July 23, 2018 - Comments Off on Interview with Product Gym on Product Manager Soft Skills

Interview with Product Gym on Product Manager Soft Skills

Product Gym, a company that provides tools for people looking to transition into product management, invited me to speak at their event highlighting Women in Product Management, and interviewed me on crucial soft skills that make for effective product managers. The interview, originally posted on their blog, is pasted below:


PRODUCT GYM: What is your definition of Product Management?

NICOLE LENZEN: Product Management involves the definition, build, launch, and iteration of a product. In terms of the role itself, I think what you said about product management being so different depending on the organization is really key. Maybe you’re very technical, or design-oriented, or have a strong business mind. However, there are some general areas of expertise that overlap whether you're working for a product-based startup, doing digital transformation within a large company, or working within the growth hacking space.

I think one of them is being able to communicate at all levels to all different types of backgrounds. It’s really having that right brain/left brain thinking to understand either a designer, engineer, or business person and communicate and translate the ideas and concepts of each of those various groups to the other. There’s also a lot of communication up and down, so at one moment you may be working in the weeds and the nitty-gritty, and the next moment at a very high level with executives and key stakeholders, so being able to again translate and communicate with the right fidelity is important. Does that make sense?


PRODUCT GYM: Absolutely.

NICOLE LENZEN: That's just one thing. There are other things too that I can quickly tick off. I think one of them is just being generally super organized and the source of truth. Being great at planning, documenting, and getting people on the same page to ensure they're all tracking towards the same vision is another that comes to mind. It’s making sure everyone is motivated towards achieving the same objectives and goals, which may be short term or long term depending on whether you're looking at an MVP, a pilot, or a really long-term calendar.

That kind of leads me to another one which is focused around leadership, and being able to really nurture your people. You're in a position where (as everyone always says) you manage product, not people. So you don't necessarily have a hierarchical position. You may not be above the people who are working on your team. However, you own the deliverables and the success of the product, and in many ways, the culture of your team. To that end you have to keep everyone engaged and feeling like they are individually contributing and growing, and that their voices are heard.

Read more

August 1, 2017 - Comments Off on Changing the Narrative: Girls Who Code Today Become Women in Power Tomorrow

Changing the Narrative: Girls Who Code Today Become Women in Power Tomorrow

As part of the Girls Who Code summer immersion program, I organized a day of activities for 20 Los Angeles area high school girls at BCG Digital Ventures headquarters to learn about various career paths in the digital innovation space. Throughout the day, Girls Who Code participants took a tour of our Global HQ in Manhattan Beach, saw rapid-fire presentations on what each of our cohorts do in their day-to-day jobs, had an informal Q&A with women in leadership over lunch, and participated in a design thinking workshop to help ideate products that help girls figure out “what they want to be when they grow up.” 

In the post below based on my keynote speech, I discuss the importance of women in the workforce–not just in technology, but across all industries.

Programs like Girls Who Code didn’t exist when I was in high school. As one of the few females in my computer science classes, I was used to being an outlier. But it was incredibly difficult to figure out what I wanted to be when I “grew up.” As a result, I ran a lot of experiments in real-time. After working in Silicon Valley for a stint, I pivoted my career and went back to school to study fashion design. I went on to run a number of businesses, including a consultancy in the digital space, which led to product management at BCG Digital Ventures.

The specific set of challenges women in tech face are front and center right now–and for good reason. The number of women graduating with CS degrees now is even less than when I was in school. In order to continue to make progress, we must keep this topic in the forefront.

From my experience, there is no direct path for any individual. You can play many roles in your lifetime and you don’t need to climb any particular ladder in any particular order. I believe that we should continue to introduce opportunities for young girls to explore what they enjoy and discover what they’re naturally good at doing.

As digital becomes part of everything we do, technology and new job growth are becoming synonymous. You don’t have to work at a stereotypical “tech” company if you have tech skills, and you don’t have to be a full-stack engineer to have an amazing career at a “tech” company– building game-changing products requires input from all disciplines. Within the next few years, we will see the demand for skilled workers outpace supply. There will not be enough qualified people to fill the jobs created–let alone enough female talent.

Women are typically the early adopters, accounting for–by far–the majority of spending decisions in the US. If women are the ones using the technology, then shouldn’t we be contributing to its design and development? Recently, a friend of mine working on a women’s health app noticed that every single team member (including him) was male. Something is wrong with this picture! We need balanced viewpoints and actual end-users guiding key product decisions.

When you consider that companies with women founders perform three times better than the S&P 500, and that female-operated, venture-backed companies average higher annual revenues and use less capital, it’s of paramount importance that we increase the amount of women in prominent, influential roles. Ultimately, we need to create an environment where females are securing positions of power not just in the corporate world, but as entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, politicians and beyond.

It is my hope that we will eventually come to a place where gender roles no longer exist–no labeling or discrimination by race, sexual orientation, or otherwise. But the only way we are going to get there is to flood the workplace with diversity, open-mindedness and amazing talent. That’s where organizations like Girls Who Code come in. The more girls we get excited about technology, the more women we will have in the workforce in the coming years.

April 12, 2016 - Comments Off on Podcast Research Project

Podcast Research Project


I recently did an independent project for a company on podcasting, putting together a product feature strategy to test the hypothetical assumption that listeners who interact with other users have a better overall experience, using the podcast app Stitcher as the example platform.

The project was fun and informative, and got me hooked on podcasts. After testing a few apps, my preferred one is Pocket Casts (on Android), and since finishing the project I have listened to the entire first season of Serial. I've also explored episodes from Here's the Thing, Actuality, Radiolab, There Goes the Neighborhood, and Dollars to Donuts. (I welcome any other recs!)

My friend Simon and I have a bit of a soft spot for 007, and once he discovered my renewed interest in podcasts, tipped me off to James Bonding (of The Nerdist empire). Simon recently purchased the entire 007 collection on Blu-ray, so we've started from the beginning with Dr. No, and are proceeding to watch each film in order of release. I'm then listening to the corresponding podcast soon after. I must say, they're pretty entertaining - I was definitely caught walking down the street laughing out loud.

Anyway, back to the project at hand... My research had me inclined to think that podcasting is a more personal experience than other share-heavy mediums, but the brief was specifically directed towards increasing user-to-user interaction so I took a feature strategy that I felt best aligned with the typical podcast user: saving and sharing highlights of a podcast with friends and colleagues. Check out the project deck above for research, insights, and feature design.

November 17, 2015 - Comments Off on Recap: Pioneer Mode 2015

Recap: Pioneer Mode 2015

Last weekend marked the very first Pioneer Mode conference—two days full of inspiring conversation, problem solving, and designing. A lot of people contributed to Pioneer Mode’s success—our amazing group of speakers and workshop leaders, all of the attendees, the volunteers. Instead of hearing how great it was from us, check out all of the tweets shared using the #PioneerMode2015 hashtag throughout the course of the event.

August 1, 2015 - Comments Off on Carol – Custom Couture Mother-of-the-Groom Dress

Carol – Custom Couture Mother-of-the-Groom Dress

Creating a couture garment is perhaps one of the most satisfying (in the thick of it) and rewarding (after the fact) activities. It's no walk in the park, however, and requires meticulous hand-work, continuous problem-solving, and extreme patience to get past the finish line. People often ask me about the pressure of working with such expensive and often irreplaceable materials, and catering to such demanding clients. Bottom line, you have to love it (or at least be well-compensated for it!). With any type of work that's so technique-oriented, it's the ability to apply intense focus, and to also walk away at intervals, that helps you navigate through the project. Having an incredibly skilled assistant named Aris also helps!

When my brother found his lady for life, I had the honor of making his beautiful wife's gown (blog post to come), the dress I wore (of course), a few rehearsal dinner ensembles, and also the dress my mom wore to the wedding as mother-of-the groom. My mom is a beautiful woman who takes amazing care of herself. She also works her ass off, yet always thinks first of her family and rarely treats herself to nice things. I could not have been happier to have the opportunity to create a custom, one-of-a-kind piece that made her look and feel like a million bucks (I wouldn't know exactly, but I guess that's a good feeling?)

Read more

February 27, 2015 - Comments Off on Shopping Guide: Where To Shop in NYC

Shopping Guide: Where To Shop in NYC

Pro Tip: Avoid this scene at all costs // Photo by Joey Lax-Salinas on Flickr

Shopping in New York City can be a lot of things, but the first word that comes to mind is "overwhelming." If dodging camera-toting tourists, waiting in fitting room lines long enough to make it through your entire Instagram feed, and battling techno music-induced headaches (down with the trendy department store DJs), this round-up is for you.

It can be tough to pull out the gems among the "quantity over quality" global retailers that seem to be on every corner of the city. Nicole Lenzen (who confesses to not really enjoy shopping in most cases) has a few go-to spots for low-key browsing of timeless wardrobe essentials and quality designs that will last for years to come—if you give them the care they need. Give our NYC shopping guide a read and start planning that buying spree.

Clothes: Eva Gentry Consignment

If you couldn't tell, we're really into the idea of clothes having a story behind them. Eva Gentry does consignment like no one else. All of the pieces comes from tried-and-true names (think McQueen, Margiela, Band of Outsiders, Helmut Lang, Proenza Schouler) guaranteeing that you're going home with a piece that's sure to impress.

Nicole's recommendation: Eva Gentry definitely has a knack for retail buying. I came across her stores in Boerum Hill by first wandering into her high-fashion boutique (killer avant-garde aesthetic leaning very Antwerp-Six). Then I discovered her consignment shop down the street (which now appears to be her sole business focus), with an amazing collection of designer pieces in impeccable condition, across a wider style spectrum.

371 Atlantic Ave, Brooklyn, NY

Clothes: Kaight

Photo: Kaight's Facebook page

Stop into Kaight for a taste of Brooklyn designers, and stories behind the brands. All of the pieces in the store (womenswear, accessories, and gifts) are made sustainability and/or are locally produced. The shop was recently named Best NYC Sustainable Fashion Boutique by Ecocult.

Nicole's Recommendation:  Kate (founder and owner of Kaight) has a nice eye for curation and I always enjoy browsing her shop. Plus she has always only carried lines with an ethical and sustainable focus. If I'm going to buy something new, I always try to shop from someone I respect. (Plus it's fun catching up with her if she's in the store, always a rewarding experience!)

382 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, NY Read more

February 13, 2015 - Comments Off on Fashion History: 5 Things You (Probably) Don’t Know About Lace

Fashion History: 5 Things You (Probably) Don’t Know About Lace


There's a lot more to lace than its ability to add a feminine flair to any outfit it graces. Looking back, the fabric has hand a place in most fashion trends through the ages—from the overwhelming lace ruffles Queen Elizabeth would don in the 16th century to the "Below The Knee" dresses flappers so often turned to. For the custom evening and bridal gowns Nicole has created, she favors the exquisite laces made on traditional Leavers looms in France. But there's equally a place for modern-day stretch lace, and we also love the subtle sophistication and function it brings to our Evelyn Dress.

With so many delicate designs and patterns, it's hard to imagine the making-of being anything short of painstaking (and to call it "involved" would be an understatement). So, in our effort to bring everyone closer to the clothing they love, we're digging into a few highlights in the history of process of this elegant textile. Read on and learn.

Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 11

Lace History Tidbits

In the 17th century, lace was even used to decorate door knobs. Years later, "his and hers" lace collars would become all the rage. Today, the textile plays a much more strategic role in fashion—one that can put a design over-the-top or impress with its subtlety, depending on how it's incorporated. There's a lot to take in when it comes to the history of the fabric, but here are five things you probably didn't know before reading this.

  • Tatting (a specific type of lace making) was inspired by the intricate knotting of sailors—used for both functionality on the ships and as mementos for long-distance loved ones.  (Side note: Nicole's Great-Grandmother from Greece was an excellent tatter)
  • Lace helped people survive Ireland's Potato Famine. Once food became scarce, the women of Ireland created schools to teach crocheting and lace-making. The founders of the schools even assisted their students in selling their creations—helping them survive a time when money and food was hard to come by.

Read more

February 11, 2015 - Comments Off on Event Recap: Re-Live Nicole Lenzen’s Stories & Style on Twitter and Instagram

Event Recap: Re-Live Nicole Lenzen’s Stories & Style on Twitter and Instagram

Photos by Joseph Gonzalez

Photos by Joseph Gonzalez

It doesn't get much better than a night of dress-up accompanied by two hysterical—and touching—story sessions from two empowering ladies, wine, delicious finger foods, and good company. The Nicole Lenzen team had a great time at Stories & Style and can't thank you enough for making it such a successful event. Hopefully, you've seen the photos, and maybe even found yourself in a few! (Feel free to tag and share them with your friends—you know you looked fabulous.) If you didn't make it out to the event or missed our pre-event Twitter chat, you're in luck. While social media is great for, say, sharing photos of your favorite outfits and ultra-artsy landscape shots, it's also wonderful for catching up on events you may have missed out on. We pulled together the Twitter and Instagram highlights from the #StoriesAndStyle event and conversations for your browsing pleasure.

Take a break from whatever you're doing and spend a few minutes re-visiting #StoriesAndStyle—don't forget to keep sharing your style stories and shots. We'd love to see them!

Read more

February 9, 2015 - Comments Off on Event Photos: Nicole Lenzen’s #StoriesAndStyle at Bene Rialto

Event Photos: Nicole Lenzen’s #StoriesAndStyle at Bene Rialto

Ophira Eisenberg, Nicole Lenzen, and Elna Baker - photo by Joseph Gonzalez

Photo by Joseph Gonzalez

Photo by Joseph Gonzalez

"One safety pin is safe. Many safety pins is fucking dangerous." - Ophira Eisenberg

If that's not a worthy motto to live by, we don't know what is. It's shared pieces of wisdom like this that made the Stories & Style event at Bene Rialto a complete success. The night was anchored by two storytelling sessions from two extremely empowering women—thanks to Ophira Eisenberg and Elna Baker for providing the laughs and all of the feels—and only made better by wonderful company and some wine-fueled dress-up. We've got photo proof of all of the beautiful faces that came by and shared the night with us. Keep following along for a few of our favorite shots, but make sure to check all of our photographs on Facebook. Tag yourself, tag your friends, tag all of the fashionistas in your life! And if you didn't get a chance to try on your favorite piece, head back on over to Bene Rialto to find the perfect Valentine's Day outfit—we hear a little red dress is the quickest way to your sweetie's heart.

Photo by Abby TKTK

Photo by Jenny Rubin

Photo by Joseph Gonzalez

Photo by Joseph Gonzalez

Read more

February 3, 2015 - Comments Off on Press – Making It: Startup Advice from Nicole Lenzen, on Factory 45

Press – Making It: Startup Advice from Nicole Lenzen, on Factory 45


It shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that kicking off a sustainable company is no easy task. But luckily there are organizations like Factory45 out there helping eco-friendly brands take their business to the next level. Factory45 founder Shannon Whitehead really does know best—she got her own fashion brand off the ground on Kickstarter in 2010, with a project that was the highest funded fashion project at the time. Factory45 not only helps up-and-coming brands source fabric, find a manufacturer, and raise money to fund production, but they also make sure to highlight the people behind the growing brands. Their most recent profile: Our very own Nicole Lenzen.

Shannon took some time to talk Nicole's designing process and involvement in her clothing, a day in the life, and advice for entrepreneurs. Click through for the entire Q&A with Nicole, or check it out on Factory45—you don't want to miss this one!

Read more