What is Unbox?
Unbox is a day for product managers to learn from each other and hone their skills to build great products. There is little formal education for product management, and at Boston Product we’ve learned that the best way to help people improve is to get them in a room with other high-caliber PMs.
We’re all about elevating frontline PMs—the ones embedded with engineering teams, talking to customers, querying databases, and owning the backlog. We believe that when PMs succeed, our city prospers.
It was the best and most useful event of its type that I’ve ever attended! (And I’ve been to a bunch)
Huge shout-out to Boston Product and #Unbox2017 for the diverse panelists and to Boston’s technology scene for fostering an inclusive community.
This is the most introvert friendly conference ever. Kudos Boston Product, I haven’t needed to go hide in the bathroom 🙌
I’m absolutely on my own in product where I am and appreciated the added perspective and reassurance that I am, in fact, doing good PM work.
What should you expect?
We’re focused on addressing the needs of experienced product managers looking to get to the next level in their careers. Expect lots of collaborative discussions and smaller workshop sessions dedicated to the issues and skills that matter most for rising product leaders.
We’ll also have games and other activities available to attendees whenever you need a break. You can’t spell “cross-functional” without “fun!”
If you are a new or aspiring product manager, you’re still welcome to attend. Unbox will be a great way for you to see what awaits you in your new career.
What's on the agenda?
Session: Artificial Intelligence is transforming almost every kind of product as innovative techniques receive deserved attention. But careful leadership from Product Managers is crucial in turning that innovation into something that’s not only valuable but that also respects your own values. Dave will equip us with frameworks to identify where AI can impact our products in the ways we want and to maximize that impact throughout the product life cycle.
Bio: Dave has been building AI-driven products for almost two decades. He gives leadership to machine learning (ML) efforts at Spotify Boston where he led development of a two-day course in ML for Product Managers. Previously he was Vice President of Engineering at Basis Technology. He earned a Master’s degree from the University of Cambridge (UK) and two Bachelor’s degrees from Rice University.
Session: Ample research shows that diverse teams are better at solving complex problems and dreaming up creative solutions. In short, diverse teams outperform. In this session, Amy will offer specific tactics and resources to bring diverse perspectives to your team—and not just based on gender or skin color—as well as advice on how to make the business case for taking diversity seriously.
Bio: Amy is a seasoned executive with over 15 years experience in leadership roles at venture-backed companies ranging from early stage through high growth and ultimately exit. She has been responsible for strategic planning, capital raising, international expansion, team development and scale, finance and accounting, human resources, corporate governance and risk management. She has closed ten rounds of debt and equity financing from strategics, insiders, venture firms and institutional sources totaling more than $200M and has managed two acquisitions to close with values ranging from 10-30x revenue. In 2016, Amy was named Boston’s “CFO of the Year” by the Boston Business Journal. Amy is currently working on her 7th start-up, this time as CEO.
Session: At some point in your product career, you’ll report to someone who’s not in product. Maybe it’s your CEO, maybe it’s your board. That person might not “speak product,” and you’ll have to overcome that with your communication superpowers. Sam will lay out a handful of tactics for bridging that gap, providing examples from his own career.
Bio: Sam is founder and Chief Product Officer of the Boston-based startup InsightSquared. Before InsightSquared, Sam was VP Product at HubSpot, VP Product at BzzAgent, and on the initial team at Elance.com. His background also includes venture capital with Greylock Partners, the Algorithms group at Amazon.com, and management consulting with Booz Allen Hamilton. Sam has an MBA from Harvard Business School and a degree in Applied Math from Yale. He serves as an advisory Entrepreneur-In-Residence at HBS and is a guest lecturer on product management at both HBS and MIT Sloan. In his off time he dives shipwrecks in the New England area.
Session: Whether you love them or hate them, chances are you’re responsible for at least some aspect of your roadmap at work. Nichole will share a priority framework that orients to customer problems. Nichole has refined this approach over many years with companies of various stages in various industries. She’ll demonstrate how her team at BevSpot uses it today, and field questions on how to adapt it for you to use at your company.
Bio: Nichole Mace is the VP of Product at BevSpot. From her earliest days in product with Intuit, she’s been heavily focused on “doing right by the customer at every juncture,” even if it conflicts with other objectives. She has brought this approach to local companies including Constant Constant, Quilt, and Zipcar.
Nichole is graduate of the University of Delaware and has an MBA from Babson College. She is married with two children, a 12-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter, and is passionate about yoga, hiking, cooking, and all things tech.
Session: The mindset “just ship it” can be helpful because it biases towards action, but it can also orient teams around output instead if outcome. Briscoe will cover ezCater’s three core principles (1) small autonomous teams, (2) customer focused outcomes, and (3) rapid iteration to maximize the velocity of learning. Along the way, he’ll highlight specific aspects of the process that help teams get out of the weeds to focus on their customer mission, metrics, learnings, and plans for the future, offering insight into how you can bring continuous learning and measurement to your team.
Bio: Briscoe Rodgers is Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer at ezCater, the only nationwide marketplace for business catering. Briscoe is a 5x entrepreneur, with 3 successful startups and 2 of the other kind. Briscoe studied business and computer science at Carnegie Mellon University. And, yes, along the way, he earned a few credits in IMDb.
Session: PMs in early stage, venture backed startups face unique challenges. We’ll address board updates, roadmaps, prioritization and scaling challenges in this workshop led by a former PM / current VC at early stage fund Founder Collective.
Bio: Parul Singh is a former UX developer, product manager and founder, and currently a principal at Founder Collective, an early stage seed fund based in Cambridge which she has invested in and supported amazing products like Embark – the industry-leading DNA test for pets, Pillpack – the pharmacy of the future, and Vitae – a 3D printer for customized pharmaceuticals.
Session: Building a trusting environment within your team delivers measurable business value—and definitely doesn’t mean “going easy.” In this session, Emily will introduce a framework for thinking about how trust (or a lack thereof) manifests itself on your team. She’ll offer guidance on common questions like, “What is the business value in investing in trust on teams? How do we build trust quickly? And how do I help a team that suffers from mistrust?”
Bio: Emily oversees the Product Management teams working on the middle and bottom of Wayfair’s purchase funnel including the Browse experience, Product Detail Page, Cart and Checkout as well as the Cross-sell, Shipping & Returns, Financing, and Loyalty Program experiences. Emily has been with Wayfair for 6 years, scaling teams within Supply Chain, Site Merchandising and Product Management through rapid growth. Prior to joining Wayfair, Emily had a career in professional theatre production. She holds an M.B.A. from the Yale School of Management and a B.S. in Communication from Northwestern University.
Session: While your first user interview can be nerve-wracking and sweat-inducing, there are ways in which you can make it a more comfortable experience for both you and your interviewee. Jaclyn shares some guidelines to help you conduct effective and enjoyable interviews, and leads a discussion on how to course correct if things don’t go as planned.
Bio: Jaclyn leads the Design team at thoughtbot Boston, a product design and development consultancy with a 15-year legacy of working behind the scenes on your favorite web and mobile apps. Prior to thoughtbot, she made her way to product design via a long and winding road through project management to front-end development to UX design. She’s worked in different types of environments, companies, and teams, such as Ogilvy & Mather and Pivotal Labs. When she’s not busy diving into the psyche of your users, you can find her slapping the bass, painting a painting, or dining in a French Backyard.
Session: Product management is increasingly a data-driven role. We measure everything about our product and the experiments we conduct with user experience, pricing, market funnels, and more. But how do we measure our own performance? In this session, Oliver will help you answer this question, thinking through when to focus on team output and impact, and when to measure yourself differently. He’ll walk through team and personal OKRs and you’ll build some goals together for your next review.
Bio: Oliver Young is a Principal Product Manager at Sonos, where he is responsible for a large swath of the Sonos app experience and driving better, stickier user experiences.
Oliver has been a product manager for nearly a decade at Twitter, LastPass, Bluefin Labs, and Jive Software. During that time he has built consumer software, business software, ad tech, partner APIs, and internal tooling. He has managed small teams of product managers and lead large teams of engineers, QA, researchers, and designers.
Session: Product managers need to be comfortable with data to be successful. The amount of data we have access to is constantly growing, and the types of analysis we can conduct are becoming more sophisticated. Karen will share how she moved from Excel to Python for all her data needs, and offer some practical tips for anyone looking to level up their data skills.
Bio: Karen Rubin has spent the past 13 years building products and managing product development teams. She is currently working as the VP of Growth at Owl Labs, where they are solving the problems of remote team members everywhere with the Meeting Owl, a 360º video and audio device. Prior to this, Karen spent time as the VP of Product at Quantopian, a member of the investing team at Matrix partners, a product manager at HubSpot and a project manager at Promotions.com.
Session: Understanding your customer and what they need is directly correlated to a successful strategy. Too often people make decisions based on what they would want or what they “think” the customer would want, and you can’t rely on a data point of one. In short—you are not your customer. Vanessa will cover the best practices in gathering customer insights, building your research plan, and how to use the results to drive your product strategy forward, including how to get buy-in from executives, peers, and your team.
Bio: Vanessa Ferranto is an established software product management professional with experience in developing Product and Agile processes in growing B2B and B2C teams. She has a passion for solving complex problems with an emphasis on the user experience across native, responsive web and data-driven products. Vanessa has experience in a variety of industries including Financial Services, Healthcare, Transportation, Digital Media, Mobile Point-of-Sale and most recently in E-Commerce where she is currently the Senior Director of Product at The Grommet. Vanessa is a co-founder of the Boston Women in Product group, whose mission is to build a community that empowers and encourages women in the field of product management, marketing and user experience fields. She is also the co-creator of the Agile Product Open group, which focuses on bringing Agile principles to Product Management.
Session: As the saying goes, you only get once chance to make a first impression. Jonathan will cover the major trends he sees in user onboarding, walk through how to build a business case for onboarding, and explain the EMBED framework for developing a truly magical experience.
Bio: Jonathan is the co-founder & CEO at Appcues, a Boston-based startup that powers the user experience for millions of people every month. Before Appcues, joined the HubSpot product team as part of the Performable acquisition. He’s from a small town in Hawaii, doesn’t know Obama and has a degree in journalism. Among the Boston Product community, Jonathan’s most notable achievement is beating Sarah Downey in a pushup contest.
Session (subtitle – lessons learned fixing HealthCare.gov and other less-than-ideal situations): Sometimes we talk about product management as if it’s only about new things- but the skills of product management are also profoundly useful in other settings. Relentless prioritization, high quality and high velocity decisions, deep understanding of key details, stakeholder management and focus, strong communication- all of these are critical to turning around disastrous situations. This lightning talk will include a couple of stories which will help you think more expansively about the role you can play in your organization and the world.
Bio: Mina Hsiang is the VP of Product at Devoted Health, where she owns technology definition, strategy, and execution, with the goal of ensuring that seniors get the right care in the right place at the right time, all while being treated like family.
The common thread through her career is figuring out how to execute against big, multi-stakeholder visions while focusing the team on delivery and key priorities for maximum impact. The start of her government service was as a key player in the turnaround of healthcare.gov. Following that she was deployed by the White House to ensure the execution of significant initiatives including the Precision Medicine Initiative, the Million Veteran Program, the movement of health data from the Dept of Defense to the VA, and the continuation of healthcare.gov. She also led a strategic shift in technology at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, including a change to rapid and iterative development, modularizing tools and moving them to the cloud, and API-based real-time transactions.
Prior to government she led new products for Optum’s Analytics division, helping large health systems understand and change their operations and evaluate innovative products. Before that she was an investor who worked closely with early stage companies in enterprise software and healthcare, including medical devices. She started her career building novel medical devices for a variety of small companies.
Bio: Marco Morales is a product manager and designer focused on providing educational access at scale. Marco is currently on the product team at edX and a design / entrepreneurship instructor at Olin College. Marco has started and worked on a few startups previously, most recently BrightLoop (MassChallenge / Imagine K12), and Alleyoop (Pearson Education). For the past few years Marco has also been an instructor at Startup Institute and a mentor / advisor to early stage companies and non-profit educational ventures.
Session: Airbnb aspires for every trip to be great. To get there, they need to bake quality into their product. This means building a product that enables hosts to deliver amazing hospitality and exceed their guests’ expectations. In this talk Yasmin will explain how Airbnb thinks about this complicated problem and builds product solutions to solve it.
Bio: Yasmin Mandviwala is a Product Manager at Airbnb, where she focuses on building great products for hosts. She has held multiple roles at Airbnb related to strategy, operations, and international expansion. Yasmin also worked in Product at PayPal, where she launched a redesigned consumer experience on web and mobile. Prior to that, she worked in impact investing with Acumen Fund in India, and Technoserve in Rwanda.
Yasmin started her career as a management consultant at McKinsey. She holds a BA from Dartmouth and an MBA from Harvard. Yasmin currently lives in San Francisco with her husband, and enjoys cooking experiments, adventurous travel, and terrible jokes.
Bio: Greg is an EdTech product manager and a co-organizer for Boston Product. He helped plan last year’s inaugural Unbox and had so much fun (after all the work was done) that speaking this year seemed like a natural next step.
Session: A look into product management’s critical role in products that impact society, weaving in topics like legal and regulatory considerations, human rights, accessibility, ethics, social responsibility, inequality, and race.
Bio: Kathy Pham is a product leader, computer scientist, and serial founder who has held roles in product management, software engineering, data science, people operations, and leadership in the private, non-profit, and public sector. Her work has spanned Google, IBM, Harris Healthcare Solutions, and government at the United States Digital Service at the White House, where she was a founding product and engineering member. Kathy is currently a senior fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School where she is also a lecturer for Product Management and Society. She is the founder of the Boston Chapter of Women in Product, the Cancer Sidekick Foundation, Team Curious, and Unite for Sight southeast. She is part of the ProductTank leadership team. Kathy serves on the advisory boards of the Anita Borg Institute and the “Make the Breast Pump Not Suck” initiative. She also advises startups, conferences, and non-profits on hiring, building teams, and community inclusion.
9:00am: Check-in and breakfast
9:45am: Opening remarks
10:00am: Morning sessions
12:30pm: Break for lunch
1:45pm: Afternoon sessions
5:15pm: Closing remarks
What will you learn?
Managing Your Executive Team
Prioritizing Customer Problems on Your Roadmap
Using AI Responsibly and Intelligently
Building Diverse Teams
Bringing User Research Into Your Product Strategy
Leveling Up Your Data Analysis
Measuring Yourself as a Product Manager
How to Nail User Onboarding
Outcomes Driven Product Management
Unbox gives you the chance to connect with the city’s best product managers from high-growth companies. These are the people building the products that fuel the growth of the next generation of pillar companies, successful exits, and future founders.