Lessons From Toronto’s Product Management Leaders: A TechTO Event

When TechTO announced the launch of a new event series, “TechTO Product,” I was excited. Product management is a growing field in Toronto. I was curious to hear more, and the event delivered the goods. Launching something brand new is always a bit scary. Congratulations to Belinda Alzner and Matt McCausland for hosting the sold-out event. I’m already looking forward to the next product event in the summer.

Product Management: Three Evergreen Lessons To Win In Product Management

In the panel discussion on product management, several lessons came through loud and clear. Start by setting your expectations – you are going to see conflict on the team. Even if everybody is highly motivated and excited, every professional will bring a different emphasis. Designers, developers, and marketers will see various opportunities. The product manager needs to balance this feedback and

Lesson 1: Engage The Organization, Not Just The Product Team

Craig Saila, Director of Digital Products at CBC, made some excellent points about reaching out beyond the product team. He suggests organizing drop-in sessions and other avenues for people in the organization to provide feedback. Anger, opposition, and other problems are more likely to happen when people feel like they have no chance to speak up.

Lesson 2: Do The Pre-Work To Earn Product Support

As a product manager, persuasion, and maintaining support for the product is critical. Amanda Tersigni, Senior Technical Product Manager at Achievers, had an excellent tip for product managers to keep support. Before a significant product meeting, reach out to stakeholders for 1 on 1 meeting. Do this pre-work effectively, and you will walk into the big meeting with 50% or more of the stakeholders on your side.

Lesson 3: Always Make Time For Relationship Building

As a task-oriented person, I sometimes neglect the value of relationship building. It turns out that this “check off all the tasks” mentality is sometimes a struggle in product management as well.

As a product manager, you are often leading without formal authority. Therefore, it is foolish to think that you can order people around. Take Nataliya Becker’s suggestion to heart – get to know the people on your team and their motivations. For example, a junior developer might be hungry for the spotlight so they can advance professionally. By connecting with that motivation, you can earn their support on your product work.

Critical Do’s and Don’ts From A Product Management Veteran

In the second half of the event, Kim Phelan, Sr. Director of Product Management at Loblaw Digital, shared a few insights from deep experience in product management.

From my notes, there are a few excellent tips I’d like to share.

  • Avoid The “Code Monkey” Trap. Handing out orders to your developers is unwise because they will lack context on the product goal. The developers will probably become demotivated over time. To avoid treating developers as code monkeys, always take the time to explain the context of what you are trying to achieve.
  • Burn The Midnight Oil With Your Team. Phelan shared an example of working late with her team while they were working on hitting a critical deadline. Technically speaking, she did not have any product deliverables due. However, merely being present with the team made a big difference in how she was perceived. The developers now saw her as “one of us” rather than a disconnected leader.

Product Management vs. Project Management?

A few years ago, I earned my Project Management Professional (PMP) certification. As I listened to the discussion, I saw a lot of common ground between product and project work. While products are ongoing vs. the temporary nature of projects, product managers could gain much from established project management techniques whether you use agile, scrum, or traditional waterfall methods. 

2 thoughts on “Lessons From Toronto’s Product Management Leaders: A TechTO Event

  1. Wow! These surely are the foundation stones for the success of any product manager. Excitedly looking forward to the summer TechTO event!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *