The Product People We Want to Be – What We Learned at MTP Engage "Product people - Product managers, product designers, UX designers, UX researchers, Business analysts, developers, makers & entrepreneurs February 02 2020 True #Mtpengage, Jobs-To-Be-Done, mtpengage, mtpengage manchester, networking, people management, product people, Technical Debt, Mind the Product Mind the Product Ltd 1384 Melissa Perri mtp Engage Product Management 5.536

The Product People We Want to Be – What We Learned at MTP Engage

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This week (6-7 February), MTP Engage Manchester 2020 saw over 500 product people descend upon the iconic Manchester Central to immerse themselves in two days of product learning.

On Thursday, things kicked off with a range of deep-dive workshops and leadership discussions, followed by the conference on Friday. Let’s take a look at some of the many things we learned throughout the conference day.

Adam Warburton at MTP Engage
There was a sigh of relief in the audience when it was revealed that all MTP Engage 2020 bananas had their tops on

In the morning, organiser Adam Warburton welcomed the audience to the auditorium with a quick retro of last year, satisfying the requirement of more amazing speakers, bananas with the tops attached (don’t ask!), no rain (total fluke) and a promise that this year’s event was not a Minimal Viable Conference. He then introduced the first of many incredible speakers.

MTP Engage Manchester
An eager audience settled into the day enjoying a fab talk from Janna Bastow

Define your debt vocabulary

Janna Bastow led the day’s keynotes by addressing the elephant in the room; debt. She identified how in tech, debt is both inevitable and necessary, whether related to development, design, process, admin, or culture. Drawing on her experience as a product innovator, she highlighted how trust is essential when accruing debt, and how, in order to build trust, we must work together to define new vocabulary. Talking, sharing and unpicking debt, she explained, will allow us to optimise it.

Janna Bastow at MTP ENgage
Janna Bastow kicked off proceedings with the first keynote of the day

Embrace the beautiful mess

Next to the stage was John Cutler who reassured us that “product is difficult everywhere” and that, in product, there is simply is no magic way to do things. As a Product Evangelist, John is often asked to pathologize product and find the secret of success. He highlighted how in order to succeed, we must embrace the beautiful mess and navigate change – it’s discontinuous and never a straight line, he explained. Instead, and in order to adopt change, you must take an idea (a possible magical solution), customise it to your context, progress it and adapt it before practising it. Then you need to get good at practising practice.

JOhn Cultler at MTP ENgage
John explained that product is difficult everywhere – there’s no magic solution…stop looking!

More jobs to be done

Joe Leech demonstrated how we can employ the “Jobs to be done” framework, deconstructing company outputs and examining the importance of user stories. He illustrated how seemingly similar products can have incredibly disparate requirements, and how, with a focus on functional jobs, we so often ignore the nuance of emotional and social job stories. These considerations, he emphasised, allow us to uncover “hidden user needs”.

Product management is people management

After missing her 6.16 am train from London to Manchester by just one minute, Mind the Product’s Chief of Staff, Emily Tate’s day got off to a slightly stressful start. Arriving in Manchester a fraction behind schedule, the surprises kept coming as she discovered she’d be hitting the stage a few hours later to take up the slot of Lauren Currie who had sadly lost her voice and was unable to speak (literally, not a whisper left!).

In her talk, Emily described how having a strong knowledge of stakeholder management can be the difference between being a good product manager and a great one. She explained how her biggest promoter once became her biggest detractor and discussed how transparency – a tool at times discouraged – is key to building stakeholder trust. While you may choose to use it tactfully, delaying a hard truth, you should always be mindful that product is a team sport. As such, encourage communication early and often, while letting data inform decisions and never shy away from taking full ownership of your work. Product people are best when they work with an awareness that one of their products is their process.

Emily Tate gave an inspiring talk on stakeholder management

Unlearning conflict aversion

Shaun Russell identified how from an early age we learn to avoid conflict at all costs. But whether your stakeholder is “the worst customer you have ever had”, or just an interested party, product people need to defy nature and lean into conflict. He explained that if you willingly adopt “Conflict Anti-Patterns”, taking roles such as the mediator, the intellectual, and the deviant, you will start to heighten risk and build unusable, infeasible and unviable products. Using reasoning, communication, and self-reflection to better our processes, we can now divide our interests. Because, how you divide the world is how you see the world.

Shaun Russell at MTP Engage Manchester
Shaun Russell explained how reasoning, communication, and self-reflection help to better our processes

The future of the industry is in your hands

Melissa Perri ended the day by offering a masterclass in career growth, defining the journey from product manager to product leader. The criteria, she explained, relies not just on navigating a transition from tactical and strategic roles to a more operational one, but also owning a deep understanding of the details and dynamics – skills you can start developing today.

It’s time to consider your journey, she told us – it’s unique, and now you can choose the best path based on your skillset. The right role for you will make you happy, confident, and kick-ass, whether it’s the role of the Enterprise CPO, the Startup VP, or the Scaleup CPO.

Melissa Perri at MTP ENgage
Melissa Perri treated the audience to her first new talk in three years (she’s been a little busy, you know…writing a book)

Sessions of Success

Away from the auditorium, 15 awesome sessions speakers on two tracks delivered engaging and thought-provoking talks to packed session rooms.

Huge congratulations must go out Oluwatobi Otokiti, Sally Brogan and Stewart Livingstone who took to the MTP stage for the very first time with great success, and, to all of our other session speakers who brought us not just a little, but a lot of everything.

Oluwatobi Otokiti
Oluwatobi Otokiti made her MTP Engage debut

Rakhi Rajani discussed how to create cognitively diverse teams while Itamar Gilad talked us through the GIST (Goals, Ideas, Steps, Tasks) Framework and how to use it to improve team morale and deliver better products.

Thor Mitchell painted us a picture of a great product manager, explaining that it starts with says that humility, while Rachael Shah drew from her experience at the Co-op to illustrate just how critical it is to think carefully about scaling the product team as well as the product.

Connection

Between talks, people took heed of Adam’s advice from the start of the day – to connect with each other, be it over coffee, during a Speed Networking session or simply while sat in the audience waiting for talks to begin.

“I would urge you to talk to as many people as you can today because, in this room, there is someone we can all learn from, perhaps even someone who could change your life,”  said Adam. ” It might be your next manager, a coworker or someone you can connect with outside of work.”

Speed Networking at MTPEngage
Attendees embraced the opportunity to network in our Speed Networking sessions

Until next year

It’s fair to say that everyone had a lot to take away from MTP Engage this year, and after all that learning, sharing and connecting it was vital that attendees, sponsors, speakers, volunteers and our awesome local organisers deserved a well-earned after party!

We’d like to thank everyone who made this conference possible including our sponsors, Yellowfin, Amplitude, ProdPad, Balsamiq, Code and Pendo, without whom, it would simply not have been possible.

Write-ups of the keynote and session speaker talks will become available on the site in the coming weeks. We also look forward to hearing what you thought of MTP Engage (you can send your own write-ups to editor@mindtheproduct.com) and hope you’ll agree that it feels as though our product community has never been stronger.

With thanks to www.thisisdecoy.co.uk photography.