Last week I had the chance to attend to the MTPCon in San Francisco, the best conference in the world about Product Management, and it was awesome.
This post is mostly for me 🙂 I remember things a lot better when I write them down.
But I thought I may share it anyway to see if anyone wants to compare notes and thoughts or even to give some clues for anyone who may be considering attending it in the future.
The venue and organization
The conference was at San Francisco’s Symphony Hall, which is an outstanding place.
This place can easily hold more than the 1.500 product managers that were in, and the sound quality is amazing.
The place also has great halls that allowed for networking and sponsor’s stands (where you could find some extra gifts!).
The organization was also impressive. Snacks, water, coffee, reception… every detail was considered.
Speakers and talks
A few take aways
Before jumping straight to my thoughts on the keynotes, I believe the initial words from Martin Eriksson were also great. He made emphasys on the role of Product Managers as a “people” role, making sure you set the team up for success and help them achieve it.
Aparna Chennapragada – Product Director @Google
The key point of her talk was that we should consider building AI First Products. I had a mix feeling: it was fascinating hearing her talk about the great opportunities that are available now to anyone to add AI capabilities to their products, but on the other hand I’m still dealing with “Mobile First” discussions!… a bit far from my daily challenges I would say.
But Aparna made a few key points on how this technology can be applied to numerous products, and the many options that will continue to appear around AI in the near future.
Nate Walkingshaw – CXO @Pluralsight
Nate’s presentation was very aspirational, and my key takeaway is that there is a particular rithm a team must achieve for success, that should take into consideration a large set of variables: how you set a vision and a strategy, give them autonomy, use product discovery but do not obsess with it, balance the focus between output and outcome… ufff, that is a lot to consider. And as a Product Leader, your role is to make sure that happens!
But he also gave all of us a copy of the new book he coauthored: “Product Leadership” which I’m already reading hoping it will help me create such a great product development environment!
Melissa Perry – @Produx Labs
Getting back to earth, Melissa talked about escaping the “Build Trap”. She discussed process, strategy and culture. I loved the way he sharply exposed how Agile can help you build “faster”, but someone needs to be thinking what to build (and how the Product Manager is responsible to determine what particular discovery method is needed at each “uncertainty” level).
Zenka – Artist
Zenka went back to aspirational mode and she talked about considering whats comming in the future of products, the 10x growth, and all the disruptions that are happening. My key takeaway was the need more important than ever to be constantly learning. This is no longer optional, and as Product Managers we need to be aware of the bazillion technologies that are emerging and we need to learn what we can (and what makes sense in our industries) to apply them to our products.
Dave Wascha – CPO @Photobox
Dave summarized his 20 years of experience in product management in a handful of tips. Besides having very actionable advice, it was hilarious.
An idea that stuck with me was his advice to think twice when we obsess over ROI and kill ideas that impact emotional or social needs because they are harder to measure in those terms. Probably not the main remark, but it made an impact on me.
Josh Elman – Partner @Greylock
This was the most actionable talk in the entire conference. Having a lot of experience with early stage startups, Josh provided great “step by step” precision about considering the only metric that matters: how many people are really using your product? He explained it with examples like Linkedin, Twitter, Netflix, and many more.
I think the most remarkable part was when he provided a 4 steps guide to identify core users, to later explain how your onboarding process should not just get people into your product, but rather help them become core users. Extraordinary advice.
Janice Fraser – SVP @Bionic
Janice is an awesome speaker. What she talked about was related to the Innovator’s Dilemma: big corporations are struggling to innovate, because:
- The management practices are focused on planning and control (which will not work in a more “discovery” oriented process for innovation)
- When a big company sees good yet small results for a new project, it kills it before it can show its merits.
But the sentence that most impacted me was: “this is the time where the speed of change will be slowest for the rest of your life”. Things to remember when complaining about how many things are changing now 🙂
Janna Bastow – CEO @ProdPad
Janna spoke about her experience and lessons learned in the “Roadmap clinic”, where she helped Product Managers improve or fix their roadmaps. She had a lot of fun examples and tips, but what I found most useful was the “Product tree”, a quick collaborative tool to put everyone on the same page and make decisions about priorities.
I have yet to confirm that in practice is as good as it sounds in slides 🙂
Caitlin Kalinowski – Head of Product Design @Oculus
If I wanted to hear someone with prototyping experience, I probably would have a hard time finding someone more experienced that Caitlin. Having worked in the MacBook at Apple and now at Oculus, she provided 6 principles to improve your prototyping results based on really good experience.
I guess I took too many highlights from this talk. But I will choose 2:
- Build ugly prototypes: when what you are trying to validate is “functional” is much better to build ugly prototypes because the team will not be invested on it, so it will easier to change it without “emotional” impact. Also you can gather more honest feedback for the same reason.
- The Mac Book Pro touchpad surface was iterated 50 times to get the amount of “friction” right. If a physical product can take those many iterations, I have no excuse to avoid making tons of iterations for the digital products I build.
Jeff Gothelf & Josh Seiden – Co Authors Lean UX
Being the authors of a book I really loved, I was really looking forward to this talk.
They told with great detail a story about product development at John Deere.
What I liked the most was an hypothesis format (probably seen before) that they used to go through the story (you can see it in the picture :D).
I really had the chance to meet a lot of great Product Managers, and share thoughts and practices. It was awesome to feel among peers, considering that is impossible to find that many Product Managers together who share similar challenges and needs.
This was definitely worth my time and travel efforts (considering I traveled 48hs to stay in SF 48hs), and I hope I can repeat the experience in the future.