I discovered Mind the Product after attending a few excellent ProductTank’s in Perth with some industry leaders discussing product management. When I found out there was Mind the Product a conference being held in Singapore, I made it my mission to get there and would like to thank Vix Technology for helping me get there.
Day 1 – Mind the Product Roadmap Workshop
Mind the Product had a range of workshops on for the day prior to the conference and I selected Road mapping as it’s something I’m working on now and our current roadmap wasn’t really created with any process behind it. Other workshops ranged from Product Leadership to UX Design Thinking.
The Roadmapping workshop was presented by C Todd Lombardo who was one of the authors of the accompanying book published by O’Reilly – Product Roadmaps Relaunched which everybody got their own personal copy to take home. The room was divided into different tables of seating 5 people each with a use-case on Telsa’s latest autonomous car for middle-class US families with details on market, competitors etc and post-its and a mini-chart as our tools for the day.
As we went through the stages in the presentation and in the book, he took every opportunity to keep it interactive getting the teams to do tasks and encourage team discussions and then asked volunteers to share their answers.
One of the biggest takeaways for me was that the roadmap should be focused on outcomes and lead me to realize my roadmap was just a release plan focused on outputs even though it was lovely colourful Gantt chart.
It was probably one of the most productive workshops I have been to so 5 stars from me.
Day 2 – Mind the Product Conference Singapore
The conference was held in a pretty much sold out Victoria Theatre. In the foyer couple of the main sponsors were giving out bags and pens but most importantly indeed had a free barista which was a huge hit. There were long breaks during the day but plenty of food and coffee to facilitate networking and Q&A sessions with speakers for the people looking for some further information.
Unlike the workshops, I didn’t get many practical things to use in my day to day but what I did get was some invaluable career advice from a few leaders in product management.
Recommended Reading/Watching from Speakers at Mind the Product Singapore 2019
Firstly, here are all the videos and books speakers mentioned worth looking into:
- How to Speak Machine
- How Google Works
- Quiet by Susan Cain
- Inspired by Marty Cagan
- On leadership Written by John W. Gardner (Essay)
- Competing Against Luck
- Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products
- High Growth Handbook
- Escaping the Build Trap: How Effective Product Management Creates Real Value
- Lean UX by Jeff Gothelf
- Thinking Fast & Slow
I have created a YouTube playlist of all videos related to above that you can check out here.
Accompanied by the usual conference lanyard was an MTPCON Handbook with introductions of each speaker and a blank page to write notes next to them, which was fantastic, and I wish every conference had one.
Here are my 9 Bits of Career Advice from Mind the Product Singapore 2019
 RECOVER FAST
John Maeda, Global Head of Design and Inclusion at Automatic (the company behind WordPress) discussed leadership in startups vs endups. He highlighted the key differences and how the environment ends up fostering creative leadership vs traditional leadership. The best analogy was that of an orchestra vs a jazz ensemble.
John explained everyone says fail early, failure is good etc but the real trick is RECOVER FAST.
 PROFESSIONAL GOAL’S
John also shared the 4 professional goals he set for himself in the early ’90s which everybody should look at trying to live by:
- Don’t speak ill of others
- Avoid being passive aggressive
- Listen broadly and don’t waddle on decisions
- Apologize when wrong
 RECOMMENDATIONS NOT PROBLEMS
Next Amanda Richardson explained what she has learned from trying to work with a crazy CEO and now realizing what CEO’s need. The one thing she noticed since she became CEO nobody wants to go for a beer with their CEO and nobody tells you the truth so the one key point I got from her was:
“Tell them what is really going on but come with strong recommendations”
 WRITE YOUR CV IN 10 YEARS TIME
One of the speakers that I had earmarked was Sherif Mansour the distinguished product manager at Atlassian and he didn’t disappoint. The based his presentation on 3 topics:
- Decision Making
- Market-Driven Development is Bad
- Embrace the Story
His professional advice was writing your CV 10 years from now and work backwards. He also provided a really good slide to help people start thinking about what career path they are actually interested in comparing the management track versus the individual contribution track.
 FINDINGS VS INSIGHTS
Prakriti Parijat the Research and Insights Lead in DBS Bank discussed Human Centered design discussed how her team operates within DBS. They approach each issue with 4 questions in mind:
- Are they solving the right problem?
- Are they using the right method?
- What is the right insight?
- Is it done at the right time?
This is the 4D Method: Discover, Define, Develop, Deploy but what really stuck with me is findings vs insights and how anybody can read findings but the insights are what makes the difference.
 OPTIMIZE YOUR CAREER FOR LEARNING
Kenneth Chin the Chief Product Officer of SEEK Asia discussed the key differences between working in Asia and the West contributing it to the teachings of Confucius and Socrates.
The general conclusion is there are “fewer brilliant jerks” in Asia.
He also had explained when choosing positions to try work for managers that have delivered products to market previously. You want to choose careers optimized for learning and learn from people who have done it previously.
 DATA IS WHAT; BEHAVIOUR IS WHY
Bernice Ang the Chief Alchemist at Zeroth Labs an experimental research lab and consultancy which uncovers behavioural insights and applies them to public policy issues.
The project Bernice discussed did not include working with software teams or in the digital space. This didn’t stop her from using the same techniques such as gathering data and mapped it all together which highlighted certain areas to research. Then they researched these areas by looking at the user behaviour and not making decisions just on data.
Data tells you what behaviour WHAT – Behaviour tells you WHY
After speaking to the housewives who weren’t working, they came up with ideas and then presented these ideas via a hackathon in the local community centre to gather feedback. At the end, they came up with a solution where local women could connect with companies as cleaners outside normal working hours to accommodate their need to mind their children during the day.
 YOU WILL MOSTLY BE WRONG
Jen Dante the Head of Product for Payroll at Square and she made clear from the start that humans are terrible at making predictions, so you mostly be wrong. Therefore, you should be like a hedgehog with one framework. The Greek poet Archilochus wrote, “the fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.”
Jen chooses 3 tools out of her Rolodex of tools for every type of problem. The 3 tools she discussed which are all worth looking up were:
- Jobs to Be Done
- Behaviour Economics; Pricing behaviour patterns
- The Kennedy Experiment ie. The User is Drunk
 PRODUCT MANAGEMENT ISN’T SCRUM
Unfortunately, I had to leave early to grab a plane and missed the last talk by Jeff Gothelf the author of Lean UX. But from reading reviews on his talk it seems like Agile was finally discussed at the conference. It not being discussed all day made it clear to me that Scrum isn’t Product Management by itself, it is certainly a tool used by product managers but it’s just a methodology, so just because you do Scrum doesn’t make you a product lead company overnight.
Mind the Product Singapore Picture Gallery
MTP snapped a lot of great shots on workshop day and on conference day. Of course, they weren’t the only ones who took great photos, you can see plenty more using the #mtpcon hashtag on Twitter. If you haven’t already, please share your photos – we’d love to see them!