We caught up with Gabby Peralta after she attended the Product Operations Summit San Francisco. Jam packed with loads of events, Gabby gave us the inside scoop on everything from her biggest takeaways to the impact the summit left on her.
Here’s what she had to say:
Attending the summit
I attended San Francisco to meet like-minded professionals, discuss common challenges, and brainstorm about how to tackle them. Mainly I wanted to meet other product ops people to learn more about their team vision and mission statements. Product ops is unique, in that every company seems to do it a little differently so it’s great to see where teams are focusing and what’s worked or hasn’t worked for other people.
The panel discussions and the roundtable sessions were my favorites because, in a single session, there was the opportunity to hear multiple perspectives. For the roundtables specifically, I was able to interact with folks I may not have had the chance to meet otherwise. The tables were organized by topic, so it was easy to meet people who faced the same challenges and collaborate on how to solve them. This allowed for groups to have meaningful in-depth conversations.
Speakers and more
There were so many great presentations, but the ones that resonated with me the most were given by Chris Butler,. He’s incredibly knowledgeable about product ops and is excellent at putting his experience into words. During his 'Product Ops Certified' taster session, Chris explained common challenges this role faces and brainstormed with the crowd to share ideas on how to tackle them.
One of my biggest takeaways was his emphasis on product ops supporting the product managers in maximizing their effectiveness rather than just focusing on efficiency. Distinguishing the difference between efficiency and effectiveness is crucial because if not, the boundaries become unclear, which leads to product ops taking on unnecessary tasks. I also valued his advice for the first 30-60-90 days in a new role. He recommended focusing on dismantling processes, not adding them. As someone who also participated in the "process and flexibility" roundtable due to personal challenges in this area, this advice was particularly reassuring.
Community in product ops
We aren’t alone in our struggles. No matter the size of the company, where you’re located in the world, or the type of business - product ops folks face similar challenges.
My favorite part of the summit was meeting people in real life. I met Chris Butler when I first started in product ops about 4 years ago. He was one of the first people I spoke to when exploring the role, and he’s been highly influential in how I think about product ops ever since. It was awesome to meet him and others I’ve connected with via the PLA slack channel or virtual summits in real life!
The roundtables were great because attendees had the opportunity to interact in smaller, specialized groups. I met several people during those sessions, and I already have calls within the coming weeks to discuss the roundtable topic in more detail!
The summit as a whole
The summit had electric and authentic energy. Everyone was excited to be there, eager to dive into conversations, and it felt as though everyone was honest with the challenges we face as product ops professionals. The speakers were top-notch. What stood out the most was how the audience was encouraged to participate so everyone had a say in the discussions up on stage.
There are so many great reasons to attend, depending on where you’re at in your career. If you have specific challenges you’re facing in product ops, the summit is great for finding people who face those same challenges. If you’re just starting in prod ops,, the summit is great for getting ideas on how to build out the function and hearing what’s worked or hasn’t for other folks. If you’re job searching, the summit is great to get a pulse on the market and gain an understanding of what skills to hone in on. There’s no reason not to go to this summit.
For future summits, sharing how attendees can become more involved in the community would be helpful. PLA has a wide range of opportunities, such as becoming an ambassador or hosting meetups, and getting started is as easy as joining the Slack channel.
While the roundtable discussions were my favorite, they could be improved by assigning someone to moderate the discussion. It was easy for the groups to get off track, but the guided questions provided by PLA were helpful in trying to keep us on topic.
Often when something isn’t working, people's first reaction is to put a bandaid on it. Often this looks like changing or adding a process. Instead, it's important to explore what the root of the problem is. This can look like asking questions:
- What’s the most we can do with the least amount of process?
- Are there other mechanisms (team values, organizational structure, rewards) we can look at to solve this problem that isn’t a process?
Or it can be as simple as how you phrase the change. One suggestion was framing processes as experiments and asking for volunteers to participate in the “experiments.” This enables you to find early adopters and future advocates for the process you are implementing.
Additionally, if a team is struggling with the process, one suggestion (though not recommended as the first option or something to use frequently) was to “show the ugly.” Let the current processes run themselves into the wall, and then the teams will be more open to change.
Networking and lasting impressions
Meeting my LinkedIn connections face-to-face was incredibly valuable. I felt it took those relationships to the next level. Moving forward, I plan to reach out to these folks about topics we shared an interest in. The roundtables were great for meeting people who are interested in the same topics as you. For example, I met several folks who struggle with finding the balance between too much process and just enough process. We plan to connect in the coming weeks to share experiences.
In the panel discussion on Navigating Career Change and Growth in Product, Bianca's insights truly resonated with me. She emphasized the importance of adding 'whimsy' into daily tasks and expressed her delight in the freedom to 'tinker' with product ops. This is similar to my own experiences in the field and reminded me of the creativity and experimentation that brought me so much joy as a kid. At the end of the day, product ops is a job but depending on your perspective it does not have to feel like one.
These insights are invaluable. The summit provided me with a wealth of practical knowledge and innovative strategies that I'm eager to integrate into my product ops team. We have the potential to streamline operations, enhance team efficiency, and ultimately drive more impactful outcomes for my organization. I'm excited to share these learnings with my team and see how we can contribute to our organization's success.
This summit was an invaluable experience that provided a platform for like-minded professionals to come together to engage in insightful discussions and make connections for the future.