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Goodbye 2017, hello 2018 – 4 learnings I am taking with me into the new year

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Goodbye 2017, hello 2018 – 4 learnings I am taking with me into the new year

2017, you have been incredibly intense, challenging and wonderful. You have provided me with many opportunities to learn and grow, fail and succeed, love and cry. Here are some of my most precious learnings that I am taking with me into the next year:

1 – Product Management is getting even more fascinating the deeper you dig.

Like Alice in Wonderland I am known for sometimes believing “in as many as six impossible things before breakfast“ and for constantly learning new skills, launching new companies or changing countries frequently. However, since the early days of my career ten years ago I have been fascinated by creating and developing products such as conferences, books or lately web shops and marketplaces. Without always calling it product management, this discipline has now been my passion for years and the more I dig in the more there seems to be to learn.


In order to truly master the job a product manager in the agile digital world requires a broad set of skills and knowledge ranging from user experience, design and prototyping, business analysis, technical savviness, business development, marketing and project management to a more general skills set involving strategic thinking, leadership, communication, collaboration and – very, very important in my humble opinion – empathy. Of course, this is a non-exhaustive list and the extent to which these skills are required highly depends on the level as well as the surrounding roles in your environment.


Every day at work has provided me with a lot of opportunities to discover new challenging aspects of this role, to learn and grow. Together with the entire team, we have been able to launch the second beta version of siroop that will provide us with a much faster way of serving our customer needs. At the same time, in 2017 I have also failed on several occasions, which provided me with very important learning I will take with me trying to avoid them in the next steps of my journey.


Attending workshops such as Product Development Flow by Don Reinertsen, Designing Experiments that Matterby Dave J Bland and conferences like the Product Management Festival in Zurich have further fueled my desire to contribute to the global community of product managers. This is the reason, why in November 2017 I launched the ProductTanks Bern and Zurich for Mind The Product. I am very much looking forward to many inspiring events in 2018.

2 – Know when to say no and when to say yes (or: „yes, and…“).

One of the most valuable talents of great product managers is saying „no“ (or rather „not now“) gracefully but determined to a lot of ideas generated by their stakeholders or by themselves. This takes a lot of guts, energy, estimation effort and sometimes having a thick skin (or even reverting to emergency meditations on Headspace ;-). Working on the separation of role and the person who is energizing it like we did in our Holacracy Trial with Xpreneurs helped a lot as well. In the end, constant focus and clear prioritization according to business value have helped us at siroop to provide room for our new beta version and have led us to provide one of the few constantly stable, while highly frequented shops on Black Friday 2017 in Switzerland.


However, what I built up in the past months is an even greater desire for me personally to say no more frequently whenever I feel my energy is draining, my values are endangered or my gut feeling is off. And I came to the conclusion that I need the companies and organizations I work for to do the same in order to sharpen their profile and to provide their employees with a compass to check against their own values and beliefs. Finding out what you do NOT want to do or be and what is not in scope is a very important step towards a clear vision for companies and in our personal life.


In 2017, I also learned when to say yes – or „yes, and…“. In February, at siroop all leaders attended a workshop on how to build trust, provide useful feedback and how to avoid negative expressions such as „you have to“, „actually” or „but“. Since then, I am constantly trying to replace the usual „yes, but“ by saying „yes, and“ and am always astonished about how much this can change a conversation.
Sometimes, though, there are moments where a simple „yes“ is enough. On September 9, 2017, Tobias and me got married in Zurich 🙂


3 – Crisis are great opportunities to recalibrate.

Raising a toddler, barely getting any sleep, working over 80%, commuting between Bern and Zurich and organizing a wedding has taken its toll on me. On our wedding day, my body clearly told me to slow down and to rethink some aspects of my life. So, since September I have been spending almost any free minute (ok, there are not too many of those when you are a working mum…) to stop and reflect on my values, goals and my current situation. The coaching program FEMALE FUTURE FORCE by Edition F has been a great help on this journey. I completed a third of the program by now and am always looking forward to the next week’s topic.


Now, four months later I am feeling much stronger, much more centered and much more determined to make changes whenever needed. I learned to express my needs more clearly at home and at work and to eliminate factors in my life that are draining my energy. Right now, I am in what I call „sponge mode“ – zooming out, exposing myself to new people, areas and thoughts, allowing myself to head off without knowing exactly where I am going to end up on this journey. It is extremely liberating and exciting.


4 – Start with Who (and Why).

Many of you probably know the great talk „Start with Why“ by Simon Sinek. It is a great reminder to search for our inspiration, follow our passion and „be the leader you wish you had“. 2017 taught me once again that for me who is embarking on a journey with me is equally important to me as why I am doing so. Sometimes we have to pivot (on a product, an approach or even a vision) – and if you are surrounded by people who share your values this is much easier to achieve. For me, while there seem to be several „whys“ that can spark my passion, it is becoming more clear to me that there is a specific type of people that I click with particularly well and that I would happily work or surround myself with again. So in 2018, I will definitely continue my quest for „my tribe“ 🙂


I wish you a fabulous new year filled with joy and moments to pause and refocus on what truly matters to you.


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Tanja Lau
Product Leader, Speaker, Consultant & Entrepreneur

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