This article was written by Aditi Pandey, following her attendance of the Product-Led Festival.

I recently came across the Product-Led Alliance while searching for resources on product management and found a ton of information on various blogs (as most of the conferences are turning virtual this year in light of COVID-19). This allowed me to come across many valuable resources to maximize my learning this summer.

The Product-Led Festival lasted 3 days with 52 speakers from around the world. This festival is dedicated to product-led growth and the sessions are dedicated to a variety of topics with strategies for both product and career growth.

I chose to attend these (three) particular sessions solely based on my interest in the respective topics. The key takeaways are summarized below:

Predicting the Future: Demystifying AI and the Challenges of Trust in Introducing it to Your Product

Jamie Norman (Head of Product - RedEye International)

This session started with suggesting an alternative title for the talk – ‘How the movie industry made life tougher for product owners using AI'. With my background in data science and interest in AI/ML technologies, such an intriguing introduction kept me hooked until the very end.

This session further elaborated on how some of the most famous movies have AI as the key player and usually the bad guy, so there are trust issues on using AI in business, and how Red Eye introduced this technology into business. The session touched upon (although briefly) the difference between Machine learning, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Deep Learning and their interchangeability in terms of usage.

To simplify things and introduce AI to customers different strategies such as the concept of Accuracy vs Explainability to remove mistrust, starting from a familiar place by using a frame of reference and aiming for a real-world outcome by starting small and keeping customers in the loop were introduced. This was super informative given the transition to and dependency of the world on “smart” products.

Side note: Jamie was kind enough to connect and chat with me on LinkedIn post the session and answer my questions on product management and his journey. His recommendation included being a translator and communicate data-driven results to the stakeholders.

Key takeaway: “The hardest part of product management is not about skills such as agile or technology, but people's interaction and management”

10 shades of MVP: lean experiments, how such experiments can minimize cost and effort to build the wrong thing

Jessica Gantier (Senior product designer - Adobe) and Alexandra Lung (Head of product - Aircall)

I chose to attend this session in the anticipation of learning new and creative ways to develop MVPs and I did.

MVP - Minimum viable product is one of the key players in new product development. The speakers highlighted the importance of testing a hypothesis or experiment and introduced ways in which the testing effort can be minimized and introduced the lean toolbox – Low-fi prototyping examples.

This session then turned super interesting as the speakers introduced the tools/testing methodologies in the lean toolbox and gave examples of how this has been used in the past or can be used for your product feature. This involved, AB testing, Smoke test, Concierge MVP (to learn a lot about users’ feedback and how they behave), Wizard of OZ, Competitor testing (building on competitors’ data/website for testing), picnic in the graveyard (investigation to the similarities of the product/features launched before but failed), Mechanical Turks, and kit pages (making user dashboards using bits of papers).

Key Takeaway: Lean experiments never confine a PM to a single tool and are all about being creative and finding the best ways to experiment!

Career Fuel for Product Managers: How to be more strategic & grow your career

Sebastien Phlix (Senior Product Manager - N26)

I was looking forward to this session as I have been following Sebastien’s content for a while (on his medium blog and so far, I find it super awesome!). This was an engaging session on career progression and the growth of a product manager. It introduced the framework of "career fuel for product management" and how to be more strategic to grow your career– the key components of this fuel include Transportable skills, Enduring relationships, and Meaningful experiences.

Key Takeaways: Delegate domain work strategically, and invest in transportable skills such as leadership, communication, emotional intelligence, etc. Cultivate enduring relationships- empathize, and communicate with stakeholders, customers, teammates in and out of your company. Go beyond small talks and your small bubble (team). Finally, an important buzz word for PMs is A.B.S (always be shipping), this is one of the most important goals. Shipping to customers, measuring impact, and feedback incorporation in a loop.

The session then ended with a pyramid that showed Product management at the base, Leadership in the middle, and the human being at the top. To explain briefly this means:

  • As a PM - Be proactive and strategic (saying no to things/prioritizing).
  • At its core PM is a leadership job so putting yourself out there, seeking conflict (not avoiding it), getting involved in coaching/mentoring people are few key components. Few words that stood out to me - become a brand and be perceived, have an opinion, become a thought leader, not a follower.
  • The top skill is to be human - travel, gain perspective, be exposed to different cultures, languages, etc. and build a 'Notion' (because this reflects in aesthetics and design). Embrace yourself!

This session was extremely motivating and beneficial for someone pursuing Product management as a long-term career.

I would like to thank all the speakers for keeping it informative, crisp, and easy to follow. I look forward to attending more such sessions and sharing my takeaways in the future.