Category: Product

There’s no I in Change

The past 1,5 years, I’ve not only experienced the tremendous work it takes for a global company to reorganize, disrupt and innovate into a product- and technology company. I’ve also learnt what it takes from the people working there.

It’s not the new office, or the new PowerPoint templates that define a change. People do. If you don’t listen to your employees or take care of them during a change process, they will leave. If you win over the people in your organization, you have everything to win going forward with the change.

I think Schibsted Reboot Conference is a great example of getting everyone on the same page. We gathered 1400 Product and Tech employees under the same roof, letting people get to know each other, engaging in inspirational workshops and listening to talented internal and external speakers. The history, what lead up to the change, the present, what we’re going through, and the vision and goal for this change was clearly communicated.

Check out #schREBOOT on Twitter.

It’s easy to feel threatened, insecure, and uncomfortable because things are ambiguous during a change process. When these feelings take the overhand of individuals, there’s a risk they will start acting selfishly and do everything they can to shake these feelings, naturally. People feel threatened, insecure and uncomfortable if they don’t get the information they need;

  • What is going on?
  • Where are we in the process, what can I expect?
  • What do you expect from me?

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I’m a part of a large company going through a change process, so what can I do?

Expect the unexpected

Teams change names every other week, you need to change desks every other month, new people start, other people leave; expect that things will change and do whatever it takes to smoothen the process.

Seek out information

Expect that you are under informed at all times, and that it’s expected from you to ask about what is going on. The people dealing with communication can’t read your mind, what do you want to know and what is important to you? It’s like a relationship; communication needs to work both ways.

Be solutions oriented

Things will be rocky; problems will arise, big and small. You will make huge impact if you show your problem solving skills at this stage. If you find a problem, or hear about it from your colleagues, take action and do something about it. If we can catch the problems small, it will be a much smoother ride.

See the bigger picture

You’re a part of something revolutionary! Your company is on a mission, so take a few moments during a week where you remind yourself what larger purpose you serve. What is this line of code, or this phone call worth? Whether the goal is to save the world, or revolutionize an industry, put it all together and look at the bigger picture.

Have fun!

Have kick-offs with your team, socialize and play games. You put in some hard work, make sure you have fun while doing it. Building stronger relationships with your colleagues in this phase is important. It will make you collaborate better and trust each other more if you know the other person well.

Real Journalism

I’ve never felt more motivated at work, and that’s because my values and the purpose of our products are aligned. It’s important, and it’s urgent.

“Our mission is to contribute to a functioning democracy by closing the gap between what citizens know and what they need to know about the world around them.” – Schibsted Publishing

We are in the forefront of reinventing the newsroom and challenge the global giants that call themselves Publishers.

My wish is that you have full focus on why we make this technology, and it is to do a job on behalf of society. We inform, to investigate, stories that someone doesn’t like that we investigate, but it’s a really important task. So yes, we do technology, and we do technology for a purpose. – Espen Egil Hansen, Editor in Chief at Aftenposten

 

I believe real journalism needs to stand up for itself. To inform and educate about the differences in journalisms and the so called publishers out there.

I started watching the TV series The Newsroom this weekend, which was actually a quite nice timing. The anchor McAvoy and his team set out to a similar mission.

“It might come as a surprise to you that some of history’s greatest American journalists are working right now, exceptional minds with years of experience and an unshakeable devotion to reporting the news. But these voices are a small minority now and they don’t stand a chance against the circus when the circus comes to town. They’re over matched. I’m quitting the circus and switching teams. I’m going with the guys who are getting creamed. I’m moved that they still think they can win and I hope they can teach me a thing or two. From this moment on, we’ll be deciding what goes on our air and how it’s presented to you based on the simple truth that nothing is more important to a democracy than a well-informed electorate. We’ll endeavor to put information in a broader context because we know that very little news is born at the moment it comes across our wire. We’ll be the champion of facts and the mortal enemy of innuendo, speculation, hyperbole, and nonsense. We’re not waiters in a restaurant serving you the stories you asked for just the way you like them prepared. Nor are we computers dispensing only the facts because news is only useful in the context of humanity.” – Will McAvoy in the series The Newsroom on HBO

Why I want to build products users love

I’ve just attended the Mind The Product Conference in London 30th of September 2016 with 1400 attendees and speakers, among others, Marty Cagan, Lisa Long, Simon Cross, Jeff Gothelf, and Jeff Veen.

I co-organize the Product Tank Meetup, after attending the first one ever in Oslo organized by Lisa Long and the crew in late 2015. Therefore I was a volunteer at the conference in London, helping out with everything from registration, to sponsor care and guiding people to the after party.

Next Product Tank in Oslo 27/10: Matchmaker: Creating Corporate/Startup Powercouples

Next Product Tank in Stockholm 6/10, sponsored by Schibsted: “A day in the life of a Product Manager: what does the role look like in different companies, industries, and levels?”

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After organizing the Women In Tech Conference in Stockholm earlier this year, I thought this opportunity to volunteer at the MTP Conference in London was both for learning more about organizing large conferences like this, and also for networking with Product Managers from all over the world.

What I enjoy the most, after hearing about what challenges they are battling or what disruptive or life-changing products they are building, is to hear about how they entered the role as Product Manager.

There are so many varieties of the role to start with. Product Managers exist in the businesses of hardware, services, software, retail and much more. They are in small startups and in huge organizations. They come from different backgrounds such as tech, UX, marketing, customer support, recruiting, sales, etc.

While a Product Manager at a startup might be an informal role because of the need of wearing so many different hats, a Product Manager at a large corporation could have a thought out career ladder going from Individual Contributor to VP, leading not only product development but also leading teams.

What ties them all together is the desire to work with a problem from many different angles. They enjoy and should be quite good at talking to the sales teams, aligning product goals with the business goals. They should also be comfortable sparring with the technical teams, using data from the data science teams and customer support teams to improve their product. They should know what metrics they should observe and last but not least they should build products that users love and dare to challenge the status quo.

They should also be strategic thinkers and informal leaders, having influence over that many different functions and teams without any real mandate over those teams. Aligning stakeholders, prioritizing features to build after careful consideration of the business plan and what the users want, and will love.

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But let me get back to where they came from and how they entered the role. So many of them ended up in Product Management by accident. The customer support and sales person that were talking to customers all day, knowing what they would pay for if they could get it in a product, steadily learning the needs of the users. The software engineers that constantly suggested not only new technical solutions for a problem, but helped find and understand the problem itself. The UX- or marketing-person that learnt through analyzing data, conducting interviews with users, and constantly wanted to improve the look, feel and experience of the product. And perhaps the wild card; the recruiter that knows the business goals and the strategy, that knows all the roles in the company and what they do, that manages the expectations of the stakeholders and conducts interviews and identifying candidates needs all day.

For my own part, going from working as a Technical and Product-recruiter to Product Manager is not a far-fetched idea. I have the technical background, and the curiosity about technology and solutions since young age. I started at the “technical program” at High School where I dove into programming, networking and design. I couldn’t really choose between the tech-specialization and the design-specialization. Nor could I choose to leave extra languages or subjects such as psychology out of the mix. Knowing what I know today, I’d say I had the beginning of a mindset of a Product Manager already back then.

Continuing my academic path at KTH, Media Technology, I thought I would still be able to dive into both technical and design-problems. I turned out to be right. Studying subjects as maths and physics, computer science and programming, marketing and design, and media and perception, continued to broaden my scope of interest.

When I started to look for a job, my first job after graduating, I did not know what I was. I didn’t really fit in to any of the job descriptions out there. I had a passion for the digitalization of the culture heritage (libraries, museums and archives) as well as the re-invention of the newspaper, digitally. But it was too early to find relevant jobs for me, as a new graduate, in these areas. So I thought I would become a consultant, as so many other of my friends did. I thought that as a consultant, I would get to work with a lot of different things and not having to choose my path just yet. I was quite wrong. Many consultancies make you choose from the beginning, do you want to go in to management OR technology? And if you are kick-ass at being in the middle there, you did not fit in. OK, so my interest for psychology and people felt like a safe bet, and I got a job as a technical recruiter, with the ambition and promise that I would get to do something else after a while. The second was a lie, as it turned out, I would not get this opportunity at my former employer, so I switched.

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I started in Schibsted Media Group about 1,5 years ago as a Technical- and Product recruiter. We started from scratch, building Schibsted Products and Tech, which been a great journey! I’ve learnt so much! I was managing stakeholders in different locations (at one point in both Stockholm, Oslo and London) and building processes while working full time as a hands-on recruiter delivering 58 hires over the past year. I’ve learnt much more about different roles and what they do (Data Scientists, Software Engineers, Product Managers, Business Analysts, Interaction Designers etc.). I’ve learnt how to build successful teams and how important culture, communication and collaboration is in a changing and growing organization. I would say my people skills have evolved, and my understanding of people and how they make choices, and why or why not they perform or develop.

I have received the opportunity to try my wings as an Associate Product Manager in Schibsted. Not only have I finally found a role that is cross functional, but I will also get to work in Publishing alongside fantastic teams that are developing the new digital newsrooms and challenging the way we consume news today.

I don’t say I will be a flawless Product Manager to start with, I have so much to learn, and I’m excited! I will have to learn more about data and metrics, building analytics tools for different audiences. I will need to learn to fail fast, learn and iterate. I will need to learn new tools. I want to learn more about existing and new technology to stay on top of what is coming. I want to improve my influencing skills, and being listening, humble and yet communicating clearly with all these different functions. I will enter a team that I know is great, and will help me on this journey, and together we’ll develop and launch a new product in Schibsted not long from now.

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Why we need curated news

Why do we need, or want to consume news?

Consuming news leads to:

  • Learning and empowerment
  • Culture and society
  • Democracy and debate
  • Globalisation and awareness

And what does this actually mean?

Consumption of information, news, science, math, philosophy…anything, leads to learning about ourselves, understanding who we are and forms our personalities. This empowers us, and gives us confidence.

Being a part of a smaller culture or society leads to recognition, contribution and a sense of feeling at home. Feeling like a part of something greater. It’s not only the individual that strives for this to happen, it’s also beneficial for the larger group that forms this culture or society. The discussions goal is to create a common direction for the society to thrive.

Receiving access to others viewpoints and not having to be “locked in” your own culture, society or your own way of thinking or perceiving the world will lead to more discussion and debate about what’s right or wrong. It empowers the individual to express their view as a part of a democracy. Knowing about other views and perceptions changes our own thinking, and being able to take active part in the discussion changes it yet many times more.

Globalisation happens when we stop thinking only about ourselves and our own culture or society, and start connecting the dots. Understanding the events that lead to other events in another part of the world. When we start thinking bigger like this, we also get more innovative and try to improve or challenge what we see and experience. You become not only aware, but a game changer.

This is how I see news impacts us today, in general and simplified terms of course.

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What is news, and who is responsible for what news is?

Hundreds of years ago small societies got their weekly, or sometimes daily news at the church where debate and discussion regarding local events happened in real time and face to face.

Then came broadcasting media, newspapers and television was the broader sender of information, and the people around the world was the receivers. It was one-to-many communication and the receivers were not responding to the message that was sent.

Through the Internet, information could flow between broadcasting media and the people, making it a two-way communication. Although the media did not know what to do with all the feedback they suddenly received back from the audience.

Today information and news is flowing everywhere (Internet, Radio, TV, newspapers, magazines, apps, social) and the sender is anyone (blogger, vlogger, journalists, brands, etc). Every millisecond of our day is filled with information and the noise is challenging our minds and making it harder to take in, understand and come to a conclusion about what’s right or wrong, and challenges our well-being in terms of lacking confidence, focus, or peace.

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How can we close the gap between what people know, and what they should know about the world around them?

The world around them is bringing us back to the smaller society, the focus, the tangible debate and the answers.

Close the gap could be teaching, informing and guiding, also providing better focus, and minimising the noise.

  • We need personalised news. But not too personalised that leads to the filter bubble and putting democracy and learning at risk, and risk not being exposed to others perceptions.
  • We need trusted sources of information. We need educated journalists that learn to become critical, and scrutinizing, presenting the truth objectively.
  • We need to educate the audience and show the difference between a trusted source and a subjective source of information. Can anyone be a trusted source of information? How do we solve this? Brands, or blogs, independent journalists or collaboration? Everyone is contributing to the information, the news and the noise out there.
  • We need to listen. The broadcasting days are over, the information is not ours to give and not get any reactions or criticism in return. Creating debate is the foundation of a good and working democracy.
  • We need an editor. We are a species that like being in a group, recognised, accepted. That probably means that if we were to choose our own information and news, regardless the format, we would build the filter-bubble around us. We need an un-biased guide to help us close the gap, and give us the aha-experience, and open our minds to others ideas.
  • We need to be active every second. The print newsroom is originally planned on a 24-hour clock, if their product was a daily newspaper. Now, it’s a matter of seconds before something new news-worthy information happens in the world. Be it that someone near to you just became a grandmother, that a political scandal was just unrevealed or that the world is facing a new climate threat.
  • We need to be in-depth, too. Investigating, criticising, scrutinising, and challenging those in power and continuously learning and educating about the world.
  • We need to be adaptive. Adaptive to personalised needs, and how people of the world want to consume their news. In written, on mobile, or through video on your desktop? Once a day, or “on the pulse”? And adaptive to the technology choices we make to deliver on the promises of being fast, trusted, curated etc.
  • We need to understand our users. Using the data and understanding the behaviour of our users will make us deliver better products and deliver on our promises.

We have somewhat of a mission ahead of us and I’m happy and proud to be a part of this change.

This post is written in a fast manner without links to relevant sources. View it as my personal viewpoints.

My master thesis 2011: https://www.nada.kth.se/utbildning/grukth/exjobb/rapportlistor/2011/rapporter11/kvernplassen_anna_11014.pdf