Keynotes Set the Foundation: Hot Topics in Today’s Product World
6 Keynote speakers led the way – addressing topics and themes that carried throughout the rest of the conference. 23WIP started with keynote addresses from powerhouse product leaders Ami Vora, Malaika Paquiot, Ketaki Rao, and Rashmi Ramesh. All of these women have held senior leadership and CPO roles and let the community in on their best advice. They emphasized the importance of building strong networks, embracing vulnerability, and advocating for diversity and inclusion to create more opportunities for women in the field.
Communities like [WIP] are so important. Yes, it’s good to have mentors and it’s good to have advocates, but it’s also good to have cheerleaders. Just your people who make you feel good when you’re going through these challenges.
On Day 2, the morning started with the hottest topics of the conference: AI and the current state of the product job market. Natalia Castillejo, Group Product Manager at Duolingo, discussed the impact of AI on product management, highlighting challenges such as bias and ethical considerations. She emphasized the importance of diverse teams and continuous learning to navigate the complexities of AI and leverage its potential for innovation and customer-centricity.
We all know the tech job market is in flux, and Phyl Terry and Allison H. Mnookin discussed the incredibly comprehensive research and findings that Phyl included in their book, Never Search Alone. They provided valuable insights on cultivating successful product management careers by emphasizing the significance of reflection and candidate-fit, highlighting the importance of crafting a unique value proposition.
Many people, they’re like ‘I don’t know what I want,’ but they know what they don’t want. It’s so much easier, we call it the inversion exercise, to invert it and start there.”
Tools of the Trade: From Social Good to Radical Uncertainty
From emotional intelligence in leadership to practical solutions for building tech, the speaker lineup covered an incredible amount of ground. Of course, we’d never choose favorites but we had some exciting new perspectives this year! Paz Zuniga and Erika Torres talked through how to employ social science in building products. Their session and the following Q&A helped us understand how to better connect, communicate, and absorb the perspectives of both collaborators and users when building product.
Katie Skibinski and Ambreen Molitor talked us through their experience building product in the world of social good at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. They talked about what it’s like to work on building tech in the nonprofit space, the power of creating something when you’re held accountable to a mission, and finding ways to incorporate everyone in the organization into an innovation process.
And Cindy Brummer touched hearts with her leadership lessons from Ted Lasso. She shared her personal story and insights on leadership and then tied them back to the lessons we all know and love from everyone’s favorite football coach, highlighting the importance of courage in making tough decisions, treasuring accountability within teams, and embracing vulnerability as a leadership superpower. She emphasized how these qualities can foster trust, improve team dynamics, and lead to successful outcomes in product management.
Among all of these changes [in the tech and political landscape] we are accountable to the same mission we always were. So we have to innovate to stay relevant and accessible.”
Designing the Future: Did We Mention AI?
No doubt, as a product professional, you’ve had the conversation about AI (and probably have had to explain the basics to your great uncle), and that was no different at 23WIP. Charis Loveland let us know what every product manager needs to know about AI – from the basics like defining artificial intelligence and machine learning to getting more in the weeds on the types of machine learning models.
Incredible product professionals like Naba Banerjee, Director of Trust Product and Operations at Airbnb, and Farah Akoum, a Senior Director at Zillow, addressed the specifics of how AI fits into their roles and how they’ve applied various machine learning to specific projects.
It always starts with a customer problem…please don’t find a problem for a technology, a technology is a mean.
Don’t be afraid to use rules, don’t be afraid to implement policies in place, learn from them, they give you really valuable data.
And at the t-joint (yeah, we need to work on our building puns….) of hot topics was Nic Amos who addressed using AI for the job search. She shared some key tools – from good old LinkedIn to some emerging players like Teal HQ and Otter.ai – that can be a friend to any job seeker.
Scaffolding for Growth: A Strong Network is Your Greatest Tool
Building What’s Next not only included creating that next great product or tool, but we heard a lot about personal growth and the benefits of building a strong network. We spoke with Jordan Sale about making a career – and pay – jump, and heard from Evelyn Chou about building a toolkit for a reorg. Emily Foshee helped us all reflect on what’s building next in our career. She emphasized intention and thinking beyond just the next step.
And, as we at Women In Product truly believe – community is key. One of the biggest buzzwords of the event was mentorship. Logan Petty, Product Manager at FM:Systems and Kasey Hobson, Director of Platform Product Management at Solif, reminded us that mentorship is a valuable investment for both the mentee and the mentor, as it helps the mentor develop leadership and coaching skills while providing guidance and support to the mentee.
Nailed It: Collaboration and Building Bridges
Community members spent time connecting with both one another and the speakers through 1:1 meetings, interactive sessions, and the active and ongoing chats during the sessions. Q&As with the fabulous speakers allowed attendees to ask questions directly to the speakers and panelists, follow up on content they heard earlier, and learn about how other folks were reacting to what they were learning in real time.
Each afternoon offered a variety of workshops which involved breakout sessions and direct learning opportunities with hosts. From connecting with others to talk about how we’ve experienced the ‘womanhood penalty’ (if ya know, ya know – and we know) to finding time and ways to outline your personal and professional goals, all of the workshop hosts brought incredible knowledge and guidance to the virtual table.
Community is at the heart of what we do here at Women In Product, and 23WIP was no different. We talked about building our villages, we virtually ‘shook hands’ with other PMs, and most importantly we came together to reflect and take action to Build What’s Next.