2020 Roundup: Best Product Talks from Google

We’re fast approaching the end of the year (why does it always seem to take us all by surprise?) and safe to say it’s been a bit of a busy one.

Perhaps you’re only just now trying to get caught up on everything that was happening in the product world. Or you’ve realized that there’s no time like the present to transition into a Product Management role. Perhaps you’ve just decided that now’s the time to be the best Product Manager you can be!

The amount of high quality, free content out there for Product Managers can be quite overwhelming if you don’t know where to start. So start here!

Every week, top product professionals from Google came to our platform, and used their voices and experience to teach you what they know. While there are, quite literally, hundreds of great talks, we’ve boiled it down to the 7 essential talks you don’t want to miss.

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(Don’t forget to grab your ticket to The Best of ProductCon 2020 while you’re here!)

1. Remote Product Management by Google PM, Ling Lin

Remote Product Management has been a very hot topic this year, more so than ever, with hundreds of companies moving online in response to social distancing orders. Many have announced that the change will either extend to mid-2021, or be permanent.

Is it possible to be a remote Product Manager? Ling Lin thinks so, and she knows how to do it well.

Key Takeaways: From Pushed to Pulled

Ling explains that certain dynamics have to change when you make the switch from in-office to remote. Meeting people, for a people-based role such as Product Manager, remains absolutely key. In an online setting, this must be proactive, as it’s no longer spontaneous.

If you’re joining a new remote team, you need to go through the same process of learning how things work. But your approach goes from being pushed, to being pulled. What does that mean? It means that information is not being pushed at you the way it would in an office. You’re not absorbing the same information just by sitting down with the team and learning by proximity. You need to actively pull the information you need.

Watch the full talk to see Ling’s advice on how to pull that information, how remote stakeholder meetings work, and how to prioritize and communicate decisions.

2. A Practical Template for Product Thinking by Google PM, 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 to ever be that simple.

Prashant’s goal here is to provide you with a practical and effective template for product thinking, which will help you to manage the chaos.

Key Takeaways: Continuous Recalibration

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 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!

3. Step Up and Lead by Google Product Lead, Yariv Adan

Yariv Adan subtitles his talk as ‘A Practical Guide For Becoming More Strategic’ and was born from the conversation he found himself having with his own team.

He heard from some individuals that they were being told to ‘step up’ and that they’d have to start thinking more strategically, but it wasn’t clear to them exactly what that means.

Key Takeaways: The Five Bullet Guide to “Being More Strategic”

The goal of this talk is to break down the quite generic advice of ‘be more strategic’ into actual applicable advice which Product Managers can use in the day-to-day:

  • Own the problem, not the solution
  • Full accountability
  • Think critically
  • Think beyond your team
  • Be recognized as a leader

Yariv goes through each of these points step by step to help you full understand what they mean, and how to actually go about them.

The last 10 minutes of the talk are dedicated to a Q&A session with Yariv, where he answers audience questions. (If there’s a question you’re dying to have answered, be sure to check out our upcoming Ask Me Anything sessions.)

4. Influencing Without Authority by Google PM, Christine Li

Influencing without authority is a skill like no other, and critically important for Product Managers. This talk keeps it simple, by telling you exactly why it’s such a vital skill and how to do it successfully.

Key Takeaways: The CEO of the Product…Not!

Christine Li starts her talk by busting one of the more common myths surrounding Product Management…that a PM is the CEO of the product.

Both the PM and the CEO own the product, and are ultimately responsible for the success of the product. But a CEO has explicit authority, while a PM does not. PMs manage products, not people.

Christine also goes over the different categories of stakeholders, and sows you how to align incentives with them. She also goes over the importance of earning trust and building relationships. By the end of the talk you’ll have a full and comprehensive understanding of how to successfully influence without authority.

5. Measuring What Matters by Google PM, Shreenath Regunathan

When you’re a Product Manager, you have to love metrics. But it’s more important to love the right ones. In this talk, Shreenath Regunathan stresses that this talk isn’t going to tell you how to measure ads. The focus of this talk is on how to pick product metrics that are both useful and meaningful.

Key Takeaways:

To make sure you’re making the most of your time, Shreenath starts the talk by clarifying a few things about metrics:

  • They do not absolute you of understanding users
  • They do not yield ideas, they yield decision making frameworks
  • You cannot optimize your way to success

There’s a lot to digest in this whopping 28 minute talk, but Shreenath makes it as accessible as possible, by using real world examples to put everything into context.

You’ll learn the main differences between North star metrics and ongoing metrics, what to consider when choosing launch metrics, and much more.

6. The Importance of Soft Skills as a PM by Google PM, Manosai Eerabathini

Much like influencing without authority, soft skills are hard to learn and just as critical for good Product Management as skills like roadmapping and data analytics.

In this talk, which serves as both advocate for and guide to soft skills in PM, Manosai Eerabathini starts us off with a quote to think about:

“Figuring out the right thing to do is rarely the hardest part, it’s figuring out how to bring every along for the journey.”

That very much sums up how critical soft skills are for effective Product Management. There are a lot of difference voices talking at once throughout various stages of product development. To be a leader, yours needs to be the one that everyone is listening to.

Nothing that PMs do is done alone, and you need soft skills to get your work done right.

Key Takeaways: Common Failure Modes

One of the most insightful parts of this 32 minute talk, is when Manosai dives into some of the common bad habits that he sees many PMs fall into.

The first is falling in love with pure ‘building’, or allocating most of their time and energy into what ‘feels’ like Product Management because it’s directly tangible. Another is failing to build consensus – if no one is along with you on the journey, you’re not going to get from A to B. Playing the hero is another common trap, where PMs put themselves in the critical path when it’s not actually needed.

Manosai takes a deeper dive into these, and more, plus a look at some of the things you can do day to day to develop your soft skills as a PM and start building those key relationships.

7. PM Leadership: Creating a Culture of Collaboration by Google PM, Isha Sheth

Isha Sheth manages to cram more knowledge into a 30 minute talk than many books are able to divulge in 200+ pages. She doesn’t just dive into how to foster an environment of collaboration with your teams, she also goes into how to define collaboration, why it’s so important, the collaboration maturity model, her favorite tools for collaboration, and product lifecycles and interfaces.

Key Takeaways: PM Competencies

Isha starts off by giving us an overview of the key Product Manager Competencies, broken down into four main categories:

  • Influence & leadership
  • Product insight & vision
  • Execution & business impact
  • Technical/analytical expertise

She also breaks down the members of the product team who the PM is going to be working the most closely with. (Engineer, Designer, Data Scientist, and Product Operations.) She says that the path to success is balancing responsibility and sharing the ownership, by looking at each person within the product team and understanding what they’re responsible for.

She also shares with the the path from ad-hoc collaboration to following best practices, with the collaboration maturity model.

At the end of the talk you’ll also get a full list of her favorite tools for collaboration, from roadmapping to flowcharting and project management.

If you liked this list, be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel where we post new insightful talks every single week.

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