Between my 4 co-ops and my two Product Manager positions, I’ve used a number of tools for product development and bug fixing including Bugzilla, TFS, Rally and Jira, each a respectable tool in its own right with Jira being my favorite.

So it quite surprised me, well maybe shocked me, to find out while interviewing with Hightower that they used what I thought to be such a simple tool for their product development process: Trello.

Ya..Trello…

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At Hightower, we release daily. Yeah…daily!

Releasing anything shorter than weekly to me was startling, especially since all my previous tech jobs were mostly a 2-week release cycle, but after a week or two, I finally overcame the shock and started to really enjoy it. Here’s what I learned so far:

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If this blog was a river, it seems to be drying up. But please, don’t jump to any conclusions. It’s not as if I just started this blog and kept it going for a couple of months for the sole purpose that it would help me find a new job, and then slowly abandon it….well actually it does seem I did that didn’t it?

Well, let me explain.

It’s been a busy two months! How busy? Well, I feel like I’ve I’ve accomplished more in the last two months than in my previous 2.5ish years in Product Management…so yeah, it’s been nuts. So crazy that I’m writing the draft of this blog post on a plane…that’s a first for me.

But wait, let me back up a bit..

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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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Really?

 

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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Why do people use your product or your competitor’s product? In essence, they are trying to get a job done. But what is a job? Let’s take a look at, for good reason, the most used example: the drill vs. the hole.

Do I need a hole or do I need a drill bit?

 

 

As Harvard’s Marketing Prof. Theodore Levitt famously said:

“People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!”

Mind blowing, isn’t it?

Nobody buys a product or service for their features, they buy it for their benefits or for the job they wanted solved. This reasoning was what helped me to grow from an average salesperson at Staples to one of the best performing…while I was in high school! I remember when I first started at Staples, I used to sell printers based on their features, often telling customers that Printer A could print 22ppm (pages per minute), but Printer B could print at 30ppm, but they didn’t care and chose Printer A because of its price. Once I learned that I should instead talk about how Printer B could get you back to your life sooner, then people started to cared. Nobody wanted to sit there and watch the printer print paper, they wanted their print job to be finished quickly so they could staple/bind it, and move on to the next thing.

This reasoning was what helped me to grow from an average salesperson at Staples to one of the best performing…while I was in high school! I remember when I first started at Staples, I used to sell printers based on their features.  I used to tell potential customers that Printer A could print 22ppm (pages per minute), but Printer B could print at 30ppm, but they didn’t care about ppms, just the cost. Once I learned that I should instead talk about how Printer B could get you back to your life sooner, then people started caring. Nobody wanted to sit there and watch the printer print, they wanted their print job to be done asap so they could staple/bind it, and move on to the next thing in their lives.

Sadly, I forgot this key learning while in university, but luckily got reminded about it and learned more about it through a framework calledJobs to be Done (JTBD) at, coincidently, the New York Jobs To Be Done Meetup. They more I learned about it, the more I felt it was undervalued in the world of marketing, and most importantly, in the world of product development.

Let’s look at how Jobs to be Done can help your product be the best for its customers.

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