This is the second product conference I’ve been able to attend this year. In particular, the Women In Product conference (WIP) is unique because it brings together women in leadership positions across many different verticals who are doing or leading product initiatives and provides a relatable perspective to other females navigating their career as product leaders.
I feel it’s important to have a conference that’s focused on females in product management because not many young girls think about becoming a leader when they’re young. They’re much more prone to thinking about how to fit in.
This one-day conference was primarily for females whose jobs title is product manager. Though there were a few male attendees as well. What follows are insights, tips and inspiration that will help any individual in a product manager role.
Who: Women In Product (Twitter: @womenpm)
What: More than 2,000 product leaders gathered to celebrate the role and contributions of women product managers in the field.
Where: Hilton Union Square
When: Tuesday November 12, 2019
Why: it was an opportunity to connect with other female product leaders, learn from and inspire each other.
How: the day was structured around morning keynote speakers, afternoon breakout sessions and concluded with an evening mixer. Food and beverages were provided throughout the day.
Product Manager Skills – Top 10 Tactics & Wisdom
- Speak up for yourself & ask for what you need for your You may not always get what you want but you will start an important conversation.
- Think about the customer journey. Always keep in mind the end-to-end journey you’re solving for. It will help you solve for the right things. Ask yourself: Is there a simpler way?
- We’re builders who can change the world; use what “sucks” about a situation you personally have experienced once to inform how to make things better.
- Have empathy for the non-normal user; in their world, the small things that drive you crazy can really add up.
- Diversity in teams & companies is essential because there is value in having different perspectives that reflect the unique makeup of markets and cultures across the globe.
- The concept of giving people honest feedback (straight talk) should come from a place of good intention and caring about their professional development.
- Even if it’s a difficult conversation, we owe it to those we lead to give context and feedback that can help make someone better.
- Everyone has a super power. Step 1: find yours. Step 2: Tap into it.
- “Often, the thing that’s yours is what’s easiest for you.” Lucinda Newcomb Walmart VP of Discovery.
- She suggested you can find out what it is by asking other people.
- “You can adapt your roadmap to reality. You cannot adapt reality to your roadmap.” Lucinda Newcomb, Walmart VP of Discovery.
- A good PM knows the market, the goal of your users, defines target user, defines what needs to be built to achieve company goals (Amanda Richardson, EIR at Goodwater Capital).
- Career advancement: leading product like a GM is great experience for becoming a CEO (Jennifer Tejada, CEO of PagerDuty).
- Think on behalf of the company. Get in front of what customers need from your product; think about where their world is going?
Personal Development Stories from other Product Managers
Theme #1: Let’s own our power & use it well
The fireside chat was with fashion designer and creator of the wrap dress, Dianne Von Furstenberg.
What I found interesting about her success was that it was accidental, but all the right ingredients came together. “When I created the wrap dress, all I wanted was to be a woman in charge” she said. “It’s almost always about function: ‘what if I had that? Or that?’” Essentially, her product was very practical and easy.
In spite of success, she remained humble. “Every successful person should feel like a loser at least twice a week. Only losers don’t feel like losers.” But this is a careful tightrope to walk. She also advised against berating yourself too much, “If I doubt my power, I give power to my doubts.”
When asked “who do you design for?” DVF said, “I design for the woman in charge.” She went on to elaborate on her manifesto of being #InCharge.
She also generously offered attendees an EMAIL to send her ideas and feedback inCharge@dvf.com.
By sharing her own insecurities and challenges with things like imposter syndrome, DVF motivated us with her commitment to the 4 pillars of her manifesto: Connect, Expand, Inspire and Advocate.
“The only thing you have 100% control of is your character. You can lose your health, family, money, freedom, but you can always own your character. That is the core of your strength.” DVF
In “Advocate” she tapped into the essence of the super power within us all saying, “We all have a magic wand. The more you use your wand the more magical it becomes.” For Dianne, it means using her connections. She makes the first two emails of her morning about connecting two people.
Theme #2: Let’s turn our super power (of launching products) on ourselves
My second favorite story was from Jimena Almendares, VP Global Expansion at Intuit. She combined her insights from conversations with various mentees into a practical application of running our own lives as product roadmaps.
While the titles of PM’s vary from company to company, what is consistent is the skill of planning and getting things done. Her basic premise, “if it works for the products you launch, it will work for you”.
Her three takeaways:
- Life roadmaps don’t follow linear development.
- Just like in business, your True North is what matters.
- It’s ok to launch, fail, learn and pivot.
Psychology of Product Management
Kristen Berman, co-founder of Irrational Labs, spoke on the concept of behavioral design. She laid out a simple illustration of what customers say one thing and do another. Some companies have over 90% of employees saving for retirement. How did they achieve this? The secret is the form employees fill out when they first get hired; they’re enrolled by default.
There are three types of questions org’s ask: The past, future and why.
- People tend to underreport things done in the past. Why? We want to give socially acceptable answers. And, we just forget.
- The future (what will you do): they’re imagining they’re ideal self.
- Why: tend to be the most misleading questions (why do you save for retirement? b/c I want to save for my future. Reality: auto enroll)
If you can’t trust what people say, trust their actions.
Top Tactics for Product Managers
The product manager role often sits at the intersection of business, technology and design and involves coordinating the efforts of teams across the organization in order to bring a product into the marketplace.
For most product managers, their background is varied. The path to becoming a product manager is developed and attained over time based on other skill sets acquired.
The most difficult part of the job can be deciding which idea to pursue out of a sea of great ideas. What’s needed is the skill of creating business cases and rigorous product review cycles to surface financially viable opportunities.
What follows is the tactical and practical applications to try. Requires understanding the exact environment and how a person could react. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes.
5 Areas to address in a product review
Anytime you get to talk about your product: do it. It’s good for your product & for your professional advancement. Below are the top 5 areas any product review should cover:
- Vision – describe the vision & the features
- Problem – address the problem we’re solving (use real customer examples that demonstrate the problem)
- Goals – what does winning mean or look like? What are the KPIs?
- Roadmap – identify what’s critical to execute first (list the MVP features delivered). Roadmaps need to be in partnership with tech delivery teams. Do not develop them in isolation.
- Input – be direct & clear with your manager about where you want feedback.
Lastly, here’s a practical exercise for getting perspective and seeing what you might be missing in the product you’re trying to bring to market: grab a trusted partner and actively try to disprove that we’re right. Often we’re so close to something that we don’t see the “gotchas” so actively taking time to figure out what you could be missing is a helpful exercise.
I spent the first part of the day on the exhibit hall floor at the Macy’s Tech booth. I really enjoyed the opportunity to represent the Product team and educate attendees about what “Macy’s tech” (the digital arm of macys.com) does. At the time, we operated out of the corporate digital offices in San Francisco until early 2020.
The opinions, thoughts and perspective expressed in this post are my own. While I am a representative of the company, these are not necessarily the views of my employer.