This week, product people from across the world came together both in-person and online for #mtpcon SF+Americas 2022. After a three-year hiatus of in-person events in the US, it was our first hybrid conference experience in San Francisco. Here’s a quick look at what we learned across the two days.
Become aware of the changes you make at work
Kicking off the first keynote of day one was Cynthia Yeung, Head of Product at Plus One Robotics. She got us thinking about human/robot interaction and how we might discover a deeper understanding of our own humanity through robotics and AI.
As product managers, we have to think about the consequences of our work, like robotics and AI advance, Cynthia says. “We have to be constantly aware of the contextual environment, the physical, the economic, the social. We are accountable, I am accountable for this interaction, this moment of connection, but also for the robots I’ve put out into the world. Robots are a mirror to our soul, they reflect the best and worst of human impulses.”
Diversify teams to diversify tech
Farai Madzima, UX Manager at Shopify taught us a lesson about how the tech industry, like hip hop, has gradually become more mainstream, as the tech industry grows, it’s important to look to diversify teams continually.
Farai said about how, today, in tech companies, ‘talent teams are scouring the globe looking for people who do not look like you’. The reason for that is because ‘we are designing and building features with a narrow stunted view of what is around us – bad for business, society and our future’. He calls for those who don’t think increasing diversification of our products is bad ‘then you don’t understand what we need from the tech industry. We need to hire diverse and keep them in our teams. It’s important to work with people who are strangers to us. Doing so can help us all build better and more inclusive products.
Jump at leadership opportunities to make the leap into a leadership role
For the first group of digital breakout sessions for the day, we learned from Preston Smalley, VP of Product at Roku all about career progression in Product. On the journey to becoming a Product Director, Preston explained that mentoring and influencing others is key to making the leap. He said to look for those leadership opportunities in our daily practices and shape emerging strategies that don’t have a lot of resources committed to them. Doing this will encourage the organisation to build a team around you and push forward that initiative that you inherit.
Influence others by trust
In another one of the amazing breakout sessions, Shyvee Shi, Product Manager at Linkedin Learning taught us about influencing others through the art of learning. When looking to educate others through learning, understand what customers are looking for and what their motivations are. Additionally, find out how much they know about your idea or product. Understanding these things will build trust amongst them. It’s important to make it more about the customer you’re targetting, establish credibility about your product, and empower the individuals that you’re building relationships with. Trust plays a key role in them buying into your learning.
Inspire your teams to innovate
In his opening keynote session at #mtpcon SF+Americas 2022 day two, Oji Udezue, Product Lead at Twitter shared his best tips on product systems and innovations. We learned that you must empower your teams to innovate. Good products come from the minds of your team, “A good system that creates innovative products is about getting the most of your most important resource, which is your people.” he said. Every individual has a part to play in this and it’s the role of product leaders to connect these individuals to the wider business strategy to ensure that they are empowered and contributing to the progression of the company.
Align with your organisation to optimise your product
How can you ensure that your product doesn’t end up sucking? Jen Dante, VP of Product at Ancestry taught us a lesson on honing in on your strategy to build better products. Jen talked about the many ways you can approach building a product. She went through in detail the benefits and challenges of using the Scope, Waterfall, and Agile approaches. She closed by explaining that it’s essential to focus on what approach your organisation works in and optimise based on that.
Find your superpower leadership trait
In his keynote session on finding your frost as a product leader, Jeff Birkeland, VP of Product at Headspace Health said that the best product leaders almost always have something extra. That extra strength is rarely leaders focusing on their expertise. So how do you find your frosting as a product leader? Jeff said to lean into a skill or piece of your background that is unique to you. Having this trait will help you to find creative ways to solve problems. Honing into this will be at the core when you make key decisions as a product leader.
Find what customers care about the most when marketing
For the final keynote of #mtpcon SF+Americas 2022 Martina Lauchengco, Parter at SVPG and Author of Loved closed day two by discussing three myths about product management marketing. She explained how building that perception behind a product is just as important as the idea itself. If all you do is build, then you’re missing out on people adopting your product. A big part of that is prioritising what customers will think and care about the most. Absolutely anyone can do product marketing, she said. Martina concluded with one last line, “May the market road rise to meet you, and may the market wins be always at your back.”
In the coming weeks, you’ll be able to watch each of these individual talks in full but for now, remember to go out and use what you’ve learned from this #mtpcon snapshot (or the conference itself if you were there!) to move intentionally and build great products.