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The Best Product Talks of 2020

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Everyone in the Product School community knows and loves our online events, which became even more important in 2020. They kept us learning, and they kept us connected.

To celebrate, we’re honoring our Top 20 Product Talks of 2020. These talks brought you the best speakers and the most impactful advice. They ignited conversations around the world, and launched countless Product Manager careers.

With 2 events published every single day, you might be asking yourself how on Earth we were able to narrow it down to just the top 20. We took a lot of things into account. Like true Product people, we measured qualitative and quantitative data. That means that we looked at the charisma and presentation style of the speaker, how well the topic fits into the various conversations in the Product community, viewer metrics and engagement, audience response…the list goes on.

Thank you to all of our incredible speakers for such a great calendar of events. We couldn’t have managed to pack out such an insightful and helpful calendar for the Product community without you.

And now, without further ado, here are the Top 20 Product Talks of 2020 👏

1. Breaking Into Product Management with Google Senior Product Manager, Marily Nika

Interested in starting a career in Product? Marily Nika kicks off our list with her advice and tips about how to break into Product Management, she will inspire and get you excited about this field. 

Key Takeaways: 

The most important takeaway from this talk is the “Breaking into Product Checklist”, a list of steps follow before, during, and after your applications to maximize your success!

Before Applying:

  • Read and understand what a Product Manager does. Is it for you? 
  • Gain some experience in creating and launching 
  • Get your storytelling right 

Application Time: 

  • Revamp  your online presence 
  • Revamp your resume 
  • Tell your friends/ colleagues/ Linkedin that you are available 
  • Apply apply apply!

Interview time: 

  • Take it seriously 
  • Learn about the process 
  • Ask for time, and take as much time as you need 
  • Improve your interview skills with mock interviews 
  • Fail. This will most likely be part of the process, and its OK 
  • Succeed! 

2. How to Product Manage Your PM Career – From 0 to 1 with Facebook Product Leader, Viet Hoang 

The path to becoming a Product Manager is not always the same for everyone. However, in this talk Viet Hoang will give you a few tips on how to transition into a Product career with a very unique perception.

Key Takeaways: 

It is important to always think of your Product Management career as a Product, where you are the customer and the user. Here are two tips to help you PM your PM career:  

  1. Build Product Management foundational skills and functional skills to land your first job as a Product Manager. Know your skill sets and know what others you might need to improve.
  2. Always have mentors throughout your journey. Their guidance and support will help you along your way and make a big difference.

3. How to Become a Global Product Manager with Spotify Senior Product Manager, Buket Baran

The path to becoming a great Product Manager changes between people; however, there are a few things you can do to ensure you become the best Product manager you can be.

In this talk, Buket Baran will give you tips and tricks to help you become a global Product Manager and the steps you must take in order to get there. 

Key Takeaways: 

The highlights of this talk are the top three recommendations given to become a global Product Manager, including:

  1. Enlarge your vision by identifying your customer problem and opportunities. Seek diversity in your teams in order to gain variety in ideas and brainstorming sessions 
  2. Be a lifelong learner. This is a key component of going global. Always seek new information with online courses, books, webinars. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback to improve and understand and learn from your failures. 
  3. Continuously engage with your developing team, stakeholders, and customers. Involve them early in the design of the Product. In a global context, you must always listen carefully and be receptive to their feedback and use it for your Product’s benefits. 

4. Fireside Chat with Amazon Senior Product Manager, John Marty

In this Fireside chat, Product School’s CEO is joined by John Marty, a Senior Product Manager at Amazon and founder at Project 1B. They discuss John’s path into Product Management with no contacts/ connections or a technical background and how you can do the same.

Key Takeaways: 

Listen along to John Marty where he gives insights of how he got into the Product radar with no prier connections or knowledge about the Product Industry and found great success.

  • Even if you have a large variety of skills, HRs are not looking for well rounded people, they are looking for people with specific skills that can take specific rolls. 
  • Call yourself a Product Manager and tailor everything in your resume, even the relative to Product. 
  • Networking and approaching others as much as possible and use keywords when speaking 

5. Mistakes to Avoid During Product Interview with LinkedIn Senior Product Manager, Arya Choudhury

Arya Choudhury talked about the mistakes you should avoid during your Product interview. He focuses on the interview structure, how to prioritize, how to create a plan that truly stands out and more. He states that having a non- Product background is a strength, not a weakness, and that breaking into Product Management is hard. Don’t give up! 

Key Takeaways: 

With so many interview tips, structures, and guides out there it is sometimes hard to know exactly which ones to follow during a Product Interview. Arya Choudhury gives you a recommended structure to follow during your interview to ensure you talk about the right things, manage your time, and succeed.

How to approach a Product Interview: 

  1. What’s the Problem (and for whom)- 15 minutes 
    1. Clarify the question 
    2. Identify the problem space 
    3. Define user group 
  2. How to solve it  – 15 minutes
    1. Define the solution 
  3. How to take it to the market – 5 to 10 minutes 
    1. Pre launch 
    2. Launch 
    3. Post launch 

6. Leading in Times of Crisis with Instagram Product Leader, Deotima Mukherjee

Deotima Mukherjee explores a topic on the minds of many Product Managers right now, especially during the current global situation, which is how to lead in times of crisis.

As a Product Manager, the things you are experiencing may not be the same challenges your team is experiencing, so making sure you have empathy and that you’re communicating clearly and protecting your team in a time of crisis is really important in determining what the future of your work looks like.

This talk covers what some triggers of a crisis are, how to manage your team, how to manage your Product, how to manage yourself, and more through case studies to further understand a crisis context. 

Key takeaways: 

  • Learning how to manage a crisis effectively will make you and your team more resilient in the long term. 
  • Help people slow down, acknowledge challenges, and identify how to address them while maintaining sustainable connections with your team.
  • Ruthlessly prioritize a few things you can do well, drop everything else. 
  • Share weekly updates on the team’s progress, blockers, and recognize individual contributions.
  • Clearly and simply articulate the problem your team is solving, what winning looks like, and how you expect to get there.

7. Introverts in Product with Lyft Principal Product Manager, Johnny Chang

Even though Product Managers have no labels, Johnny Chang highlights how different personality types function in Product through the lens of his own experience as an introvert. His story instills the idea that whatever personality type you are, or on whatever spectrum you fall, you can no matter develop, no matter what, your own Product and be successful in your own unique way. 

Key Takeaways:

Just because Product Managers work with a variety of people, doesn’t mean that introverts can’t thrive.

One of the most important things you can do for yourself is to develop self-awareness. This means comparing yourself to others less, reflecting more, and getting feedback.

You should also be yourself and proud. Reflect on events where you succeeded but was unexpected by others, look broader for role models, and be unapologetic about your unique values.

Finally, harness your unique superpower. List your strengths and weaknesses, think about your passion.

And remember Johnny’s key formula: Strengths + passion = superpower.

8. Changing Careers in Product with Salesforce Senior Product Manager, Martie Burris

After hearing Martie Burris‘ talk, you will have a high-level overview of Product Management no matter what level you are, understand the different PM types and functions, and build your own tactical career roadmap necessary to progress through your career.

This will help you understand where you want to fall in your career and what’s the best option suited to your profile and skillset.

Key takeaways:

When you’re just starting in Product Management, it can be difficult to discern between different roles. One of the first steps you need to take to map out your future career path is to understand the difference between the various PM roles:

  • Consumer PM: Delivers value to anyone anywhere. PMs in this space will create the software you use every day.
  • Enterprise PM: Delivers value from one business to another. You will most likely use this software at work.
  • Internal PM (or IT PM): Delivers value to another business unit internally.
  • External PM: Delivers value to external customers or users.
  • Technical PM: Manages technical or specialized Products.
  • Functional PM: Manages app level or UI interfaces.

9. Step Up and Lead with Google Product Lead, Yariv Adan

If you are looking for practical actionable tips on how to act more strategically, then this is the talk for you! Yariv Adan offers rich insights from his personal experience of career and growth discussions that he had with his team. This talk originates from the realization of the current pattern that stood in the way of people taking the next step and leading.

Yariv highlights real examples and practical tips on how to implement these tips on a day to day basis.

Key takeaways:

As a Product Leader, it is your responsibility to own the problem, not the solution. When you own the problem, everything else will follow. You need to learn how to focus on yourself and your team and learn how to deliver.

Full accountability means being accountable for the strategy and the end results. If you want to be a leader, you can’t point the finger at someone else. You need to be 100% accountable.

Think critically. Educate yourself about what the organization and the leadership want to achieve, and think critically in that context. That means asking yourself some questions:

  • What does success look like?
  • Is your project something that the CEO and the executive team care about?
  • Do your goals and plans align with what the broader org tries to achieve strategically?
  • How does your project relate to other efforts?
  • Are your goals and plans realistic?
  • Are you thinking about it holistically and creatively?

Be recognized as a leader. If you think of yourself as a leader, but you’re not recognized as such…that’s a red flag!

10. How to Validate a Product Concept with GoPro Former Senior Director of Product, Adam Silver

Your job as a Product Manager is to validate if a Product is worth pursuing, and this is a challenge for many. Adam Silver offers his piece of Product wisdom on the topic through a clear and practical validation methodology.

Key Takeaways:

You can validate a Product in two ways:

External Data points: Talking to users and consumer insights, competitive intelligence, published research, analyst insights, market dynamics, technology trends, and channel insights.

Internal Data points: Core competency, E-staff expectations, roadmap fit and positioning, return on investment, relative priority, ability to execute, and sales team buy-in.

There are a few ways to get these two things done, and a few key things to keep in mind:

  • Invest the time to talk face to face with key stakeholders
  • “Fast is slow, slow is fast” – Don’t rush it!
  • Learn and practice the art of being passionate about your vision whilst maintaining detachment from outcomes
  • Try to recognize when you’re pushing water uphill

11. How to Prioritize and Cut Through Noise with Paypal Group Product Manager, Parul Goel

It’s common for PMs to get caught up with so much work that they barely have time for themselves. But when that amounts to incredibly long hours, no sleep, and hardly any progress, then you might have a problem with prioritization. 

Thankfully, Parul Goel cuts through this issue to make sure you break the cycle. You’ll never lose sight of your goals again after following her advice!

Key Takeaways

To Parul, most people have trouble cutting through the noise because they do not know what a priority is. An easy way to find out if you have this issue is to look at your weekly plan. If what you see is an enormous pile of to-dos with no hierarchy or time allocated to each, then you’re not prioritizing; you’re just listing.

How do you fix this? Easy. The first step is to condense this list by writing down the top 3 things you need to get done by the end of each day. Then, you can head over to step two: winning back your calendar.

Your calendar should reflect your priorities, not a space that other people fill out with meetings. To fix this, start blocking your hours ahead of time to make sure you spend the necessary time taking care of your priorities and not everyone else’s.

After you care of these first steps, it’s time to reflect!

To fully master the art of prioritization, Parul suggests that you take time at the end of each day to reflect and write down what happened. When doing this, point out what you think you managed well, what you believe could be improved, and what needs adjusting for future reference. 

12. How to Work With a Finance Team with DAZN Sr. Product Manager, Richard Giannetti

Finance teams and Product Managers might have two very different views of the world, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t work together.

According to Richard Gianetti, Senior Product Manager at DAZN, there are many advantages to working closely with finance. And learning how to communicate with the team effectively will unlock a whole new world of possibilities!

Key Takeaways

Richard’s strategy to work successfully with a finance team is all about empathy and communication. To achieve this, it’s essential that you first find common ground.

Both Product and finance teams manage large amounts of data, try to increase the return on investment (ROI), and handle stakeholders. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg! It’s crucial that you stop obsessing over what makes you different and start thinking about the things that you share.

After you find common ground, it’s time to help them. The best way to do that is by increasing revenue.

As a PM, it’s always important to be mindful of your Product’s profits. So it should come as a no-brainer that in order to help finance do their job, you should find ways to lower costs and increase revenue. To do that, you should become financially oriented and learn to identify opportunities. Whether those opportunities come in the form of cheaper tools, faster development, or market circumstances… it’s on you.

Lastly, don’t forget that when you receive your paycheck at the end of the month, it’s because of finance!

13. Falling in Love with the Problem Statement with Nike Former Sr. Product Manager, Nikhil Wadhera

We’ve all heard that almost 95% of Products fail. But why is that? According to Nikhil Wadhera, formerly of Nike, the #1 reason for failure is the lack of “Product sense,” meaning that companies don’t understand what makes a Product valuable.

How do you avoid that? Well, first you need to fall in love with the problem.

Key Takeaways

For those who are especially fond of customer research, you’ll love Nikhil’s advice!

This talk includes in-depth tips for interview questions, insight extracting, and formulating killer problem statements. When reflecting on the talk, we identified these three key points.

  • PMs should spend more time doing user research: People don’t want to buy Products; they just want solutions. Start by hearing them out!
  • Your user doesn’t have all the answers: Just because your users know that they have a problem, it doesn’t mean that they know how to articulate it. To uncover the real problem, you have to do in-depth interviews and extract insights. The best interview questions are open-ended, uncover customer pains and pin-points, challenge your assumptions, and provide rich qualitative data.
  • Define a good problem statement: A good problem statement is user-focused, inspiring, actionable, concise, but most importantly: it takes time to do it right.

14. B2B vs. B2C Product Management with Uber Sr. Product Manager, Shobha Subramanian

Whether you’re working on a B2B Product or a B2C one, you’re still a regular Product Manager, right? Wrong. In fact, according to Shobha Subramanian’s talk, the PM’s job changes dramatically depending on which of the two types of Products they’re working on. 

Key Takeaways

When it comes to the PM’s approach to a B2B or a B2C Product, these are the main differences:

  • Customer acquisition: B2C Products are more sales-driven, while the B2C ones rely heavily on marketing tactics.
  • Customer support: B2B Products tend to need a lot of account management and “after-sale” customer service. On the other hand, the B2C team has a more transactional approach that usually involves campaigns and automated support.
  • Buyers: Most times, when someone in a company purchases a B2B Product, they do it so that another department will use it. Whereas, the actual user almost always buys its B2C Products.
  • Monetization: There is an infinite number of ways in which these two Products are different in terms of usage and monetization. But the most important fact is that most B2B Products charge their customers using contract-driven transactions and licenses, while the B2C ones use pay-as-you-go tactics, third-party ads, or freemium pricing-models.

15. Lessons of Product Localization from Airbnb Former Product Leader, Julian Leung

In this talk, Julian Leung from Airbnb talks about why Product localization is essential… because, surprise! If you mess up your Product’s language in another country, the chances that it will do well are very slim. So, before you go international, here’s a few things you should know:

Key Takeaways

As a former Airbnb Product Manager, Julian spends most of this talk speaking about his experience in the company. Because, believe it or not, Airbnb wasn’t always the king of localization. In fact, there was a time when the company sent emails in two to three languages at once, split words into fragments, or just published complete nonsense. These are all examples of localization gone wrong.

Another aspect Julian points out is that localization is not just about translation. Aspects like font size, line breaks, UI fit, currencies, and phone numbers are just as crucial as getting the words right. And, even more importantly, things like icons and cultural references play a massive part in achieving excellent localization. If you watch the film Inside Out in another language, you’ll see tiny changes in the animation itself that make it stand out as a great example of Product localization.

“Let’s acquire an appreciation for good localization”.

As a user, you know very well how annoying it is to go into a half-translated website… So as a Product Leader, make sure that doesn’t happen to your international customers and start following Julian and Airbnb’s example.

16. What Do Top Companies Look for in PM Interviews with Facebook Product Leader, Deepti Madan

Top tech companies have the pick of the bunch when it comes to new applicants. Deepti Madan is here to share the secrets she’s learned, through giving and taking interviews, about what these companies are looking for.

Landing an interview at the company of your dreams is tough, but with the inside scoop, you’ll have armed yourself with everything you need to ace it.

Key Takeaways:

One of the most helpful parts of the talk, is a list of very common pitfalls in a PM interview that you should avoid:

  • Intro – “Tell me about yourself”
    • Don’t just read your resume
    • Be real, don’t inflate!
  • Rehearsing frameworks and blurting them out
    • Use tools/frameworks, but do not make them sound rote/overt
  • Not addressing the interviewer questions upfront and directly
  • Not responding to interviewer cues and feedback
  • Steering most of the conversation rather than making it a dialogue
  • Throwing in keywords you just learned from looking at the company’s website
  • Providing verbose and detailed responses (less is more!)
    • Know when to zoom-in and zoom-out with your responses, leverage concise and structure comms
  • Presenting strengths as weaknesses/taking full ownership for past success
    • This doesn’t work anymore! It’s a major pitfall to avoid. Focus on self-awareness and humility

17. A Practical Template for Product Thinking with Google Product Leader, Prashant Nair

The purpose of Prashant Nair’s talk is to shed some light on the reality of what PM frameworks are like. If you look at some sources, it seems like they go Step 1 – Step 2 – Step 3 – Product! But the reality is much more complicated than that.

There are too many different teams invested and too many different things in play for the Product development process ever to be that simple.

Prashant’s goal here is to provide you with a practical and effective template for Product thinking, helping you manage the chaos.

Key Takeaways:

Prashant’s Product Thinking template isn’t a static set of steps to follow in a certain order. Rather, it’s a loose and open-ended way of thinking about Product Management.

In this 15 minute presentation, you’ll be taken through the template step by step and given a set of questions to ask of your Product, your teams, your market, and your business.

It applies to all Product Managers at any level in any company, so take it and, most importantly, have fun with it!

18. How to Design UX for AI with Zillow Principal Product Manager, Debapriya Basu

In this talk, Debapriya Basu covers various topics under the umbrella of designing for AI infused systems. She goes over the principles of design, guidelines for user interaction stages, and a framework of the design process.

Key Takeaways:

For those who are new to the designing for AI process, perhaps the most helpful part of this extensive and insightful talk is the explanation of the different stages of designing for AI.

They mirror the typical design process, but with a few key differences”

Identify user needs → Determine how AI can help

Collect data → Train models

Design to meet user’s mental model → Test prototypes

Explain AI → Build trustworthy AI

Incorporate feedback → Handle gestures gracefully

Debapriya goes through each of these stages in-depth, giving examples from well known AI-built Products such as Amazon and Zillow.

19. Inspire Action With Great Product Strategy by Biden Campaign Product Lead, Andrew Yu

Andrew Yu gives an excellent talk on something near and dear to his heart, and to many hearts in 2020, which is how to inspire action with principled Product Strategy. Andrew speaks not just as a (former) Product Manager at LinkedIn, but also about his work on the Biden for President campaign.

Key Takeaways:

In this talk, Andrew goes over the meaning and benefits of a principled Product strategy, giving three different case studies with three individual themes. He also goes over his framework for putting Product strategy into action.

To Andrew, a principled Product strategy is more than just a roadmap for launching the next great Product. He quotes Vince Law by saying,

“Strategy bridges the gap between what you aspire to be and what you are doing.”

One way to keep this bridge from wobbling is to have both a vision and a mission, and an understanding that these two are not the same thing.

A vision is an idealized state of where you want to be.

A mission focuses on what is happening today and describes the problem you are setting out to solve.

For example, LinkedIn’s vision is to ‘create an economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce.’ And their mission is ‘to connect the world’s professionals and make them more productive and successful.’

And so, a strategy represents the set of guiding principles for your roadmapping and execution tasks to ensure they align with your vision and mission. Andrew’s magic formula is Strategy=Principles+Decisions.

20. What Makes a Good Product Manager with Amazon Senior Product Manager, Ankit Goyal

In this talk, Ankit Goyal gives every new and aspiring Product Manager a great lowdown on the skills it takes to make a great PM, as well as more fully explaining the role for anyone who (still) has it confused with Project Management!

Key Takeaways:

Product Managers are leaders operating at the intersection of design, engineering, and business, identifying user problems, prioritizing solutions to address them, and achieving business goals.

Product Managers have to do all of these things without having anyone directly reporting to them. That leaves them with this balancing act of having to lead without formal authority.

As Product Managers exist in this gray area, it’s helpful to break it down by what their responsibilities are.

They define the vision, meaning that they define the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ for the team. They listen to customer needs and problems. They prioritize decisions by cutting through the noise and recognizing what is important for the users and business goals. They lead by establishing trust and act as a torchbearer for the users and the Product.

Thanks again to our incredible speakers for donating their time and their knowledge. You make the Product community a better place!

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