This February, a handful of thoughtbotters attended the virtual ProductCon event. This is one of those events we keep on the yearly event calendar because the team does a tremendous job making it effective albeit 100% remote. Here are a few of the team’s takeaways from this year.
One of the sessions that really resonated with Kelly Gebo was ‘Building Resilience and Wellbeing as a Product Manager’, led by Rachael Larsen, the VP of Product. Rachael shared a lot of great tips for finding balance in your workday. The thoughtbot team is well versed in using an Impact / Effort Matrix to prioritize a roadmap, but she had that ‘of course’ moment when Rachael shared how to apply those same principles to your mental health. To maintain a healthy and effective Product Roadmap, the team should meet at a regular cadence to discuss how things are going, how things can be improved and do a gut check on the priority of the work ahead. This would also be a great time to make sure as a team you are aligned on the goals, success criteria, target audience and the needs you are working to solve.
Those same principles apply when it comes to your own well-being. It can be very useful to slow down for a moment and reflect on your goals, and where you are putting your time and energy. Jot down all of the tasks that you put energy into, reflect on each one and determine where it falls in terms of the positive impact it brings to your life but also the effort it takes from you. An immediate outcome of this exercise will be the ability to accept that you can’t do it all and better understand where your time and energy is best spent.
Here is a great Matrix template from Miro, so you can plot your wellbeing.
Kirsten Hurley, the Managing Director of our Launchpad II team outside the US, found the “DEI Panel Discussion: Questions You’re Too Afraid to Ask” insightful. In particular, the discussion in response to the question, “How can you get the leadership to think about DEI as a priority?” Everyone agreed putting in time to make sure your values are clearly aligned with team culture and product is a worthwhile first step, but then the conversation went one step further.
Martie Burris, Product Leader at SalesForce/Slack, made a great point that a product’s ethics and inclusion reviews should be just as important (& required) as standard security reviews before launch. A product wouldn’t go live without making sure the product was threat-tested, so there is no reason to neglect consideration of inclusion principles for the complete range of potential users of the solution too. Martie mentioned that a good first step in opening up a discussion is to ask the team to reflect on if and how the product impacts any marginalised groups. Inclusion with products shouldn’t stop at accessibility. At thoughtbot, we work to introduce accessibility best practices into our products and DEI principles into how we work. This panel helped us see how we could also be working to do better through conducting inclusion reviews for products that we put out into the world as well.
Martie also had a somewhat spicy final take when it came to hiring product team members saying companies shouldn’t be afraid to hire folks who strongly dislike the product because they would have the drive to really improve it! There’s definitely something to be said about companies and teams who are bold enough to acknowledge they may not have all the answers. After all, alternative views can be invaluable in building products that really revolutionise their marketplace.
Emily Bahna, the Managing Director who leads strategic, version 1 product builds, knows the power of user research and how critical it is to define the right product strategy. At the ‘Scaling Beyond Accommodation at Speed’ event, George Berkowski, VP of Growth at Booking.com made it clear that research and market testing isn’t only an exercise to do upfront or for large features, that it’s important to make it a part of your ongoing process even when nothing about the product is changing. What is changing and will always be changing are your users, interactions, needs, and motivations.
A good way to allow for this continuous stream of insights would be to build a flexible product that is data-driven. Having a sound approach for collecting user metrics and making decisions or updating your product based on data ensures the experience is catered to that user and can be optimized down the line using concrete evidence.
Thank you, ProductCon, for a great event. Other takeaways include how you were able to make remote networking more fun than awkward, and the awesome music DJ Will had for us in between sessions. We look forward to attending again in the future.