Nina-Foroutan

53 / If You’re In Product, You’re the Connector

Description

We often talk about product living at the intersection of technology, business, and UX. And that makes sense in a limited, Venn diagram way of thinking: Product as the place where these things converge. But as we have discovered, using a 3-piece diagram to explain what product is all about is a gross oversimplification.

Through her lens as a journalist-turned-product leader, Nina Foroutan, Director of Product Management at Forbes, sees product not at the intersection, but more as the oxygen each requires to sustain itself. In this episode, Nina joins Sean and Paul describing her product leader role as participant in all things product, as she puts it: “in the in-betweens.”

Sometimes her day is technology-focused, on others it’s more on UX, and sometimes it’s more business and data. But one thing is clear: every day is focused on users.

“When you’re in product, you have to be involved in every aspect,” she says, “and understand user pain points and how the solution you’re trying to build helps get to the organization’s business goals.”

Where product truly plays its role, “where it’s actually actionable,” is as facilitator. “When you’re in product, you’re the connector. You’re the reason why and the one who makes it all make sense. That is where product lives.”

Be sure to catch more of our conversation with Nina to get her take on —

  • This period of awakening we’re in right now – especially as it relates to hiring for diversity and inclusion and creating an environment that’s accepting of everyone.
  • The importance of soft skills, like having the emotional intelligence to remain calm and roll with the punches when everyone else is panicking.
  • That in her world content is the product, and technology is the vehicle for delivering the user’s experience with it.

Nina’s Recommended Reading:

Little Black Stretchy Pants, by Chip Wilson.


About Nina

Nina Foroutan is the Director of Product Development at Forbes where she leads a team of product owners focused on driving content and revenue experiences on Forbes.com. Prior to Forbes, she was a product lead at Hearst Digital Studios launching new brands and building platforms for their partnership with Verizon. Nina has an MBA from Babson College F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business and currently lives in Manhattan.  

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David-Wang

52 / Mindset, Process, and Tools

Description

If you’ve never done product before, the journey can be super-scary. So many questions: Do I have what it takes? Is this the career I want for myself? What type of PM do I want to be? Where am I in my career product life cycle?

Worry no more.

In this episode of ITX’s Product Momentum Podcast, Sean and Paul are joined by ProductGo co-founder, David Wang. David is a true champion of product managers around the world – especially if you’re just breaking into the field. In our conversation, he outlines a prescribed path for product management newcomers who may not have a PM degree but who do have a passion for “creating things that can change the world.”

Our initial connection with David arrived compliments of podcast guest, Adrienne Tan.  

David’s own path to product management took him 5 years “just to know what I was doing, and another 5 years just doing the job,” he says. “But what I realized was that everything I learned [about product management] can be categorized into one of these three areas: mindset, process, and tools.”

Once he started thinking about product management through that three-part lens, it helped him make sense of all the information he had read and practiced, he added.

David also realized that as our knowledge grows and technology evolves, the same happens to the mindsets, processes, and tools that once guided our thinking. Avoid tying yourself to one mindset or process or toolbox, he cautions. Part of learning product management is understanding that it is a repeatable, almost cyclical process.

“We can add mindsets to our mindset category and get rid of others over time. Tools and processes come and go. So as a PM, that realization has actually helped me learn management much faster.”

In this pod, David shares what he means by “much faster.” He lays out a prescribed 12- to 18-month plan for what onboarding to a product career might look like and involve. But don’t be in a rush to make it happen, he advises.

“It takes time for that mindset to change, and product managers are really hired for their mindsets, not so much on their certifications.”

Listen in to hear David’s thoughts on: where ideas come from, the power of the Growth mindset, and what he means by your “origin story.” Knowing your origin story will help to remove any doubts about whether and where you belong in your PM role.

David’s Recommended Reading

Lovability: How to Build a Business That People Love and Be Happy Doing It, by Brian de Haaff.

INSPIRED: How To Create Tech Products Customers Love, by Marty Cagan.


About David

David Wang is a global product leader with 15+ years of experience building products for start-ups and coaching corporates in Australia. Currently, David is the Founder of ProductGo – an online school advancing the art of Product Management in the APAC region.

Before starting Product Tree, David was the Head of Product for SocietyOne - a Fintech start-up raised over $70M. David is also a Distinguished Lecturer in General Assembly for Product Management, where he taught over 3,000+ students globally.

In his spare time, he runs a book summary site 5minuteknowledge.com and he is also a top writer for a product publication with over 1 million readers globally. Read more from David on his blog or website.

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Wolf Alexanyan

51 / Cognitive Bias and Software Development

Description

Without mental shortcuts to help, there’s no way product managers could process the daily waves of information coming at us. We apply these shortcuts, called cognitive biases, to drive efficiency in how we perceive and respond to the world around us. But when we’re unaware of, or not sensitive to, these biases (that exist naturally within us, by the way), well, that’s when we make mistakes. Mistakes that manifest in our lives as product people as well as is our everyday lives as humans bumping along in our own existence.

In this episode of the ITX Product Momentum Podcast, Sean and Paul welcome Wolf Alexanyan, Head of Product Management at The Software Development Company. Fresh off 2+ years of research regarding cognitive biases, Wolf recently published two significant works in our space: The Science of User Experience, which explains the importance of using our brain’s errors and biases to develop software product solutions, and UX CORE, a compilation of 105 hands-on examples of cognitive biases used in software development and team management.

“When I was working on UX Core,” Wolf says, “I wanted to show people not just how to use the biases to relate to others and protect yourself from being manipulated, but to show how powerful our brain is.

The moment we understand how to get in touch with our own cognitive biases is the moment we seize the power to make positive changes in our own lives as both human beings and product people. As Wolf explains, the power lies within each of us.

“This is the most important thing: if we focus on ourselves and spend some time just to understand the errors that we have – instead of trying to understand the capabilities of the world and opportunities that arise – we will benefit from that much more, much more.

Tune in to hear Wolf describe the role ego plays in cognitive bias, with specific reference to the Dunning-Kruger Effect, and hear him explain why the “Blind Spot Bias” is the one that new product managers need to learn and understand before all others.

Wolf’s Recommended Reading:

Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman.

The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.


About Wolf

Wolf Alexanyan is the Head of Product Management at The Software Development Company, working on lawful cyber intelligence systems. For the first half of his 12-year career, he worked as a technical specialist, after which he shifted to management. Wolf has led the research and design of such products as the eSports gaming ecosystem, air operator’s registry system for the General Department of Civil Aviation of Armenia, the world’s first levitating camera.

His main passion is studying different cognitive science disciplines to understand patterns of human behavior and thinking. He has recently finished 2.5 years of research regarding cognitive biases and published his work in two pieces. The Science of User Experience explains the importance of using our brain’s errors and biases in developing solutions for software products and development teams, and “UX CORE” consists of 105 hands-on examples of cognitive biases used in software development and team management.

He sincerely believes that humanity is on the verge of a cognitive revolution. Although cognitive biases are most used in the development of political and digital products, regular people can reap enormous benefits if they take the time to study their own biases and beliefs.

Visit Wolf’s website with his notes about project and product management: https://keepsimple.io/

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Christian Idiodi

50 / Product Problems Are People Problems

Description

Whether discussing onboarding, the challenges we product managers confront in today’s upside-down world, or the benefits of being a “lazy” product manager, all problems boil down to people problems.

In this episode of the Product Momentum Podcast, Sean and Paul welcome Christian Idiodi, partner at the Silicon Valley Product Group. As a leader in the product world from the beginning, Christian explains that people problems are also leadership problems, because “leaders are responsible for the context, culture, and frameworks we apply” to help solve complex problems.

Christian’s approach may seem unconventional, but his wisdom reflects a set of commonsense best practices that really aren’t all that common! He jokes with his teams, saying, “If your product work is not hard, you’re not doing it right.”

Sometimes, though, the work is hard because over 70% of product managers today are self-taught (“Imagine going to a self-taught dentist.”), having missed out on the innovative “bootcamp-like” onboarding experience he devised for his product managers.

In the modern product world, Christian says, the best way to succeed is to find a great product leader who you can learn from. That’s the best way to know what good product management looks like.

Listen in to catch more of Christian’s unique insights. They’ll help you discover how understanding the people in and around a problem will lead to better solutions. You’ll also learn why being “a lazy product manager” has its advantages.

Christian’s Recommended Reading:

EMPOWERED: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Products, by Marty Cagan.

What You Do Is Who You Are: How To Create Your Business Culture, by Ben Horowitz.

The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers, by Ben Horowitz.


About Christian

Christian Idiodi has been a product leader for over 15 years, building teams and developing enterprise and consumer products that have shaped companies such as CareerBuilder and Merrill Corporation as well as clients such as PayPal, Etsy, Starbucks, Dell, and Macy’s.

Christian is passionate about helping companies implement the discipline of product management to build world-class products and new technologies. At CareerBuilder, Christian founded and managed CareerBuilder Institute, the industry’s first combined human capital and consumer training platform. As VP of Enterprise Product at Snagajob, Christian conceptualized a new-to-market solution and led the discovery, development, and successful launch of the ReadyHire business line. He designed and led the B2B product strategy for IdentityForce. He then founded Firtsi, a product consulting company that has overseen the product development lifecycle for over 120+ new products.

Before joining Silicon Valley Product Group, Christian was the Global Head of Product for Merrill Corporation where he built the company’s product organization and led them through a transformational, large-scale industry launch of the first SaaS app for due diligence in the finance industry.

Christian teaches product management and innovation at Virginia Commonwealth University. He also gives back to his local product community each year by supporting and advising two student-led startups from conceptualization to product delivery. Christian graduated from Emory University with a B.A. in Psychology and Community Building and earned a dual MBA and MPM from Keller Graduate School of Management.

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