All Posts in Product Management

July 23, 2018

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.

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August 1, 2017

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

Podcast Research Project

Podcast_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.