‘I’m Here to Turn Customer Attention Into an Obsession’ — How CarGurus’ New Chief Product Officer Plans to Drive Progress

From its “culture of high integrity” to its “smart, driven and passionate” people, there are many reasons why Ismail Elshareef joined CarGurus. Now, he’s ready to drive the company’s mission forward.

Written by Olivia McClure
Published on Jun. 05, 2024
‘I’m Here to Turn Customer Attention Into an Obsession’ — How CarGurus’ New Chief Product Officer Plans to Drive Progress
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While Ismail Elshareef has had several roles throughout his two-decade career, one truth has always remained the same: the role needs to merge passion with purpose. 

“Life is short. If you have an opportunity to work on something you're excited about and make a difference at the same time, jump on it!” he said. 

That’s why Elshareef seeks out a clear, galvanizing mission whenever he searches for his next position. And at CarGurus, he found just that. 

For the chief product officer at the most visited automotive shopping site in the United States, every day is a new chance to help drive the company’s efforts to re-engineer the car shopping experience alongside individuals whom he considers “smart, driven and passionate.” And although Elshareef has only been in his role for a few months, he already has big plans for the future. 

“CarGurus has always cared about the needs of our customers — both consumers and dealers — and I’m here to turn that attention into an obsession,” he said. 

 

“CarGurus has always cared a lot about the needs of our customers — both consumers and dealers — and I’m here to turn that attention into an obsession.”

 

Of course, customer obsession is built on the foundation of a strong team. Elshareef relies on his people to demonstrate a wide range of skills, such as agency and a bias for action. His leadership vision is defined by a mission-first mindset. 

“I always want my teams to remember why they are here and to feel a connection to this mission,” he said. 

We caught up with Elshareef to learn more about his new role at CarGurus, what he loves most about the company and how he plans to help the product team continue to succeed.

 

EVERYTHING AUTOMOTIVE

CarGurus is a platform for shopping, buying and selling new and used vehicles, offering the largest inventory and dealer network in the United States. The company was founded in 2006 with a focus on bringing trust and transparency to the auto market.

 

You moved to the Boston area to become the chief product officer at CarGurus. What convinced you that this was the right opportunity for you?

Ismail Elshareef
Chief Product Officer • CarGurus

My decision to join CarGurus was informed by a convergence of factors that resonated pretty deeply with me. CarGurus’ exceptional financial stability and top-tier data capabilities, coupled with its collaborative team dynamics and culture, presented a unique and invigorating opportunity. 

During the interview process, I was also struck by the caliber of individuals I encountered. Everyone was smart, driven and passionate about where the company was headed; I ended our conversations genuinely excited about working with them to tackle the big challenges that come with this next phase of growth. 

Finally, the company’s emphasis on prioritizing people and nurturing a culture of high integrity and low ego strongly aligns with my own values, making it an ideal fit for me. 

 

“The company’s emphasis on prioritizing people and nurturing a culture of high integrity and low ego strongly aligns with my own values, making it an ideal fit for me.” 

 

You’ve been in this role for a few months now. What has been your favorite thing about CarGurus so far? 

I mentioned earlier that when I interviewed for this role, everyone I met seemed incredibly nice and smart. It turns out that that’s 100 percent real. People are genuinely curious, too; they want to learn how they can do great work and help each other do the same. This is so refreshing, and it has made a huge difference in my ability to onboard quickly and feel comfortable sharing my perspective. 

And of course, I have to mention how much I love our lunch perk. CarGurus gives every employee $15 toward lunch in the office, which we choose from a list of several different restaurants each day. The company also makes sure the options represent different cultures and dietary preferences. Every day is a new culinary adventure.

 

 Ismail Elshareef clapping as a coworker speaks through a megaphone in front of a crowd during an office celebration.
Photo: Krista Photography

 

THE AIM TO ‘MAKE A REAL IMPACT’

For Elshareef, the key to driving innovation on CarGurus’ product team is understanding customers’ pain points and needs. Behind this is continuing to keep lines of communication with clients both strong and open.
I’m excited for us to talk to them even more than we do now, so we can stay clear on what we’re solving for and ensure those solutions make a tangible difference in their ability to buy and sell vehicles through CarGurus and help dealers grow their own businesses in a smart, data-driven way,” Elshareef said.

 

What qualities and behaviors do you look for in members of your team? 

Beyond having strong technical skills, I’m looking for people who embody a unique blend of qualities that I consider essential to our team’s success. They should be eager to explore new ideas and technologies. Grit is also crucial, as we need folks who will thrive when tackling challenges rather than be deterred by them. Agency is also key; I want people to have ownership over their work and drive meaningful change on our team. A bias for action is essential in our fast-paced environment, along with emotional intelligence, as strong relationships and effective collaboration are pivotal to our success. And of course, clear communication is a must. We want team members to convey their ideas, actively listen and foster an environment of open dialogue.

 

“I want people to have ownership over their work and drive meaningful change on our team.”

 

What should future team members expect from you, and what do you expect from them in return?

My approach is grounded in transparency. I strive to be direct yet compassionate, providing coaching and mentorship while also holding each team member to a high standard of accountability, good judgment and a bias for action. 

I also value context over control. I want my teams to succeed because they have the information and insights they need to do their jobs well, not because I’m micromanaging them. People with a strong growth mindset tend to thrive in these situations; they feel invigorated and empowered by the blend of autonomy and support. 
 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images by Krista Photography, provided by CarGurus.

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