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25 posts tagged with "PM Thought Collectives"

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· 8 min read
Yiyang Hibner

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Yiyang Hibner:

Chris has always been one of my favorite managers (not just because we share the same birthday!) He led my path into product management and gave me valuable lessons earlier in my career. One of the key lessons Chris taught me was the idea of “Ask questions but with thoughtful solutions”.

The typical advice people get is “Don’t be afraid to ask questions”, and that’s how we improve. However, when I first started as a PM, I got into the habit of asking questions even though most of the time I knew the answers already. Chris encouraged and enlightened me to think further, still to ask questions but show my thinking process too, instead of asking for the sake of asking/learning.

Chris also demonstrated what lifelong learner would look like as a PM leader. He had taken classes in Tableau for semester-long certification and inspired everyone on the team to learn beyond what’s required on the job.

Among all the places I have worked for, Points undoubtedly has the best culture - nurturing, kind, coworkers treating each other as families, and also people have quite some sense of humor. I am very grateful for calling Chris my friend and my trusted circle. Whenever I have any issues to discuss, he’s always down for a coffee chat.

Allison Hall:

Over the last 9 years, I have had 9 different managers. When I think about those who stand out from the crowd, what comes to mind are those who I felt genuinely cared about me, my career, and my overall happiness.

The great managers I’ve had created a safe environment for me to be myself. I could bring any problem to them, even if I wasn’t ready to eloquently chat about it, and know I would be heard. They listened. They asked questions. They understood what motivated me and what excited me. They also understood what frustrated me, when I needed to vent, and when I needed advice.

Most managerial relationships I’ve had started out very similarly. They ask you a few questions, want to know your goals, and share how they are here to support you however they can. Sometimes, the true support stops there. I’ve had times where my successes are used as a boasting tool for my manager themselves, my one on ones are really a time for my manager not me, and managers where we don’t even have 1-1s or a relationship at all. Good managers mean those words they say when you first meet. Their actions back this up. Yes, they may be proud of their role in your success, but they understand it’s your success. They celebrate you, push you, and motivate you.

I’ve also had the fortunate opportunity to become a people manager in recent years. As I strive to create a safe and caring environment for my teams, a key thing I’ve learned is flexibility. Every person is different and my job is to learn how to aid each individual. Take goal setting as an example. Some people want OKRs, some want vague focus areas, and some want formal individual development plans. Many people aren’t sure what they want. I build my ability to understand what might aid individuals and offer different tools to help them be the best person they can be.

Managers are constantly pulled in different directions and must balance business results & team happiness. Ultimately, a great manager listens, learns, iterates, and invests in the individuals on their team. They set a clear vision, help people focus, and show people they matter. Great business results will follow.

Tanvi Shah:

Looking back, I realize that I have been very lucky to have some amazing managers in my 13+ years of career. I now understand that there is not one formula of a good manager. As I grow in my career, I hope to pick up all the good bits of my managers.

When I was a junior PM ready to grow and do more, my manager realized my need to grow and do a variety of things. Whenever I asked her for more work, she gave me every new opportunity that came up. Because of that, I finally ended up working with an amazing team. This manager gave me growth opportunities and helped me find a niche that I have come to love.

As a senior PM, my managers helped me ask the right questions, told me that sometimes good enough was great and taught me the 80-20 rule for doing things. As work became busier and time was short, one manager taught me about work life balance by explaining that I was not doing brain surgery and just moving pixels at the end of the day. It helped me reduce my work related stress and reminded me that I worked to live and not the other way around. Along the same lines, another manager taught me how to do my best and leave the rest.

As I became a people manager, my manager showed me how to see the strengths of my team and fill in the gaps as best as I can. He also helped me realize that documentation in this remote world helped align teams, stakeholders and leadership better.

To sum it up, all good managers have been great listeners and their empathy has been a balm. They have been able to tenderly tell me where I could do better and then clear the path for me to excel. I have also realized it’s important to remember that every manager is a human being first and making that connection is the first step to building a great relationship.

Don Rosenthal:

Great managers lead by example, and work with you to find the best use of your skills, provide pragmatic advice, and make it clear that they have your back. They also realize that you only do inspired work when you are engaged, believe in the mission, and yes, are having fun.

I had three managers at Google. They were all amazing, each in their own way.

One’s superpower was as an advisor. She gave me enough leeway to figure things out on my own, but I learned that when I came to her with questions, she always had amazing insight. Kind of like that person at the conference table during your presentation, who you are not sure is paying attention? And then they have that one insightful comment that cuts through all the confusion and clearly describes the best path forward? Yes, she was paying attention to my progress on my goals, and often even had proactively worked in the background to have things in place for my best next steps by the time I came to her for advice.

Another excelled at being my friend. Strange to say that about a manager? Well, I was having tremendous problems in a toxic working relationship, and he was there to listen, smooth things out, find other options for me, and even come to my rescue in meetings where those interpersonal issues were putting up roadblocks. He found other projects for me to work on and worked to extricate me from the toxic situation. I wound up supporting a great team that was doing amazing work, and were at an inflection point where working with a PM was of real value to them.

The third astonished me by his dedication to helping me find the best fit in his organization. And that’s not hyperbole. I had never experienced a manager who was as dedicated to the success of his reports as this person. He did research, discussed options with his leadership, and provided valuable information for me to review. He consistently made it clear that I did not need to wait until our weekly 1:1 to engage with him, and due to his being an even earlier riser than I was, usually had something waiting for me in my inbox by the time I sat down at my computer. We were in the midst of working out an engaging, impactful, and yes, fun twelve month plan for me when I was (to his surprise as well as mine) laid off with 11,999 other Googlers.

Many folks aren’t lucky enough to even have one great manager to work with -- you know, like that one teacher who really reached you and made more of a difference in your life than they’ll ever know (unless you were kind enough to reach out to them at some point in your career). But I had three in a row. And I am trying my best to pay forward what I learned from them.

· 4 min read
Yiyang Hibner

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Author: Shilpa Vir

Effective communication is a crucial skill that every professional must master to succeed in their career. As a young woman starting out in my profession, I was eager to make my mark, establish myself as a thought leader and be able to influence others. I devoured books and online resources on how to "find my voice," "speak up," and "communicate clearly."

And for a while, I felt like I was making progress. Until I had a particularly heated meeting where I butted heads with a colleague about the direction of our product while the remaining team watched, clearly scared of getting in the middle. The meeting went nowhere and left me feeling frustrated and stuck.

I discussed the meeting with my mentor, asking how to make my colleague “listen to me”. He said “listen to him first”. What? No, no no! I needed to communicate MY brilliant idea. His reply was, “I bet he’s thinking the exact same thing.”

It was then that I realized that I had been focusing too much on expressing myself and not enough on listening to others and that listening is an essential component of effective communication. As the famous quote by Harvey Mackay goes, "Two monologues do not make a dialogue."

When we listen, we best connect with people, solve problems, and truly understand our audience’s needs. This all leads to better relationships and business outcomes.

  • Listening to others shows them that we value their opinions and that we are interested in what they have to say. This in turn, fosters trust and respect, two essential ingredients for influence.
  • Listening helps us discover insights, gain new perspectives, and broaden our knowledge. By being open to hearing different viewpoints, we can broaden our understanding of issues, which can lead to better decision-making and problem-solving.
  • Listening to others helps you refine your ideas. When someone pushes back on our ideas and we truly listen instead of listening to respond, we can discover constraints and weaknesses of our initial ideas and work to improve them, leading to better products, services and business results.
  • Listening demonstrates humility and a willingness to learn. When we are seen as someone who is willing to listen to good counsel, others are more likely to offer valuable advice or help out.
  • Listening helps us avoid misunderstandings and conflicts. By actively listening to others, we can ensure that we're on the same page and avoid miscommunication that can lead to disagreements and tension in the workplace.

If you want to be more influential in the workplace, start by listening more. I would be the first to admit that it is hard. Not only was I an ineffective listener, but I also used to interrupt people mid-sentence to respond (rude!!!). It has taken me deliberate and continuous effort to be a better listener and I am happy to share my tips and tactics to help you listen more than speak:

  • Be present. One of the most important things we can do is to be fully present when someone is speaking to us. Avoid distractions such as checking our phones or looking around the room, and focus all our attention on the person speaking. Make eye contact, nod your head, and lean in slightly to show that you are listening.
  • Don't interrupt. Let the speaker finish what they have to say before you respond. Don't rush the speaker or try to finish their sentences for them. This could be hard for some, but be patient. Breathe when you are tempted to interject.
  • Ask “what” and “how” questions to learn more. This shows that you are interested in what the speaker has to say and that you are trying to understand their point of view.
  • Ask open-ended questions to encourage the speaker to share more information and perspectives. This can help us gain a better understanding of the topic and show the speaker that we're interested in their thoughts and ideas.
  • Summarize what you have heard. This shows that you have been listening and that you understand what the speaker has said.
  • Be respectful. Even if you disagree with the speaker, be respectful of their opinion. Separate the idea / proposal / data / argument / opinion being discussed from the speaker and do not make any personal comments.

Remember, listening is an active process that takes effort and attention, but if you are willing to put in the effort, it can be a powerful tool for communication and understanding. So, if you want to be more influential in your workplace, start by listening more and truly engaging in a dialogue.

· 4 min read
Yiyang Hibner

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Guest post Author: Julie Bornstein

Who has impacted you the most in your life? How and why?

My mother. She was a force of nature and raised 3 daughters while working as a psychiatric social worker, sitting on the school board, singing in the choir, chairing the Wellesley Club (and yelling at my dad to come home in time for dinner.). She was fearless, practical and very engaged. With my mom as my role model, I always knew I would have a career, a family and great friends. She was always my biggest cheerleader too. (I wrote this Linkedin post with an article on my mom I found from 1972.)

What hobbies do you have when you are with your family/friends? What about when you are alone?

My favorite hobby is traveling with family and friends (is that considered a hobby?). I love getting away, getting tons of quality time with the people I love most, relaxing (something I find hard to do at home), and exploring new places or even just hanging out on a beach. Everyone is happy and it feels like the most special and memorable times come from trips.

I also love to play tennis, take walks, dine out, watch movies… Though I’ve always considered work my favorite hobby.

When I’m alone, my favorite hobby is to shop. Online, in stores, anywhere. I also love to do this with friends.

I spend a lot of time advising people on their businesses as well, which is always gratifying.

What’s the first thing you did after your start-up "the Yes" had been acquired?

Two things - Bought an apartment in NYC, something I've been meaning to do for years but hadn’t had the time, and got re-engaged in the reproductive rights movement through financial support and personal involvement. I’m committed to aiding the efforts to provide all women in America access to abortion care. It is truly inhumane (and dystopian!) what is happening in some of these Red states.

What’s the most recent TV show you have seen and why do you like it?

I just finished “Daisy Jones & The Six”. I loved it, it was such a fun, well told story with great music and fashion, to boot. I love comedy and “realish” life stories the best. I can’t stand anything with violence, which cuts out about 75% of shows these days…

What do you care about the most in the workplace? Or a friend?

In work, I care a lot about creating a supportive and transparent environment that really allows people to do their best work because they feel motivated, convicted and supported. The best culture is one that really feels like you’re playing a team sport (and winning:) I also value a place where people have fun, can laugh, and people can have a sense of humor.

In friends, I think I value the same things. Caring and supportive, fun to be with and a good sense of humor, and loyalty, of course!

Any advice for people who got laid off in a recession?

Figure out why that job wasn’t the best fit for you. Do some soul searching. Ask for real feedback in an easy to access way if you can’t figure it out on your own. (Maybe write a few questions and ask your old boss to fill it out honestly.) Then figure out what you really want to do and make it happen. The hardest part of job searching is figuring out exactly what you’re meant to do. Once you identify that, it's a lot easier to convince others.

· 2 min read
Yiyang Hibner

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Author: Tanvi Shah

We write our performance reviews once a year (in most companies). And we spend a day or two thinking and writing everything achieved in the last year. While writing the reviews, you are often frustrated (takes too long to write), and either far too critical about yourself or overestimating the work that you have done.

I haven’t been able to take out all the agony of writing a performance review but tried to minimize it as much as I can over the years. If you want to hear more about this topic, I will be speaking at the ADPList conference. Come join me.

Let’s dig into the 3 steps.

1.Performance review is a year long process, so start early and start soon

  • It is necessary to think about reviews as a marathon. You prepare for it all year long. You do practice runs, stretches and hydrate yourself before the final race.
  • Make a note of all the good work you have done, impact you have achieved (think metrics or ask your PM/DS) and co-worker praise through the year.
  • Summarize frequently what you did, what you learnt. Take time to reflect often.
  • Also, start thinking about point 2 and 3 described below. Don’t wait until the end of the year.

2.What next and how to get there?

  • Look up your career ladders, either at your company or borrow it from google and run it by your manager.
  • Find the level you are at, the next level you want to achieve, and what’s needed to get there.
  • Start filling those gaps by talking to your manager and mentors.

3.Build relationships early and check-in often

  • A big part of the reviews is the soft skills and the relationships you build.
  • Understand your field of influence. Start with a list of stakeholders, your managers (direct or indirect), peers and anyone else essential to your job.
  • Build a strong relationship with your circle of influence. This circle influences 50% of your reviews. So, start building those relationships with 1:1s, coffee chats and more.
  • Be genuine, earnest and curious about the other person.

Do you do anything more for your performance reviews? Leave your tips in the comments.

· 5 min read
Yiyang Hibner

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Guest post author: Mohd Irtefa

What was your biggest fear when you quit your corporate job while expecting a kid? How did you address this concern from Tuganai and other family members?

You know, when I made the decision to leave my corporate job and start my own company, fear wasn't really something that crossed my mind. Sure, there were uncertainties and risks involved, but I was filled with a sense of excitement and anticipation for the journey ahead. I was fortunate to have strong, supportive women in my life (my Co-Founder Dani and my wife Tuganai) who helped me believe in myself and my vision. And at the end of the day, I realized that there's never going to be a "perfect" time to take the leap and pursue your dreams. Starting a company is an emotional and instinctive decision, not a logical one. When you feel that fire in your belly and that sense of purpose in your heart, sometimes you just have to take the plunge and trust that everything will work out in the end.

How do you divide child caring tasks with your wife Tuganai?

When it comes to dividing child-caring tasks, I have to give credit where credit is due - my wife is an absolute superhero. With a demanding job and a toddler at home, she manages to juggle it all with grace and skill. While I try to do my part, I know that my contributions are small compared to hers.

As our daughter grows and changes, we've found that our approach to childcare has to be flexible and adaptable. One thing I've learned is that there's no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to parenting. It's a constantly evolving process that requires patience, love, and a willingness to learn. And at the end of the day, I'm just grateful to have the opportunity to be a dad and watch our daughter grow into her own unique person.

What are some surprising things to you as a father? What about as a start-up co-founder?

Let me tell you, being a father and a startup co-founder are not for the faint of heart. It takes relentless dedication and grit to excel in both roles. As a father, you have to put in the time and effort to be there for your children and your partner. And as a startup co-founder, you have to be prepared to face the daily grind of building something great. Forget the feel-good stories you hear on "How I built this" by Guy Raz. Success in the real world requires an unwavering commitment to hard work and perseverance.

What do you struggle the most at this moment in your life?

Sleep! I don’t remember the last time I slept for 8 hours straight hahaha.

What do you want your daughter to learn from you?

When it comes to what I hope my daughter learns from me, I have to say that I'm more excited about what I'll learn from her in the years to come. That said, if there's one thing I want her to take away from our time together, it's a deep-seated passion for taking risks. As an entrepreneur, I know that the biggest rewards come from pushing beyond your comfort zone and pursuing your dreams with everything you've got. I hope my daughter sees this in me and is inspired to do the same. But, ultimately, the most exciting part of being a parent is watching your child grow and learn, and I can't wait to see what she teaches me along the way.

Describe a typical day of yours during week day v.s. Weekend

Weekdays are jam-packed for me, pun intended. As the founder of a remote company, I start my day by diving into our support queue and tackling emails. We hold daily standups to touch base with the team and offer support as needed. The bulk of my day is spent in customer meetings and conducting recruiting interviews. It's a never-ending cycle of building and growing.

Weekends, on the other hand, are sacred family time. My wife and I take our daughter to local hotspots like parks, bookstores, and libraries. We cherish these moments together and use them to recharge and refocus. It's a reminder that there's more to life than work and that family is the most important thing.

If our readers want to learn more about your company (hiring/investing), what is your pitch?

“If Jam didn’t exist, I would jump off a bridge…” this is a direct quote from one of our customers. It sounds hyperbolic (maybe even crazy!) but that’s what he said when we asked what he would use if Jam didn’t exist. We built Jam for engineers and product managers to give them back their precious time. 80% of an engineer’s time is spent investigating why a bug happened. With Jam, when you report a bug, all of the necessary context that an engineer needs to solve a bug are embedded in a link. Whether you're an engineer or product manager, Jam streamlines your bug reporting process, so you can focus on what you do best: creating. If you are reporting and fixing bugs, you should sign up for Jam (it’s free!).

· 5 min read
Yiyang Hibner

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Author: Parul Goel

In 2018, I took some time off from work and spent a month in Spain. I traveled through Malaga, Cordoba and Barcelona eating jamon, drinking wine and soaking up the sun. During my trip,I had the opportunity to enjoy three Flamenco performances, one in each of the cities I had visited. Flamenco, for those of you who are new to it, is an art form that includes music, song and dance. You can watch this video on YouTube as a pretty good sample of what a Flamenco performance is like if you have not seen one.

The shows were very different in their settings and styles. The one in Malaga was held on a small stage in a basement with a small group of performers. In Cordoba, I enjoyed the performance under the stars on a warm evening. The scale was still smallish, but still bigger than the one I had been to in Malaga. In Barcelona, the venue was Palau de Música Catalana, a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most impressive concert halls I have ever been to. Everything about this performance was grand - the venue, the audience and the performing group.

All three performances were fascinating. I was enthralled by the soulful music and graceful dance movements. As an enthusiastic public speaker, I couldn't help drawing parallels between Flamenco performances and public speaking. An enjoyable flamenco performance felt similar to a highly engaged public speaking session; both draw you in by telling stories and evoking emotions. Here are three lessons from flamenco that we can apply to public speaking:

1. Passion stands out:

The setting and the costumes in Malaga were somewhat basic; still beautiful, but simple. In Cordoba and Barcelona, the costumes were elaborate and eye-catching. However, in the end, what mattered the most was the dancing itself. With our untrained eyes, most of us in the audience could not judge the performances on their technical aspects, but we could spot passion and joy. And those were the dancers who won our hearts and got the loudest applause, regardless of what they were wearing and where they were performing.

The same holds true of public speaking. You can have polished powerpoint slides and data to back everything you say, but what captures the audience is your conviction. The audience needs to be convinced that you care about the topic you are presenting on. So pick a topic that you are passionate about, then you would have won half the battle. At work, even if the presentation is technical in nature, personalize it by adding stories and your opinions. Opinions convey conviction, and in combination with the right facts, they will help you win over your audience. So whatever topic you are presenting on, make sure it represents your point of view authentically.

2. Cadence matters:

The show in Cordoba started on a rather low note and peaked about half way with a brilliant performance by a male dancer who took my breath away with his footwork. The audience went wild after his performance. Chorus of “bravos” went on for a while even after the performer had left the stage. Had the show ended with his performance, everyone would have gone home with this upbeat energy the performance had created. However, the show continued and the performances that came after it couldn't match this one. I could feel the energy in the room going down. The climax or the end of the show felt like a let down.

To avoid a similar fate, you need to remember two things. Firstly, you need a strong beginning so that the audience has enough incentive to continue engaging. And secondly, you need a strong ending so that the audience remembers you. Your conclusion is the last chance to leave an impression on the audience. Don’t waste it with “I hope you enjoyed my talk.” or a weak “thank you”. Instead, use your most passionate appeal - remind your audience why they should care, remind them what the world would look like if your idea was implemented. Bring everything you have to the conclusion of your speech.

3. Handle Disruptions with Grace:

During one of the performances, the manton (Spanish shawl) that the dancer was using got stuck in the flower in her hair. She continued her footwork while using her hands to disentangle the manton. Later on, her headgear became loose. Again, without losing a step, she took it off and threw it to the side of the stage.

I have yet to attend a conference that is free of issues. Invariably, the projector would stop working or the speaker would realize that the slides up there are not the final ones. This is when even the most inattentive audience wakes up eager to find out what happens next. As a speaker, how you handle the situation is now part of your presentation. The audience will remember you for fumbling or for firing through.

As a speaker, you owe it to yourself to be prepared for when things go wrong. Here are a few things to think about. Always have a copy of your slides on a flash disk. Be prepared to give your speech without the slides if necessary. Pause to let any disruptions pass. If you can, incorporate it in your presentation by making a joke about it. These disruptions are an opportunity for you to showcase your maturity and courage as a speaker. Don’t let them disrupt you. Instead, use them to your advantage.

What tips would you offer someone to be an effective public speaker? Share them with us in the comments.

(You can read the original, longer version of this article here.)

· 4 min read
Yiyang Hibner

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Guest Post Author: Keith Howard

It’s okay to not have a clue. In fact, it’s more than okay. It’s downright necessary if you want to find comfort in uncertainty. Career paths are no longer linear trajectories that we map out in our early twenties and follow until retirement. The days of working for the same company from 9-5 for forty years are gone. We now live in an age where job security is a thing of the past and work/life balance is more important than ever. So how do we navigate this uncertain landscape? How do we find comfort when we don’t have a roadmap to follow?

The answer is simple: embrace the unknown. Accept that life doesn’t always go according to plan and be open to exploring new opportunities without fear of failure. Don’t get too caught up in mapping out a perfect career path because sometimes the best things come when we least expect them. Take time to reflect on your skills, passions and values. Don’t be afraid to try something new or take a risk. You might surprise yourself and find success in unexpected places.

Take my career path... I've had MANY plans over the years

2003 - I was going to join the military for 4 years then go to college.

2005 - Change of plans - I was accepted to the United States Naval Academy!

2008 - I'm want to be a fighter pilot!

2010 - Change of plans - helicopters are much more fun and I want to live in San Diego!

2014 - I'm going to get my MBA in Finance to become an Investment Banker!

2017 - Change of plans - I'm going to be a Dad! I can't work investment banking hours. Let's try tech!

2019 - I like being a TPM, but I really enjoy working with Product Managers, I think I want to try to become a PM!

2020 - Change of plans - COVID. Second Kid. Cross Country Move. I don't know which way is up..

2022 - I've been working with Data PMs a lot, maybe I'll pursue another masters but in Analytics, go the data route then shift over to data PM at PayPal!

2023 - Change of plans - SVP leaves the company, organization gets dissolved, officially unemployed.

It seems like life is full of plans that never come to fruition. We make them, we set goals and expectations for ourselves, and then something always comes along to disrupt our best laid plans. It's okay though — in fact it's more than okay — it's essential! After all, if everything went according to plan there would be no surprises or discoveries along the way. Life is an adventure, so why not embrace the unexpected? Who knows where you'll end up if you just go with the flow? Sure, making a plan can be helpful but don't get too attached to it because chances are things won't turn out exactly as expected - and that's perfectly alright!Life is full of twists and turns that we can never predict. Plans may change, but if you stay open to new opportunities and embrace the unknown, then you just might find yourself in a better place than where you started.

The best way to navigate this uncertain landscape is by reflecting on your skills, passions and values while also being willing to take risks and try something new. As my own career path shows us, it's okay not to have all the answers - sometimes life takes us places we could have never imagined! So don't get too attached to any one plan or roadmap; instead be prepared for anything unexpected along the way as those are often our most rewarding experiences yet!

· 2 min read
Yiyang Hibner

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Guest Post Author: Jim Dudley

I actually panicked a little, when I realized that my 30-year career in law enforcement was coming to an end. What was I going to do? How would I spend my free time? How much golf could I actually play? Did I have enough money saved to actually stop working altogether?

I had more questions than answers. Still, I knew a few things:

I didn’t want another job that required me to carry a firearm; I wanted to do something I wanted to do rather than what I had to do; and I wanted to give back to public safety.

I fought the urge to join everything that looked interesting but still committed to being a Park and Recreation Commissioner in my town. I belong to 2 fly fishing clubs, but haven’t been to a meeting in years. I did, however, attend enough meetings early on to learn to tie a decent Wooley Bugger!

I hit the sweet spot after I was invited to host a crime podcast called Policing Matters. A few years later I became the sole host, and was paid for my weekly efforts. We recently have begun to promote them as YouTube videos This, despite the fact that I have been told I have “a face for radio.”

My one criminal justice class I agreed to teach each semester grew to a full load of four and a half classes every Tuesday and Thursday at my alma mater, San Francisco State University. Still, it is so rewarding to talk with young people and explain how things work in the real world, rather than in the 30-minute television episode. Their energy is amazing and their interest in careers in public safety is encouraging.

I still consult with public safety agencies and on civil and criminal cases. I can pick and choose which ones suit my expertise. Both give me the satisfaction of being able to use my experience and expertise to do some problem-solving and help an agency or an aggrieved party.

I’m so enjoying my retirement, doing things that engage me and make me happy. I even manage to get in a round of golf every so often.

· 6 min read
Yiyang Hibner

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Co-author: Reagan Fry

2022 has been quite a year for a lot of us, and December was always supposed to be the most comforting, rewarding holiday time with the family to recharge before the New Year. However, if you tried to travel by air through Southwest, then there was a high chance you would have had a last minute cancellation, adding uncertainty and anxiety to an already stressful year. Originally we wrote this article about what kind of technical and PR disaster it was for Southwest, but Southwest handled it with genuine customer-care follow-ups and we are truly impressed. For example, they reimbursed everything when we rented a truck to drive back from Fresno back to the Bay Area, as well as gave us 75,000 rewards points. Now we are loyal customers again.

No alt text provided for this image

A family of 3 driving in the heavy rain from Fresno back to Bay Area on New Year's Eve

Lesson 1: Handle PR disaster with grace

Trust is hard to earn and easy to lose. Attempting to prevaricate about what actually happened, shift blame, or minimize an issue are easily detected by customers and are great ways to permanently lose trust.

  1. Don’t wait too long to communicate with your customers. Keep it clear, concise, and simple. Sometimes negative updates are better than no updates at all.
  2. Acknowledge the issues or mistakes as well as the impact it has had on customers.
  3. Let customers know when you have a plan to address issues and keep them updated on your progress. Go above and beyond what customers might expect to make things right.

It’s almost impossible to put the genie back in the bottle when disaster strikes, as painful as it may be. Southwest generally followed the right steps - they acknowledged responsibility, communicated with customers and delivered a remediation plan. However, given the nature and scale of the disaster, the refunds offered didn’t go above and beyond to make things right with customers. Ruining the holiday dinner means there’s a good chance you won’t get invited back next year.

Lesson 2: Have a good postmortem reflection to avoid similar issues in the future

Postmortems are a critical part of improving your product processes. They help you and the org prevent the same issue from happening twice and improve how you respond to other incidents in the future. This should not be a pinger-pointing exercise, but an objective discussion of the factors leading to the issue and alignment on recommended next steps.

A good postmortem typically consists of the following:

  1. What was the timeline of events? This should outline what happened and how the team responded.
  2. Who did it affect and what was the impact?
  3. What was the root cause of the issue?
  4. What worked well? What didn’t work well?
  5. How can we prevent from happening in the future or improve how we respond to other issues in the future?

Southwest’s meltdown was so comprehensive and high profile that they hired an outside consulting firm to perform what essentially amounts to a plus-sized postmortem to address the systemic failures that led to it.

Lesson 3: Develop a response plan for worst case scenarios

People tend to form impressions of past experience through intense positive or negative moments and the end of their experience (known as the peak-end rule. The peak–end rule,weighted in our mental calculus.) in psychology). This means that when a crisis inevitably happens, how you respond is critical if you want to influence future perception and retain loyal customers.

Identifying risks and how you are addressing them should be standard whenever introducing changes to the product that impact a significant amount of users. Additionally, not all issues result from planned changes, so you should identify key failure points that would result in significant consequences for the business and/or users to know how to respond. This will help you and your team reduce churn, respond faster, and mitigate frustration for your customers.

There are three general categories of questions that any response plan should seek to cover:

  • Is there an SOP (standard operating procedure) defined? Is it easily accessible by individuals throughout the organization? Does this SOP outline different courses of action depending on the scenario?
  • Who are the key POCs and teams that need to be involved? Do we know how to contact them? What if they are not reachable?
  • When the response is defined, do we have the capability to deliver on the response plan? Do we need to scale up (ex. Have more agents working to process refunds) in a worst case scenario and if so, how?

Lesson 4 Prioritize long-term benefits over short-term gain

It can be difficult to prioritize tech debt reduction projects and communicate their tangible impact. Leaders have goals and want results now. All too often, investment to address tech debt comes after long periods of slow execution, de-prioritizing projects that would otherwise be innovative or impactful but for the inflated cost, consistent difficulty in scaling, or, as in the case of Southwest, critical system failure.

*“Southwest has acknowledged putting updates to its crew scheduling system behind other improvements, despite long-standing complaints from pilots and flight attendants…calling the system its “Achilles’ heel” in the December breakdown.”

by Fortune

Waiting for things to break is a failure of communication and prioritization. As a PM, it’s your job to translate the impact of addressing tech debt to the business and finding space on your roadmap to accommodate such projects. This is not solely an engineering responsibility.

  • What is the impact of the things you could launch if this project increased execution speed by X%? What is the impact of projects that are now possible due to reduced investment cost?
  • What is the likelihood of system failure or the opportunity cost of reduced capacity? For Southwest, it was 9% of Q4 2022 revenue, or $700M in cost impact and a double digit stock price decline in just a few days, not to mention the frustration of millions of customers and the downstream impact this will cause when customers switch airlines due to the horrible experience.

What do you think and how were your recent travel experiences? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments!

· 4 min read
Yiyang Hibner

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Author: Qi Liu

During the pandemic, like many families, my partner and I were confined at home with two out-of-school preschoolers. Camping became an easy choice of our ideal social distancing activity. After a 6-month wait, we took an iconic airstream travel trailer and embarked on a 33-day trip from Seattle to San Diego in May 2021. We then did another 35-day trip to Oshkosh, Wisconsin for the EAA air show in 2022. Most recently, we wrapped up our first winter trip to Death Valley near Las Vegas for 15 days. I’m awed by the legendary RV lifestyle every single day. I hope my experience can spark some inspiration in you too.

Memories are priceless

I started camping and hiking with my kids ever since they were babies. It was one of the most challenging project types I have ever managed, counting in my professional life. Even though I have almost packed up the entire house, my babies (a.k.a. “stakeholders”) could still be grumpy about missing their naps or favorite snack, and that led to missing critical “deadlines”, overspending, or even early termination. With RV, we are living in our home on the wheel. Those beautiful parks and forests become more accessible and affordable to us.

On our trip to Death Valley, we lived on the empty Stovepipe Wells Campground inside the park for only $14 per night, whereas the hotels nearby cost over $400 during the holiday season. The kids took a morning hike to the Mosaic Canyon without waking up too early. When it got dark, they stepped outside the trailer and gazed at the densely packed stars for the first time in their lives.

Planning, and Expect the Unexpected

While RV-ing may be perceived as a form of glamping (glamorous camping), there is another “dark” side of the story which involves a lot of resource management, error handling, and difficult decision-making.

When living in an RV, you need to constantly plan your life around water, sewer, battery and propane usage. You may end up running late for your reserved campground and have to settle on a random Walmart parking lot (the old standby overnight parking option). All to say – situations are unpredictable and require flexibility.During our summer trip to the Crate of the Moon national monument, we had to boondock with no connections to water, electricity, or sewage unlike what you’d find in a developed campground. It was 90°+F outside till 7pm and only cooled down to 70°+F at night. We had to use air cooling and preserve electricity for 2 hours AC time. It was extremely difficult to fall asleep, but the scenic sunset hike made the trade-off worthwhile.

Another lesson I learned is that you can never plan enough. During our trip, we experienced a flat tire, our rear bumper falling off, and an avatory exhaust fan breaking. We could equate the cause of accidents to the Swiss cheese model. Although many layers of defense lie between the accidents, there are flaws in each layer. Once they align, the accident would inevitably happen (wiki). We could run behind schedule, miss a highway exit, forget to lock the bathroom door, or take a chance and pick a tight space at a gas station. We could also be negatively impacted by external events such as an unexpected thunderstorm, grumpy kids throwing tantrums, or late Amazon delivery for tools/parts. Proper risk assessment and management can provide a safety cushion when you need it the most, and can sometimes even save your life (especially for backcountry camping).

We Are Better Together

Once we started the RV life, it feels like we joined a new community full of like-minded people. People step out of their way to strike up a conversation in the campground or on the road. When we had difficulty backing in a narrow campsite or fixing the hookup, our “neighbors” usually dropped what they were doing to provide help. Along the way, the kids made friends who were on route to the same national parks. People shared their life stories with us, invited us for marshmallow roasting parties, and one person even showed us their 41 feet monster-size trailer with a full size kitchen. A bonus point for airstreamers was when another airstream passed by on the road, the driver would usually wave or salute with their light, expecting you to wave back.

I’d like to use the famous quote from the movie Nomadland to illustrate my sentiment for the RV community. “The thing I love the most about traveling life is that there's no final goodbye, we just say I will see you down the road."

Are you attempting the RV life or are you already a proud nomad? Share your experiences in the comments!