my honest feedback in my experience with the platform. But one thing is true, Platzi is by furthest, the most great and better effort of education in Latin america.


After finish the Product Design career I looked for any course in Platzi dictated by you Martha. Instead i saw your videos on youtube. Hope to know more about your expertise as a head of product. Best vibes.


It’s possible to try out the greatest online therapy programs for free on several websites before you commit to anything. Your self-perception will improve dramatically once you begin seeing a therapist - https://therapy-reviews.com/reviews/doctor-on-demand/ . Your life will improve dramatically after you learn to cope with stress and take better care of yourself.


Welcome! Nice information about a very common problem that is frecuently unknown. Communications problems always have been root of many other symptons


Thanks for your sharing your experiences!


Wow! Platzi team. You should post more texts in english. I"ll love them.


Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and welcome!


Welcome to a new chapter in your book!


What kind of shoes are you wearing for Platzi? 😉 Welcome!


I have a similar problem with my feet, and as you said, I am used to it. Now I am going to an specialist (when aisolation ends, of course).
Great article, I know you can help Platzi to grow up even more


As a Platzi student I appreciate this post. I’ll try to fix more Xs than Ys from now on 😁


Welcome to Platzi! 😄

I hope soon you can tell us how you colaborate with Platzi’s Data Scientists to improve our experience with Platzi. I am on the Data Science Learning Path and it will be great to know about that if that’s the case.


Welcome to Platzi Martha!


Glad to hear your experience its always great to have someone who thinks outside the box, I think your views will help many others like me, It was a pleasure to read your blog
Best regards


At our first meeting, your desire to work to improve Platzi became clear to me. Makes me happy to read your blogpost ❤️


Hi! very cool blogpost, i really wish u the best of the luck. You have a big students community, Use it!


@marthahipley I’m excited to read your blog. I have been a happy Platzi student a few months ago, but I really feel important, I feel part of this great team and I feel that my contributions are taken into account and I always receive a response from the Platzi team.

In my professional experience, knowing my client, listening to him and putting myself in his shoes has always been key to being closer to him. As Steve Jobs says: “Stay close to your customers. So close that you are the one who tells them what they need long before they realize what they need.” That’s how I feel in Platzi when I finish a course and they suggest another and another … and another. Thank you very much for motivating us to never stop learning !!.

PS: I still have to perfect my English, so excuse my mistakes.


Welcome! these days are also my first days here, honestly I´m feeling kind of lost right now, but your YX blog post help me to understand that I need to ask for help inmediatly and also, I think more important even, it will help me with a big problem that I have right now in my job, thanks a lot!


First, thank you for sharing with us your experience. Knowing that XY problem communication exists kelps us to improve how to listen and talk with others not only at work. It’s helps us to understand that there may be another deeper problem that we can solve.
Second, it’s really good to read a post in English here. It’s very useful for practice. Thanks.


My strategy of baking cookies to share can’t help me! Our day will come.


Just WOW! What a mind-opener message!!
As a newcomer student (1 month ago as Platzi expert, since April discount 😄) your words just came to me so close, that I’m already triple-excited to learn, but more important, to be right there on the customer centric model, as a strategic piece of continous honest and open feedback 😉.
I’ve worked for 6 years in a global tobacco company, where they have put a lot of money on “new business model” consulting fees and currently the outcome is exactly your point: Start with a Y.
Count on me to ask for help. 😃