What I learned from Noma and the Barkley Marathons

There has to be an upside to being in bed with a nasty virus for a week, right? For me it was the opportunity to watch two documentaries – The Barkley Marathons and Ants on a Shrimp: Noma in Tokyo

While vastly different films, both explore what it takes physically and psychologically to be the best; to push through the possibility (and reality) of failure, and to design, create and do what has not been done before.

In product innovation and management, we are often designing and delivering products (and enhancements) in previously unexplored territory; dealing with customer and business problems for which there is no obvious or known solution.

While for Noma and the Barkley Marathons athletes, their ‘product’ may be different to our own, the processes, commitment and attributes needed for success are the same:


In getting to the goal there is often no straight line.

barkley map

You need to iterate, learn, revisit, refine and work consistently and persistently towards your goal.

noma iterate

Context matters

You need to know your customers and your environment. Take the time to know and navigate your market.

noma fish market

If you don’t take the time to explore, listen and learn how can you design and build a proposition your customers will value and relate to?  How will you be relevant?

Embrace the possibility of failure – move outside of your comfort zone

Barkley Quote Failure

As Noma founder Rene Redezpi says, “it’s so easy just to go back to what you know. As soon as you feel comfortable in a situation, get rid of that situation – that’s when new things happen.”

Teaming and diversity are essential ingredients

An effective team works together and supports each other around a common goal and purpose. They are committed to it and while they might ‘fail’ as individuals, as a team they come together and drive for success.

As Katzenbach and Smith note in their book, The Wisdom of Teams, “the hunger for performance is far more important to team success than team-building exercises or incentives”

In the Barkley Marathons, Barkley ‘virgins’ team with Barkley ‘veterans’ for support, guidance and mentorship. Experience counts and teams with diverse experience are inherently more successful.

End of Loop

Each member of the Noma team brings a unique contribution and skill. That is where the magic happens. Without the different perspectives, experiences and ideas the magic would be lost.

noma team

Great teams have fun! Camaraderie, teamwork and fun – all combined lead to breakthrough results.

And finally…

It’s easy to get lost in the BAU of our day to day priorities and roadmap, but there is great value in reflecting and being more deliberate in our approach to designing and building compelling products. Like the athletes of Barkley and the team at Noma, we need to continue to challenge, align around a common purpose and find the simple in the complex.

noma 1

“Be Yourself. Everyone else is taken” – Women in Product November Meetup


In our second Women in Product Meetup, Sally Capp, Victorian Executive Director of the Australian Property Council will share her experiences as a senior woman in business, in particular how she has managed to stay true to herself and lead with authenticity throughout her career. Not to be missed.

Make sure you secure your place via Women in Product November Meetup – Be Yourself. Everyone else is taken.

Women in Product Melbourne Meetup


Join Laura Cardinal (Global VP Product, Xero) and the Melbourne Women in Product Community for our inaugural event as she shares her own personal experience as a senior woman in product.

An opportunity to listen, share and learn as we discuss:

  • What it’s like being the ‘only one’ in the room, and how to not lose your sense of self when your human need to belong is so strong.
  • Whether or not it’s ok to cry at work and what to do about it when it inevitably happens.
  • Why we need to get over whether or not it’s appropriate to use words such as ‘girls’ or ‘guys’.
  • Why how much of our own reality is shaped by our own perceptions and what we can do about it
  • Why we need to stop blaming our vaginas, penises, cultural background, weird brain or personality quirk for everything that goes wrong, and;
  • How we can all build resilience, be our best selfs and just get on with having an amazing life and career

See you at Women in Product Melbourne Meetup (and yes, there will be wine…)

Developing your product dashboard and reporting: Actionable insight, not a magic 8-ball

I’ve previously written about the need for Product Managers to actively manage their product performance and financials. At this year’s Product Camp I ran a session on developing product dashboards. The focus of my presentation is re-visited below.

Many product initiatives have failed due to lack of underpinning evidence-based analysis and reporting. In order to actively manage performance you must measure, analyse and report on performance.

For many the question of what to measure and what aspects of product performance to report on can, at times, be overwhelming.

There are many different views on what should be measured and reported; from those who advocate “the single magic number”, to product dashboards that resemble something out of a NASA space mission.

I fall somewhere in the middle. I’m not a fan of the single magic number theory.


Product Portfolio reporting needs  to measure a range of core Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) or OKRs to derive meaningful and actionable insights. Only measuring a single metric means you risk not identifying other core value drivers within your portfolio.

A key part of the product manager’s role is to surface and report performance findings and recommendations to Executive and Board management. Whether you work in a company, not-for-profit or start up, you have stakeholders to whom you are accountable to reassure and evidence that, as a whole, product performance is tracking to plan and delivering value – value to your customers; shareholders; investors.

That doesn’t always mean profit. Depending on your business model and stage of business maturity, a measure of performance may even be loss making. For example, I have had product lines within my portfolio which were deliberate loss leaders. At a given time in the business, the decision was made to sell and launch certain products below cost. This may have been in an effort to penetrate new markets, grow market share or with a view to up-selling to other profitable product lines down stream.

Some common reporting metrics include:

  • Revenue (including revenue per product line/per segment or customer)
  • Costs (in insurance this would include claim payments). Within cost, you may also want to break this down by channel and look at the cost to acquire, cost to serve and cost to retain. This can be very useful in determining where to allocate scarce resources and marketing/BD expenditure.
  • Margin performance across your whole product portfolio and within each product line/series
  • Sales volume: value by product, channel and location, including prospects and sales conversion
  • Customer retention and satisfaction. Where are you retaining and losing customers? Is your future customer retention at risk?

Whatever you decide to include within your product dashboard, you need to balance the scope of what you measure against your key objectives and ability to action and deliver insights. Just as the single magic number approach can  risk missing important metrics, equally a ‘smorgasbord’ approach to your dashboard can simply serve to distract and overwhelm the business.

Critically you need to measure the right things.

“Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted..” – William B Cameron*

*In an earlier version of this post I incorrectly attributed this quote to Albert Einstein. Thank you to Josjua J Arnold for the correction

Spending some time thinking about the what your dashboard is trying to achieve and the business value it will deliver is also important:

  • Scope – is it broad or focused on a specific part of the product portfolio?
  • Operational versus strategic
  • Time horizon: Looking back, real time, snapshot, predictive  (current month; YTD; Month LY; YTDLY; actual performance against forecast/plan)

Whatever you decide to measure, the metrics you choose to track and report on should be SMARTSpecific; Measurable; Achievable; Relevant; Timely

Using the SMART framework will help you ‘join the dots’ and make connections across different elements of your product portfolio. In making connections you can identify interventions you can undertake to make the most of opportunities or address issues within your portfolio.

Design matters

You can’t afford to overlook good design.Use customer led design theory in the development of your dashboard. If you need to include reams of narrative to explain particular metrics then it is probably an indication that the metric you have chosen needs to be better defined or is too complicated.

As with any presentation, you need to think about your audience:

  • Who is the report intended for?
  • How high level or detailed does it need to be, given your audience?
  • Can visual communication aids such as graphs, traffic lights and charts be more effective in communicating key information?
  • What decisions do they make? What questions do they need answered to help them make those decisions?
  • How proficient are they in understanding and measuring key performance indicators/metrics?
  • How much time do they have to review the dashboard?

Think also about the way in which your audience is likely to consume your product dashboard and any associated reporting. By this I mean, are they likely to consume the report electronically, or via paper based reporting? Will they be able to view your report in colour or do you need to design your report to be able to be read in black and white? It’s not dissimilar to designing software and needing to understand the inter-operability environment in which it will be most commonly used.

I once had a boss who was colour blind. I had very enthusiastically developed a dashboard report, based on RAG (Red/Amber/Green) traffic light reporting. Very informative for me but unreadable for him. My solution?, I added status wording below each RAG indicator. A good lesson for me in making sure I knew my core audience!

Some design resources which I find helpful:
Your product dashboard and reporting is not static. It will evolve and iterate over time. As business needs or market conditions change, your dashboard needs to reflect the changing priorities of the business.

As with all prototypes and products, actively seek feedback from your key stakeholders. Do they find it useful? What areas of the dashboard do they most regularly refer to? Any suggestions they may have?

Use that feedback to keep iterating and developing your dashboard

The insights you gain from your dashboard should be a primary tool in the ongoing prioritisation and management of your product portfolio. Gut and intuition have a part to play (and something we develop over time) but having a well defined dashboard will help you amplify opportunities, and intervene early when issues emerge.

Women in Product

women in product

Women in Product (Melbourne and Sydney) is a place for women to openly talk and discuss all topics related to Product Management, Product Design and Product Development.

Founded by Adrienne Tan (Brainmates), Laura Cardinal (Global GM and Vice President, Xero) and thatproductchick, Women in Product was started to provide support and mentorship for women in Product Management.

If you are a woman in product making and managing products and services, please join us and:

  1. Learn more about the broad domain of Product Management
  2. Obtain Product Management tools and techniques
  3. Raise your profile in the Product Management community
  4. Discuss gender specific issues in Product Management
  5. Network with like-minded people

Our first event is kicking off in Sydney on the 12th of September, with our first Melbourne event currently in planning.

Hope to see you there.


Search for the Next Tech Girl Superhero


Really excited and humbled to have been selected as a judge for the 2016 Search for the Next Tech Girl Superhero. Over 130 entries from across Australia.

Looking forward to learning from the next generation of amazing tech and product women as they strive to solve a problem in their local community using technology for social good.

The world can always use more superheros.

Women in Product Melbourne


I’m really proud to announce that Women in Product Melbourne is officially kicking off!

In partnership with Women in Product Sydney, we are looking for other passionate product chicks to join us as we collaborate, mentor, inspire, chew the fat and support each other in all things product.

If you know a woman in product (or an aspiring one) please invite them to join. See you at the inaugural meetup event. Stay tuned…


Diversity is a broken product in tech. FIX IT.

This is a re-post of the article originally published by Bo Ren on the 15th of July 2016.

Bo has articulated (much more eloquently than me) many of the experiences and issues within the overtly gendered role of product management. Many thanks to Bo for her courage in sharing her experience and highlighting the need for change. Her article is re-published here with her permission. 

Please note: my last day at Facebook was Friday, July 8th, 2016. I am no longer a Facebook employee nor am I writing on behalf of the company. This is my own personal experience and opinion on cracking into product management from a diverse, nontraditional path as a female minority PM. The intention of this story is to raise awareness about how complicit people in power are perpetuating a broken system that is not merit based to minorities and women. I want to raise awareness to invisible forces at play by pointing out disparities and equipping my readers with coping mechanisms and a call to action for reform.

Facebook recently released its diversity numbers. Despite its best efforts — hiring a global diversity chief and marshaling resources — it continues to struggle with hiring women and minorities in technical and leadership roles.Not much has changed in the last two years.

If diversity were a product that launched 2 years ago it would be considered a failure. A product that stagnates for two years has a growth problem.

When I wanted to become a product manager five years ago, I was told by countless people that I wasn’t technical enough (no CS degree), that I needed a MBA, that I didn’t fit into the Stanford cookie cutter mold (I went to USC on full ride scholarship instead). A lot of nay sayers. At my first startup, the director of PM told me he had never met someone like me before (I didn’t fit easily into a box). At my second startup, while aspiring to transition from being a technical project manager to product manager, the incoming VP of Product from Google changed the PM profile: you either had to have a CS degree or MBA to become a PM. Even existing product managers thought this was absurd since they would not have made the cut based on the new criteria. The invisible bar I had to hit to become a PM kept moving.

All the things that I secretly thought — I was lesser, different, and discriminated against coming from a non-technical, untraditional PM path — were true.

Words have power and the narratives we are told penetrate deep into our psyche. If you are told enough times that you’re not technical enough or good enough for a job, you start to believe that. This is stereotype threat in full effect.

A few weeks ago, I was shocked to see how blatantly easy it was for a white male colleague to become a product manager.

I had been training him to backfill my job after giving notice that I am moving to New York to join Tumblr. I had been training him for about a month to backfill my role so the team could operate smoothly in the next half (six month stretch) after I left.

Here are the facts:

  1. My manager wanted to promote him to a PM despite internal HR requirements that internal transfers be on their current team for at least a year. He was still three months short from meeting that requirement. My manager bent over backwards to promote this guy and override HR.
  2. In order to become a Facebook PM you need to go through the PM circuit where you are interviewed by three PMs for various aspects: execution, leadership, product sense, etc.
  3. During our last 1:1, I asked him if I could help him prepare for his PM interview circuit. To my surprise, he replied“[They’ve] got my back, I’m not worried about it.” They referred to the two men in power in our organization.

I was taken aback by his arrogance, bravado, and confidence. Facebook’s PM circuit is not an easy interview process. In tech and other fields dominated by men, we over index on confidence instead of competence.

To pass the PM circuit at Facebook, I had done interview practices with multiple engineering and PM friends, read Jackie Bavaro’s book Cracking the PM Interview, crawled Quora and Glassdoor for practice questions, and whiteboarded whole weekends solving Fermi problems and product hypotheticals. You can read more about my interview experience at Facebookhere.

I had pored over 100 hours preparing for my PM interviews whereas this dude thought he didn’t need to prepare because two men in leadership had his back.

I had to work 100X harder. Yet, up until that point, I felt lesser like something was wrong with myself. I had been told that “you don’t fit into the profile of a Facebook PM.” I had beaten myself up for not being technical enough, aggressive enough, outspoken enough etc. I am creative and think expansively. I am a zero to one PM who can build something from nothing instead of making micro-optimizations on existing products. Yet my strengths were viewed as weaknesses in my manager’s eyes.

I realized in that moment, shocked by what I just heard, that I had earned my place as a PM. I fucking earned it because no one gave me the benefit of the doubt.

Women and minorities (especially double minorities) who want to pursue product management, design, or engineering are constantly told that they are not technical enough or good enough to become X. But here stands in front of me this white dude with no PM experience — less than a year’s worth of experience on my team — who flagrantly thinks he didn’t need to prepare for the rigorous PM interview circuit.

Why do we doubt ourselves?

Why do we try so hard to prove ourselves?

Why do we mistake our strengths for weaknesses?

Why do we blame ourselves for failures and variables out of our control?

Why did we believe that we are inferior to men with CS majors?

Because we are told that we don’t cut it, even when we have the same or higher qualifications. There is a gulf between a privileged mediocre candidate and an excellent minority candidate. It’s the tension between the B, B+, B- folks versus the A, A-, A+ folks. Yet, even after college, there’s still grade inflation for mediocre white men.

It is flawed to look to women in power as indicators of progress in diversity. Just having Sheryl Sandberg, Marissa Mayer, and Mary Barra (all white women) in power is not enough for furthering diversity. If you are an excellent, smart, Ivy League graduate who is an early employee of a big tech company, you are going to do just fine despite difficulties and biases along the way. But what about the the other candidates who are not as fortunate?

Instead what we should look to is intersectionality in race, gender, age, and culture as markers of progress. How many Asian American, African American, Hispanic women, LGBT members are leading companies?

The gap between what’s preached and practiced at tech companies creates disillusionment.

The world is not fair so let’s not pretend it is in a politically correct environment. In fact, it does women and minorities more disservice to be indoctrinated into believing that they will be treated fairly when they won’t be. When a company’s values are so inconsistent with your own personal experience at that company, the best way to rationalize that disconnect is to blame the situation on yourself. Women do this all the time asking themselves what did I do wrong? Why didn’t I react differently in that situation? We beat ourselves up even when we should be looking at the unfavorable situations where we couldn’t win in the first place.

I will tell my daughter that she will be treated differently and discouraged to pursue technical and management roles. But I will also tell her to ignore the naysayers and not let anyone tell her something isn’t possible. She is going to prove people wrong.

It’s sad reading the amount of discrimination women and minorities face in tech. Reading the stats makes me want to quit tech. Venture capitalists and tech companies saying that it’s a funnel or pipeline problem and not an actual discrimination problem makes me even more sad. It makes me sad because it’s simply not true.

I’m tired of being sad.

What is not sad is rising above all the hardships and acknowledging that you earned it. You beat the odds getting to where you are. No one gave us any breaks or short cuts, we made it here despite the naysayers, institutional bias, and tech company profiles.

I love being a double minority (woman and a minority) because I know I have earned my success. No one gave it to me.

I earned it. You earned it. We earned it. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

For far too long I have been afraid to write about diversity, afraid of the repercussions, afraid that I will burn bridges, afraid that I will be viewed as a disgruntled employee, afraid that I will be deemed as the next Yelp girl. But I can’t not write about this social issue. The needle is moved when people become uncomfortable by the facts and stories. Stories build a pattern. Patterns point to a trend.

As technologists, we solve problems.

We need to be as rigorous about solving the diversity problem in tech as we are in solving product problems at our respective companies.

I am asking all companies to look at diversity as a broken product. What post-mortem analysis can we run to understand our stagnating numbers? How can we debug the reason why diversity numbers haven’t changed? What are some institutional biases we can tease out? What are some user studies we can run? Fix diversity. Fix it now. Diverse teams build better products, better products yield more revenue, more revenue creates happy investors and shareholders. Diversity is a bottomline for every business.

If you are a manager, director, VP, or founder, be conscious of who you promote. Are you promoting someone because they are similar to you or because they are competent? Are you hiring or promoting based on potential vs. proven track record? If based on potential, are you applying that fairly to women AND men? People who look like you and who DON’T look like you?

If you are a recruiter, don’t hire on “culture fit”. This is a BS rationalization of promoting one culture — white frat boy “brogrammer” — over all others. Please stop telling your candidates that you are hiring them because they are diverse candidates. Tell them they earned it. You nip the impostor syndrome in the bud when you tell them they’ve earned it. Tell them that they got the offer besides embodying attributes that fit into your hiring quota. Tell your candidate that he/she is just as capable as someone who comes from privilege.

Do your part. Don’t become complicit in this broken system. Let’s take a new look into diversity and solve its growth problem. Together, we can do this.

Thank you Ellen Chisa, Julie Ann Horvath, Lesley Grossblatt, Stephanie Szeto, Katie Tsang, Ashley Dotterweich, Bruna de Goes, and Henry Soong for giving me the strength to publish this piece ❤

Leading the Product Speaker Line Up

The speaker line up for Leading the Product  has been finalised and it looks amazing. Those of you who attended last year’s inaugural event will know what a great day of insights, networking and learning Leading the Product is. This year promises to be equally as inspiring and thought provoking:

Damon Pezaro


Damon Pezaro is the Chief Product Officer at Domain Group. Damon is an experienced digital leader and has been working within the digital and online landscapes for over 15 years. Having worked in several start-ups dating back to 1999 and more recently across large corporate environments; he has lived through seeing how the changing digital landscape and subsequent technology has played its’ part in forcing executives, businesses and consumers to adopt a new way of thinking.

His experience has seen him leading product and technology teams at some of Australia’s largest media companies, he has filled key operational roles across several start-up successes and joined the Domain Group in January 2013

Dan Olsen


Dan Olsen is a product management consultant, speaker, and author. He is the author of Amazon bestseller The Lean Product Playbook, published by Wiley.

At Olsen Solutions, Dan works with CEOs and product leaders to build great products and strong product teams, often as interim VP of Product. His clients include Facebook, Box, Microsoft, Medallia, and One Medical Group. Prior to consulting, Dan worked at Intuit, where he led the Quicken product team. He also led product management at Friendster and was the cofounder and CEO of TechCrunch award winner YourVersion, a personalized news startup. He earned engineering degrees from Northwestern and Virginia Tech and an MBA from Stanford.

Dan is founder of the Lean Product & Lean UX Silicon Valley Meetup, the largest product-focused meetup in the San Francisco Bay Area with over 3,300 members.

Jen Flynn


Jen Flynn is Head of Product Management at Sportsbet, part of the International gaming company Paddy Power Betfair. With over 15 years’ experience, Jen has demonstrated success in building and leading product managers and practises across multiple verticals and geographies.

Prior to Sportsbet, Jen lead product functions at REA Group and Truvo and has a BSc in Applied Physics and Chemistry from Trinity College, Dublin.

Cameron Adams


Cameron is a co-founder and Chief Product Officer at Canva, an online design platform that has quickly become one of the most exciting startups in Australia.

After graduating with a Bachelor of Law/Bachelor of Science from the University of Melbourne in 2001, Cameron started a design consultancy that has done work for global clients such as Atlassian, NEC, TEDx and Sydney Festival.

When Google came knocking in 2007 he couldn’t resist the call and spent the next 3 years helping Lars and Jens Rasmussen – co-founders of Google Maps – realise the design vision for their ground-breaking communication tool Google Wave.

In 2011 he founded an ambitious email startup with two other Google alumni before meeting Mel and Cliff and deciding to help them build the beginnings of Canva. He now leads the product strategy and design for Canva’s apps, which grew from 1.5 million users to over 7 million users in 2015 alone.

Through his work and his writing – which spans five books and numerous articles – Cameron has contributed to the foundations that underpin modern web design and has been asked to speak around the world at events such as South by Southwest, CeBIT and Web Directions.

Lucie McLean


Lucie McLean is Head of Product for Children’s at the BBC in Salford, England.

She has worked for the BBC for 19 years – nine years in journalism and ten years in product management. Most of her product career has been in mobile products and she led the teams which developed the mobile website and award-winning BBC app for the London 2012 Olympics and the hugely successful BBC Sport app. She now leads the teams developing the BBC’s websites and apps for Children.

She is passionate about increasing diversity in digital organisations and helping those new to the digital world embrace the opportunities it offers. She is also her final year at Manchester Metropolitan University, completing an Executive MBA.

Kara DeFrias


Kara’s background is a unique mix of private and public sector experience, including an appointment to the first class of White House Presidential Innovation Fellows. She currently serves as Senior Advisor to the head of 18F, a digital services agency inside the United States government that’s transforming it from the inside out. Previous experience includes the Oscars, Super Bowl, and FIFA Women’s World Cup.

A do-gooder junkie, Kara has done pro-bono communications, product strategy, and UX for the likes of TEDxSanDiego and Team Rubicon; spent 10 days in rural India teaching innovation and business skills to micro-entrepreneur women; and guest lectures at University of California San Diego STEM Academy for high school girls.

Twitter: @CaliforniaKara

Christina Lucey


Christina is VP of Product at Zinc (formerly known as Cotap), the all-in-one communication platform built for business. She has 10 years of experience building communication apps for work at Yammer, Microsoft, and BlackBerry. Hailing from the Great White North, she graduated from the University of Waterloo with a Bachelor of Computer Science.

Ash Donaldsony


Ash Donaldson is Principal Behaviour Design & Innovation Consultant for Tobias & Tobias Australia, a design and innovation consultancy on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. He has spent the past couple of decades studying, practising, and promoting all aspects of human centred design – from Human Factors and User Experience to Behavioural Economics.

He has extensive in the industry with opportunities to work on many interesting projects, from doing the early research and design of Wotif.com to designing the new Intelligent Deposit ATMs for National Australia Bank.

Ash is passionate about understanding how people perceive and process information and using that knowledge to predictably affect their behaviours.

Early Bird and Clever Bird tickets have already sold out (Melbourne) and remaining tickets are selling quickly. Last year there were many disappointed people, who left their run too late and missed out!

Secure your place via Leading the Product Ticket Sales via EventBrite

See you there!

Product Talks Brisbane

meet up brisbane

Join me and the Brisbane product community as we debate and discuss the role of gender in product management.

Guest Presentation: Does Gender Play a Role in Product Management?

Thursday, Jun 2, 2016, 5:45 PM

everydayhero office
Level 8, 333 Ann St Brisbane, AU

19 Product People Attending

The 2016 Pragmatic Marketing Global Product Management survey found that 63% of product managers are male, increasing to 79% for more senior product roles.While gender equity issues persist within corporate Australia more generally, in a role where stakeholder influence and the ability to manage across multiple domains is critical, what role does …

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