Following awesome keynotes by Benedict Evans, Spectra (Adaora) Asala, and Mary Poppendieck, plus six interactive breakout sessions covering topics such as inclusive design, building teams, and tricks to winning the leadership game, day one of #mtpcon Digital (the Autumn edition!) got our final 2020 conference off to a flying start!
As always we began the day with coffee (we are product people after all), yoga, and new for our Autumn edition, a session on optimising your home office set up! Led by Joe Leech and our very own Chris Massey, we learned how to improve lighting, picture and even seating.
Opening the conference Benedict Evans demonstrated how the global Covid-19 crisis has accelerated tech usage through “forced experimentation”. Using data and analytics, Benedict questioned how habits have been broken and how land grabs have been made as part of a global market reset and explained what we should expect of our new normal now that technology is more systemically important to society.
We’re changing work – not just the tool, he told us and asked: Can the job be done online? Can online change the job? Does this result in new social and team dynamics? The creation of new tools is exploding right now, he said, but not all consider the implications of new models.
Moving between Product and Operations through her career, our second keynote speaker of the day, Spectra (Adaora) Asala, explained how she enjoys bringing the chaos together! Now leading product and growth teams at Wistia, Spectra explained that process can be a drag but that it can also translate ambiguous challenges into accessible playbooks – great for onboarding and ensuring a level and consistent playing field for all on the team.
In our final keynote of the day, Mary Poppendieck offered a mix of lean software development, early hardware with polymer for 3M, microfilm, and more! She shared the 10 most important lessons she learned at 3M in the 80s and 90s and why she thinks that the role of a Product Champion – that one person who cares deeply about the product and does whatever necessary to make it successful – is vital to any successful product company – “No champion? No product” she told us.
The Breakout Sessions
Product Coach Shaun Russell shared real-life examples and stories of how product people learn and develop. He asked the question: ‘Why do some product managers develop faster than others?’ and answered it using his experience as a coach to highlight three methods of learning. He said they develop their ‘Product Feel’, they learn by doing (embracing their ‘next big challenge’), by learning from others (finding their company’s ‘inside guides’), and from their surroundings (by becoming a student of power).
Julian Thompson the Founder of Rooted by Design explored whether inclusive design is enough to create equality, especially for marginalised communities. He also built a case for why and how our design and development practices must be centred on social justice and equality. “With great power comes great responsibility,” he said. “With the empowerment of our involvement in shaping products and services comes the responsibility in designing inclusive solutions.”
Georgie Smallwood, CPO at Tier, described product leadership as the ultimate game of Tetris and revealed how to play the pieces as you get them. Your team, she told us, “is a make or break piece” and, as a leader, you will only ever be as good as your team. But, she continued, in order to play the leadership game, you have to understand the pieces at your disposal. “Whether you’re building one from the ground up, or you’re inheriting a team, or you’re stepping up to lead a team that you’ve been a part of […] first you have to assess the piece, in order to work out how to play it.”
Susana Videira Lopes, Director of Product at Onfido, used her #mtpcon session to define the ‘Minimum Viable Product Manager’ role, one designed to help product managers to prepare to advance their careers from day one on the job. To illustrate the point, Susana gave two examples of people starting out in product roles – the first example was a friend who had a frustrating time being given delivery execution tasks and not being in a position to move up the career ladder. Unlike her friend, Susana (the second example) was given work to do that enabled her to progress further up the pyramid of product responsibility, setting her up to develop her skills.
Cheryl Platz, multimodal design expert and author of Design Beyond Devices, shared a framework for capturing customer context inspired by her time in improvisational theatre. Cheryl got us thinking about the answers to questions such as: Is your customer experience straining at the seams? Have your customers moved from office to home, and your company’s charter along with it? Designing for the next generation of experiences, she explained, requires levelling your understanding of your customer context – all you need to be able to do is to ask the right questions and set yourself up for success.
Ibrahim Bashir, VP Product at Box, discussed how to bootstrap a product team and began his session by defining the different product management archetypes and when to bring each one into the mix. Ibrahim believes you define how successful your product organisation will be at the point at which you set it up, and told us that you should set it up based on your intended outcomes. “Where is the product in its lifecycle, and what kind of product team does it need right now? Starting, Scaling or Sustaining?” he questioned. With the answers to these questions, you can begin the search for your people. “You really want to find people who are on the cusp of doing something amazing, and then bring them over to your organisation, where they can do that amazing thing.”
See you tomorrow!
Day one keynotes and sessions complete, it was time for our attendees (and us!) to kick back and connect. We dipped in and out of end-of-day socials, to meet new people and discuss the day’s events.
Thank you to everyone who joined us for day one and to our wonderful crew and sponsors for all of their support. More to come tomorrow! Find out what at mindtheproduct.com/digital and, if you’re a Mind the Product member, you’ll be able to access all of the incredible keynote talk videos this coming Friday (November 20th) on your membership dashboard. Not yet a member? It’s not too late. Join today! Got membership with your #mtpcon Digital ticket? Activate your account today – here’s how.