Leading the Product 2018 - Conference Highlights

30 October 2018 Victoria Butt

Ltp 2018

​Leading the Product 2018!!

Leading the Product is the largest product management conference in the Southern Hemisphere and is facilitated by the amazing team over at Brainmates – passionate product professionals who deliver product management consulting, training, interactive workshops and product management resources.

Gold Sponsors for LTP Sydney, the product team from Parity Consulting attended both Sydney and Melbourne events, and as always, we have compiled the highlights from all the talks from both events for those who were not able to attend!

Jen Marshall, CEO of Brainmates took to the stage to welcome everyone to the third year of Leading the Product Sydney – with an amazing array of speakers, networking opportunities and unmissable insights, it seemed this year would be the best year yet!

Jen stated that product is usually a 2nd or 3rd career choice for people, quoting Stephen Haynes where he describes product management as “the accidental profession”. While small to medium business are still being driven by sales teams and departments, changes are being implemented to have product become the voice for business development. Recent data shows that software companies are most practiced at agile methodologies.. and without further ado, onto speaker number one, Gibson Biddle – former VP/CPO at Netflix/Chegg!

Gibson Biddle, Speaker, Product Advisor and teacher, former CPO at Chegg and VP of Product at Netflix

Netflix’s Customer Obsession

Customer Obsession in three parts:

– The DHM Model

– Consumer Science

– Free trial case

Gibson advises that the key things to remember are to listen to the customer via existing data, survey data, and A/B testing.

Saeed Khan, Founder, Speaker, Innovator, Product Leader, Transformation Expert at Transformation Labs

Don’t Release the Kraken: Bringing Clarity and Harmony to Product Release Planning

“Product Management is political by nature, and also heroic” – Saeed goes on to say that Product managers often find themselves prioritising other peoples’ emergencies because they don’t have the necessary power or authority.

Your initial planning decisions are key in perfecting the product release.

• Articulate your product objectives and vision so everyone is aligned

• Releases, road maps, product strategy, product objectives and product vision all need to align to reach your end product goal

• Measure your success

• Know your WHY, WHO, WHEN, WHAT and HOW


Bronwyn Yam – Director of Product Tyro Payments

Are we there yet? The (End of) Customer Research

Research – Where is the return on investment? Before you go ahead and conduct research, determine what you expect/want to learn – and has this research already been conducted by another team within your organisation (or your predecessors).

It is key to have the whole company on board with the customer journey. How do you involve other teams in assisting you with mapping out the customer journey? Call center agents are mapping customer journeys every day – involve them and bring them into the discussion. Customer journeys are so important not only to understand what they are going through, but to understand the pain points and the ways you can go about solving these. It is important to then share this information with your stakeholders as well as what the desired outcome is.

Being a product manager, you are in the business of taking risks – you don’t need 100% certainty to launch. It’s all about the calculated risks. Be open minded to others experiences.

What should you think about the next time you want to say ‘let’s do some research’?

• There is never a right or wrong answer

• What do you already know? Determine if this knowledge already exists within your organisation: (has the research already been done?? Does another team/ functional area have the answer to your question/s??)

• Define your return/expected outcome – if it’s fluffy, you’re not ready!

• How quickly do you need to get to market? HOW will you get to market?

• Take some risks as the cost of a risk may be less than a full-blown research program


Sara Wood, Global VP of Product at Farfetch

Navigating the Ever-Changing Landscape – Before and After IPO
The role of product essentially is to make things work and understand customer needs.

Sara’s recommendations for moving towards IPO are: – Develop a portfolio investment thesis and measure the benefits – Drive continuous improvements – Annual strategies rooted in data as well as long-term plans – Look at external trends and understand that you need to still take risks.


Lightning Talks!!

Then after lunch came the much anticipated 5-minute Lightning Talks. The idea behind these is that there are 20 slides, changing every 15 seconds, with a total of 5 minutes to speak. Fast paced and punchy, they were such a delight to listen to!

Parity Consulting’s Managing Director, Victoria Butt kicking things off with her talk titled “The Journey of Two Great Product Managers – Why only one made it BIG”. The key takeaways to succeed were to focus on:

  • Stakeholders NOT JUST Managers

  • Blockers NOT JUST Amplifiers

  • Being InteresTED more than InteresTING

Amanda Ralph, Head of Product at First State Super took to the stage with the question “It’s the year 2050, what will Product Management look like?”

She pointed out the 3 macro trends driving the change to Product Management:

  1. Asia is the new economic centre – there are 800 million paid WeChat users in China

  2. Mass personalisation – Consumers want individualised experiences

  3. The rise of the people-centred economy – companies are under pressure to deliver social value as well as profit as the world changes

Ivy Hornibrook, Product Manager, took to the stage to speak around the consequences of being a good product manager. “Good” is “Product led”, “sticky”, “less friction” and “measurement”. The ever so creative Rebecca Jackson drew up this visual which summed it up perfectly!

Suzanne Abate, Consultant, Product Coach, CEO and CPO at The Development Factory and 100PM spoke about “The 4 principals of Effective Communication”:

  1. Communication is a transaction

  2. Anticipate misalignment

  3. Insist on understanding

  4. Make definitions shared

John Clegg, Data Engineering Product Manager at Xero

AI and Machine Learning for Product Managers

AI – artificial intelligence, is a collection of systems that process information and makes decisions, think voice or face detection. Broad AI is cognitive, think self-driving cars.

Machine learning uses maths to find patterns in the data and uses this to learn predictions and recommendations.

Deep learning works like the brain as there are lots of layers – an example of this being real time translating.

There is a website R2D3 which provides a visual way to check out machine learning.

Automation is automating a good process you already know is right, while machine learning is a suggestion – you need to have clean and reliable data.


Nicole Brolan, Product Director at Seek

Unshackling from Product Monogamy and Playing the Field

Nicole’s advice: “Play the field and don’t get too invested”. At Seek they were getting too invested in the solution rather than the problem. So, they switched to an OKR – but what is OKR??

OKR (Objective and Key Results):

  • Objectives – Business/product goal that is qualitative and inspirational

  • Key result – the measurable outcomes – Don’t have any more than 3 OKR’s. Get the whole team involved in the goal.

So how did Nicole implement this at Seek?

  • Leverage existing stakeholder sentiment

  • Start with a pilot – engage a small number of teams to test and learn – to set their OKR’s

  • Have a clear time line – this may be pushed out at the start as teams adjust to deciding on what THEIR objectives are without the input/influence of senior managers/stakeholders (even if this influence is unintended)

  • Ensure this is embedded, have informal check ins and ensure regularly discussed

In closing, OKRs are a good tool for helping drive outcome focus. Embedding them will take time but it will get easier over time. Keep in mind that OKR’s alone will not mean you play the field.


Jason Shen, Co-Founder and CEO at Headlight

Five Ways to Bring Sanity Back into the PM Hiring Process

Challenges facing the hiring process for product managers:

– Different expectations

– Imperfect metrics

– High impact – product management is a role that is highly leveraged

How can we bring the sanity back?

  • Stop hunting unicorns! – you can’t have it all (or afford it)

  • Know what you need – product is about trade-offs, so hire for your ‘must haves’ and train for the rest.

  • Promote more from within – ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast’

  • Create opportunities to learn product skills

Bring it home and hire with take-home projects:

  • When hiring, get candidates to complete a task that is representative of the job

  • Culture is as important as skills when hiring PMs


Kirsten Mann, Senior Vice President Product and Experience at ORACLE

Love like a Leader! All you need to know to transition into a Product Leadership role

Have a set of magic questions and don’t wait to be told what to do – do first and ask forgiveness later. The truth is, leaders rarely wait to be told what to do. But understand that if you plan what you do, then do what you plan. Because, “A life without “A-ha Moments” is a life wasted” says Kirsten.

  • Be the driver of change in your life

  • Be a facilitator and you can do any role

Keep in mind that good leaders facilitate – they don’t dictate – and this is how they drive teams towards goals – together.

Be a decent human being and do the little things. These are things that make a difference. For example, reply to emails, saying thank you, take the time to celebrate, take an interest in peoples’ lives. If you do the right thing by people, they typically do the right thing by you.


Inga Latham, CPO at Siteminder

Relationship status, it’s complicated

From Inga’s experiences, there are 4 steps to “World Domination” when it comes to managing distributed teams in a global company:

  1. Assume you know nothing

  2. Get context

  3. Building blocks

  4. Roadmap

And remember to maintain a sense of humour as a product professional or you’ll go insane!

Georgos Papanastasiou, Director of Product Management at Service NSW

Product Management for the Greater Good

Working in product for the government means being able to work on something that matters and being a part of delivering something meaningful and working towards the greater good.

The ideals and processes don’t really change when working within the Government in product. The principle is the same – being in touch with customers and making all processes as easy as possible for the end customer.

However, there are some differences to working in Government, which include:

  • Customers are also citizens

  • Complicated institutional environment

  • Legally or formally defined scope

Why should you consider a Product Management career in government?

Governments need good product manager skills – it needs the problem-solving skills that product managers have to help bring solutions to the people it is looking after. Product managers have the skills to deliver solutions on ‘wicked’ problems that not many other professions offer – ‘wicked’ being problems that are difficult to define with no clear solution.

When you work in Government, you will work on products and improve services that actually make a difference. “It improves trust in Government and has a positive flow on to society”, says Georgos

Leading the Product is an unmissable event with a focus on adding value to the product community, by bringing together product professionals from not only all over the country, but globally to speak about their insights, findings and knowledge. The team at Parity Consulting were so proud to be Gold Sponsors for the LTP event this year, with our Managing Director, Victoria Butt participating with a Lightning Talk. On the back on all of the interest that has come from it, she has just released a new blog post delving deeper into “Career Blockers” and how to identify and manage them, and prevent them from hindering your career or salary! Read more here.

To get in touch with our team, please click through here or alternatively give us a call on +61 2 8068 2016 or email through on info@parityconsulting.com.au.