2021 has been a whirlwind, not in the least because of all the amazing events the Product community has had this year! To date, we’ve held 1,385 events (that’s about 4 per day!). And that’s not even including #ProductCon, the world’s largest Product Management Conference, and The Product Career Fair.
While it’s so difficult to choose our favorites, we looked back on the last year and picked out 20 of the best talks of the year, to help you catch up on what you missed.
Building a Product Culture by Twitter VP of Engineering, Nick Caldwell
“When the disciplines aren’t talking to each other, you don’t build the best product, unless you pull in all the different opinions and insights to figure out a way to best synthesize them. I would say, on the whole, a product person who doesn’t know how to do that synthesis is not going to be very effective. You have to learn how to talk to each of the stakeholders in a way that aligns with not just how they like to be spoken to, but that aligns with their goals and their outcomes in OKRs. Marketing people, engineers, salespeople are literally gold on different things. So as the product person sitting between all of these folks, it really helps and is important to understand what their motivations are before you go talk to them and try and get them bought into whatever strategy or mission is.”
Inspiring with a Product Vision by Netflix Director of Product, Ebi Atawodi
Netflix’s Director of Product, Ebi Atawodi, joined us at #ProductCon in June to talk about how Product Managers use the product vision to inspire and lead. She dove into her interpretation of what makes a product vision, and gave real life examples of how it has been used by top tech companies to innovate, disrupt, and ultimate make their customers happy.
“A product vision should be four things. It’s imaginative, it’s lofty, it inspires, and it’s long term. When I say it’s imaginative, what I mean is you’re not trying to solve something based on the realities of today. That’s not really visionary. With imaginative, you’re able to think different about the world today and you’re able to come up with creative ways to solve the problems that exist.”
The Future of Commerce by Facebook VP of Product, Shiva Rajaraman
Shiva Rajaraman, Facebook’s VP of Product, joined us for a Fireside Chat. We chatted with him about how he got started in the Product Management industry, some of the interesting ways his teams stay innovative and agile, and his tips on how to be a lifelong learner.
When asked about how people can stay up to date on everything that’s going on in the tech industry, Shiva said…
“I think one way is to just immerse yourself in it for fun. Remember what we all did when mobile apps came out? We downloaded a bunch of apps and I spent a lot of time just critiquing those apps, saying what do I not like about the UX etc, and it actually made me a better Product Designer…sometimes in order to understand something you have to poke holes. Sometimes you poke a hole and the whole thing pops! But sometimes you can step back and say ‘OK, I get it.’”
Importance of Market Research & Cognitive Design by Amazon Sr PM, Misha Singhal
Misha Singhal, Senior Product Manager at Amazon, joined us to talk about the importance of market research and cognitive design. She went over how the two are linked, what their processes are, and gives us an overview of the skills they require.
They both reside in the customer being the centre of both of these processes. They focus on what the user wants, and for me that’s how they come together. Market research helps you to understand the customer, and by using cognitive design processes, you’re actually building something for that user.
Full-Stack PM – From Idea to Operations with Uber Sr PM, Rafael Nascimento
Everyone has heard the term ‘full-stack PM’, but there remains a little confusion in the industry about exactly what that looks like. Rafael Nascimento, a Senior Product Manager at Uber, came to talk to us about what a full-stack Product Manager actually looks like.
The line between tech and business no longer exists with digital products. If we look at Big Tech like Uber, Google, Facebook, and We may see operational people, lawyers or actuarial analysts doing quires and trying to understand data, and trying to understand how a specific initiative pr a specific project from the business side is evolving. The line between business and tech is getting much leaner, almost invisible. It’s important for us to understand how this impacts the Product Management role.
Lessons Learnt at Apple, Amazon & Google by Google Product Leader, Liat Berry
Liat Berry is a Product Leader at Google, who also has experience at Apple and Amazon. In her time at over half of FAANG, she’s picked up a few important lessons along the way! Here, she takes us through her personal career path, to give aspiring PMs an idea of what life in Product looks like.
“You have to put a lot of attention on culture. Especially in big companies. Like Apple, for example, and similar companies really spend a lot of time investing in resources, keeping employees happy, and building a good culture.”
Design Thinking for Product Development by Amazon Sr PM, Rahul Dua
Rahul Dua, Amazon’s Senior Product Manager, joined us to break down how design thinking impacts product development. He went into the what, why, and how of design thinking, and talked about its main guiding principles, before giving the audience everything they need to take the next steps.
Embrace your beginner’s mind. It’s very important that you approach a design thinking problem or a customer problem with a beginner’s mind. Do not enter a room with a customer thinking ‘ok, they have a problem and I’m going to give them a solution.’ Open your mind and be open to learning more about the customer and their problem.
Leading in Times of Crisis by Instagram Product Lead, Deotima Mukherjee
In this session (particularly helpful for certain unprecedented times) Instagram Product Manager Deotima Mukherjee talks about how to lead during times of crisis. She takes us through some possible triggers of a crisis, how to manage your team, your product, and external stakeholders, and how to set expectations. She finishes with a case study to put it all into context.
“As things speed up, help people slow down by staying calm and prioritising a few big things. Communicate expectations early and often and share progress on goals and recognize achievements more publicly. Have a clear vision, milestones and expected results to motivate the team. Give yourself time and space to process challenges.”
Building Customer Experiences, Pratik R Shah
Pratik R Shah, Global Product Lead at Airbnb, joined us for a very special #AskMeAnything session over in our Slack community for Product Managers. Pratik answered questions regarding behavioral science, customer experiences, and how to balance innovation vs. growth goals.
When asked about how behavioral science impacts product creation, he said…
“In my experience in product, behavioral science is very critical in understanding what the user really wants to do. Think of it as anything you build: feature, functionality, or product, you are basically trying to change the behavior of your customer. When doing that—questioning how they behave, why they do it, what their motivation is, is crucial. Someone looking to buy something online vs someone walking into a physical store for a test-drive of a car are very different behaviors you are trying to influence. So user research, understanding their needs and their psyche makes the biggest difference.”
Building B2B vs B2C Products by Spotify Sr PM, Aisha Ishak
Spotify’s Senior PM, Aisha Ishak, joined us to talked about the many, but subtle, differences between B2B and B2C Product Management. She dives into the responsibilities of a Product Manager, and how these shift and morph to fit the two difference spaces.
The differences are nuanced. I think a lot of what you have to do as a Product Manager in the B2C world is similar to what you have to do in the B2B world. But in B2B credibility is everything. You have to have very strong relationship building skills to the point where you almost have to see yourself embedded in the company, that they feel comfortable to reach out to you whenever there’s a need.
Achieve Clarity & Focus Through Product Strategy by Peloton Lead PM, Jason Mueller
Peloton’s Lead Product Manager, Jason Mueller, came to give us a basic overview of why it’s important to have a product strategy, a simple framework for creating your own, and talks about the importance of communicating your vision more broadly.
“It will never be perfect, but if you…
1. Understand your customers, how your business benefits from serving them, and where you want to be in the future
2. Create objectives with measurable results that get you closer to that future state.
3. Pro-actively communicate your strategy to gain alignment from key partners and stakeholders
…you’ll have clarity and focus.”
How to Use Data Like a Pro by Google Product Leader, Nargis Sakhibova
Nargis Sakhibova, Google’s Product Leader, helps us to become better data-driven Product Managers by learning how to properly harness its powers like a pro.
As Product Managers, do we see data as vital for our day to days? In the beginning when you are first introducing a product, what are the most important things you can do, and why would you need data here? At this time, as a PM, you’re looking to make a case for something, and basically prove this lemon is worth the squeeze. Here you can estimate the impact with data.
Breaking Down the Product Career Journey by Microsoft Senior PM, Diego Granados
Diego Granados, a Senior Product Manager at Microsoft, joined us to break down the Product career journey, in this popular talk. He covers the do’s and don’ts of applying for PM roles, some things you can do to start your PM career at your current company, and how to perfectly plan your resume.
“Getting into Product Management is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. It takes time and it takes effort, and for some of you it will takes weeks, sometimes days, and sometimes it will take many many years of experience. But work hard and reach for it, and make sure that you leverage everything you’ve learned, apply those skills, and tell those stories.”
A/B Testing Best Practices by Hulu Senior PM, Amna Aftab
Amna Aftab is a Senior Product Manager at Hulu, and is an expert in using A/B testing to build better digital products. In this talk, she goes over the experimentation lifecycle, types of experiments, and gives us some top A/B testing challenges.
The key is to run a test, analyse the data, build your user learnings, and learn from it, and run the test again. From there you should modify and tweak your existing hypothesis and run the experiment again. There’s a misconception that you must find what you were looking for on the first try because you’ve invested time and resources, and that’s not wrong. We should be allocating resources wisely, but experimentation is meant to be trial and error. It’s not just important to find a winner, it’s important for finding user behaviour in the wild.
Characteristics of Great Product Managers by PayPal Sr PM, Ronke Majekodunmi
Ronke Majekodunmi, PayPal’s Senior Product Manager, talks about the soft skills and attributes that make a truly great Product Manager.
I wanted to share with you all my PM superpower. I thrive in finding opportunities beyond the sight of others. What do I mean by that? Whenever I’m faced with difficulties, whenever I’m told ‘no’, I look around and I find ways to get my product or my feature developed, and sometimes I have to come up with some very creative things. I implore you all to find and use your PM superpower every day, because that’s how you build products that change the world.
How to Estimate Product Value by Nike Sr PM, Julian Jones
Julian Jones, a Nike Senior Product Manager, gave an informative talk on the models and processes for estimating product value. He starts by giving us an overview on business value, and moves on to talk about mental frameworks, and estimated business value models.
An estimated business value model is a starting point. It helps you to understand the potential of your product or feature compared to others. It helps you identify your key assumptions, which help inform your learning agenda. It helps you quantify and justify your work to business leaders, teammates, and stakeholders. But it’s not 100% accurate and it isn’t meant to be. But you need to strive to make it more accurate over time so that you can evaluate product performance after launch.
What Makes an Excellent Product Manager by Yelp Sr PM, Kristine Oak
Yelp’s Senior Product Manager, Kristine Oak, knows what it takes to be an excellent Product Manager. And she joined us for a special event where she talked about the responsibilities of a PM and how to excel in your career.
“How to be a Jack-of-all-trades T-shaped PM? You need to learn quickly, and be ready to pick up on a lot of knowledge, topics, and skill sets you are unfamiliar with. Communicate cross-functionally, and extract key insights and relay the right info to the right teams. Be humble, and learn from experts in each area. Finally, be confident in what you know AND what you don’t know.”
Controlled Experimentation aka A/B Testing for PMs by Tinder Senior PM, Andrew Hon
Andrew Hon is a Senior Product Manager at Tinder, and knows a thing or two about A/B testing. In this talk, he goes over the ins and outs of A/B testing (AKA controller experimentation), including why, how, when, and who.
So do more experiments mean more revenue? I did a little analysis on how many companies are rigorously testing concurrently. We can see clearly that the more experiments companies are conducting, the more revenue they tend to be generating.
Finding Your Voice in Product by WNBA Product Lead, Devin Ward
Devin Ward is a Product Lead for WNBA, and she gave us an excellent talk on how to find your voice in Product. She gave real life examples, using how she and her teams at Disney re-opened the parks in the aftermath of a pandemic as a case study to put it all into context.
“In life we make impulsive decisions, without actually understanding why we made them. And as a Product Manager, you learn that asking questions can save you a lot of time and energy and money. And in the end who doesn’t love to save time, money, and energy!”
The PM Role: Cracking PM Interviews by Microsoft Product Leader, Disha Chauhan
In this talk by Disha Chauhan, a Product Leader at Microsoft, aspiring PMs learn the tips and tricks to cracking the interview process. She goes over the skills required to work in the tech industry, the format of the PM interview, and gives us some resources to help you prep.
First of all, I am someone who believes you can do your best in roles that are aligned with your personality traits and your general purpose and interests in life. So even before you decide to bank upon your PM journey, it’s important to assess whether in fact that role is right for you. There are certain traits that are extremely important, like being curious about how things work, always being eager to learn, being comfortable making mistakes. Get clarify on your motivation to be a PM. Even if you’re not asked about it in interviews, you need to know it for yourself. That clarity will shine through all of your answers in the PM interview process.