From time to time I work with promising, small startups who are not ready for their first PM but are looking for product expertise to guide them towards product-market fit.

Recently, I was working with a startup that focuses on helping their enterprise clients identify employee engagement issues. Since they felt comfortable in their current core product, they were interested in expanding their product into something they believed would be complementary to their core value proposition: providing advice to corporate leaders on how to take action to fix/mitigate/reduce HR/personnel issues, which would then boost employee satisfaction.

Being a bootstrapped and small startup, expanding their product line would be risky, especially as they have a small developer team and could either work on improving their core product, or work on this new advice system that would enhance their product value, deepening their retention hooks, and further differentiate themselves from their competitors.

The team was also very excited about incorporating machine learning into their advice system, allowing them to scale the service to match their current customer base and their future base.

After internally talking through the risk of working on a new product feature and the opportunity risk of not exploring the new product feature, the team was confused on how they should proceed.

That’s when they called me…

Once I was caught up, I could see the dilemma they were in. There was a lot of value in guiding corporate leaders on next steps, and if they could prove their system did provide such value, they could use their core product to measure the change in employee satisfaction based on their advice!

So how could they potential explore this new advice system and reduce the huge risk of getting it wrong?

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I was recently talking to Europe-based FinTech startup who were looking to hire their first Product Manager (PM), and they wanted this potential PM to be based in New York (NYC) rather than in Europe with the rest of the company. Their rationale was logical: the majority of their current and potential clients are in the US, particularly in NYC since they operate in the Financial realm, and they wanted that PM to be as close to their customers as possible.

This situation got me thinking that they have three potential options:

  1. Option A: Hire an NYC-based PM who can readily and easily travel to customer sites (current plan)
  2. Option B: Move the product team and/or the company to the US
  3. Option C: Hire a Europe-based PM to be collated with the company in Europe

Ideally, the entire company should relocate to where the majority of its customers are, especially since the company is quite small at its stage.

Relocating the company would provide two enormous benefits:

  1. The team is together
  2. You are near your customers

But let’s say, for some reason, relocating the company (Option B) is out of the question. Should the startup continue as plan and hire an NYC-based PM so that the PM is close to their customers (Option A), or should they hire a Europe-based PM to that the PM is close to the product team?

Based on my experience, I would strongly recommend hiring a Europe-based PM and here’s why:

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Actually, there are two equally strange pieces of advice I got. One was when I was 15 years old or so, and I joined a DJ pool (think of Birchbox for vinyl, but you get vinyl records 1-6 months before they go on the radio), and the manager of the pool told me “don’t f*** up!”…in front of my dad. I still don’t understand why he said that…

But we’re here to discuss a more relevant piece of advice I got…

I had to do a total of 6 co-ops/internships as part of the University of Waterloo’s Engineering program. One of these co-ops was at NexJ Systems as a Professional Systems Consultant in 2009 where I helped customize financial CRM software for clients.

It seemed like I got chummy (although I didn’t think this was the case) with a manager (whose name we will leave out) and he told me this:

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Seriously? Why? Why? Why?!

Usability testing is such a simple activity yet so crucial to getting designs and products right, yet we hardly do it even though we talk about its importance (yes, sometimes I fall into that group).

What scares people off of usability testing is the amount of work involved. Often, we think we must find a small sample of our target audience or users to test on. Although that is the ideal way to conduct usability testing, this can often be hard to do for a number of reasons:

  1. It’s hard to find a group of people to test with
  2. It’s hard to get people’s time
  3. It could be hard to set up (Do I need to build a prototype? Do I have the time and resources to do that?)
  4. There is not enough time, there are deadlines to meet and the engineering team needs to start building
  5. There are so many other things you need to move on to

Clearly, there are some obstacles in the way. But nonetheless, usability tests helps us ensure we are building something in the right way. You may have a great idea for a feature and think you have a great design for it, but until you have somebody use it and show you they can use it, it isn’t anything useful or worthy to brag about.

So how can you do usability testing to ensure your great design is truly great even though you don’t have the time or the ability to access your users?

There are two quick ways:

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In my short Product Management career, I’ve had the fortunate opportunities of working in the personal health and book industries: my first job was helping people lose weight and maintaining their fitness + wellbeing, while my second one was making books more accessible in America.

Not bad…

I often think/dream about the future, and it’s really an exciting time to start thinking about the future. There’s a lot of cool things happening out there that are going to shape the future, but the three most exciting emerging fields for me are UAVs, IoT, and 3D Printers.

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I’ve been thinking of starting a blog for over a year. Week after week, I would tell myself that during the upcoming weekend I would sit down, install WordPress and start typing. But I never did.

I love understanding people and the real (and sometimes ugly) reasons people think and behave the way they do. Understanding yourself (thoughts + behavior) is scary and difficult, but once you confront yourself, you get to know yourself better, and you start to truly appreciate who you are and what you are capable off.

So after confronting (or soul-searching) myself, I found out the real reasons why I was delaying creating this blog. I thought:

  1. People don’t care what I think, and
  2. I don’t know anything

Pretty grim right?

But alas, if you are reading this blog, how how did I overcome my insecurities? What magic potion did I drink that gave me this confidence?

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This is my first blog post and so I thought I would go big! Why say Hello World when you can say Hello Universe!

Wondering why I started this blog? Well wait no more! Here’s why:

1. Getting my thoughts in order + releasing them

As we get more and more connected to the world universe, a lot of cool, and sometimes not so cool things come to our attention whether it’s design patterns, product development processes/frameworks or useless crap.

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