I decided to take a page from my buddy Rohan Rajiv’s playbook, and reflect on the books I read this year that really resonated with me. They are:
1. Inspired: How To Create Products Customers Love by Marty Cagan: This book is about nine years old, but it still totally nails the contemporary issues that product managers (PMs) face. What should be the nature of the relationship between product management and marketing teams? What about product management and engineering? How can PMs really understand customers, assess new opportunities, or recruit development partners? It’s all addressed in this book from a very practical perspective. There’s a new edition out that came out this month which I’m definitely looking forward to reading.
2. Daring Greatly: How The Courage To Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead by Brene Brown: Since I watched her insanely popular TED video, I’ve become a huge fan of Brene Brown and her work around vulnerability. This books dives into how to use vulnerability in key aspects of our daily lives, just like the title says :). A key learning for me was that having the courage to be vulnerable is not a sign of weakness; it is a sign of strength. Also, a popular but counterproductive way for us to deal with our shame is to look for and judge people doing worse than us in that area of our lives (parenting is a great example). Finally, when we take the time to reflect on the reasons why we feel shame, we usually realize that things aren’t as bad as we think. Great book!
3. Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time by Jeff Sutherland and JJ Sutherland: Most product teams today build their products using some variation of scrum, which makes this book quite relevant as it addresses how to get product development right using scrum. The book contains lots of good war stories about the scrum-adoption journey of very different organizations (I really liked the FBI Sentinel story), but the key insight for me was that great product teams are autonomous, cross-functional, empowered and goal-oriented.
That’s it! Cheers to a New Year, and to continuous learning!
I thought it’ll be a good idea to end the year by sharing some pretty impactful videos regarding leadership and personal development that I’d come across this year. I’ve always preferred videos to books because they’re easier to consume. Also, there’s something to be said about a speaker’s charisma which may not be captured in a book. These videos had at least one message that resonated strongly with me and I hope they do the same for you too:
1. Brene Brown – The Power of Vulnerability: This is a very popular TED video which most people might have already seen. Interestingly enough, I had to see it a few times before I really really got the gist of it.
Big Idea: This video has so many good ideas that revolve around how we need to be vulnerable if we want to live a full and meaningful life. One key message that stood out for me is that if we want to connect with those around us (spouses, siblings and colleagues), we need to let ourselves be really seen. This means that we need to be authentic. Another idea that I really liked was that we need to move away from thinking that we’re not smart, rich or interesting enough in certain situations to believing that we ARE enough.
2. Jim Collins – Drucker Day Keynote: I stumbled upon this one on YouTube and really loved it. If you don’t know Jim Collins, he’s a Stanford Business School grad and professor who wrote two business classics: Good to Great and Built to Last. This was his keynote address at a celebration of another management guru: Peter Drucker. If the management stuff bores you, I’ll skip right to the 47th minute to get the personal leadership ideas that he shared for consideration by younger folks.
Big Idea: The ten ideas that he shared towards the end of the talk are pretty awesome. The one that resonated with me the most was this: the fact that an opportunity before you is a once in a lifetime opportunity is a fact, but not a reason for you dive in. Carefully unplug from the opportunities that distract you.
3. Clayton Christensen – How Will You Measure Your Life: I saw this video for the first time in 2012, and blogged about it then. I decided to add it to this list because it is that profound.
Big Idea: Most of us don’t plan to be broke, ill or have poor relationships with the people we care most about. Instead we unknowingly prioritize our lives using a short term focus that sets us on this self destructive path.
As always, I’d love to thank you all for visiting my blog and checking out what’s going on in my head. Here’s to a fulfilling and growth-oriented 2016!
Last week I went to Cambridge, Massachusetts for the Africa business conference organized by the Harvard Business School (HBS). As this was my first time in Cambridge, I spent the first day of my trip going around and trying to get a feel of this historic city. Unfortunately, Cambridge’s weather was just as bad as Chicago’s so I was not too excited about my freezing tour. Notwithstanding, I did experience a lot of cool historic and current sites and sounds; the computer science building at MIT was one of them:
As expected, HBS was able to deliver some African heavyweights as keynote speakers at their conference. My favorite was Okechukwu Enelamah, the founder and CEO of Africa Capital Alliance, a leading private equity firm in Nigeria. The best part of his keynote was when he spoke about the difference between mentorship and sponsorship. Paraphrasing, a mentor will provide you with guidance while a sponsor will expend his or her economic, political or social capital to see you succeed. In his case, his sponsor was his former boss who not only coached him but also recommended him for admission to HBS at a time when going to Harvard was mostly unheard of for Africans. This story really got me thinking about two things: how can I get sponsorship in my own career, and how can I give it?.
The conference had a variety of panels covering an array of topics from agribusiness to tertiary education in Africa. My favorite was the panel on women and leadership as it was literally “star studded”. My two coolest people on the panel were Ibukun Awosika – a serial entrepreneur and business leader in Nigeria – and Ory Okolloh, a Harvard alum and former policy manager for Africa at Google. Ory actually has a cool TED talk about the African story which you can check out here.
Mrs. Awosika really set the audience on fire with her passion and practical insights stemming from years of experience as a business leader, wife and mother. One interesting piece of advice which she gave to the ladies and I’m paraphrasing loosely was: if you are dating a guy, do not try to become the woman you think he wants you to be. Instead, tell him your plans and ask him about his. If they don’t match up and you decide to end the relationship, know that you have saved yourself and that gentleman a huge amount of frustration in the future.
Apart from the keynotes and panels, another interesting part of the conference was the opportunity to network with a wide variety of Africans currently residing within and outside the US. On a personal note, I was able to connect with people I had met while studying for my undergraduate degree in Nigeria, and had not seen for close to 10 years! This was really exciting, and I was really glad that I got to be part of this large gathering of Africans talking about Africa.
As one of my greatest passions is education, I was easily attracted to this video that addresses how learning is being revolutionized by technology.
The talk really resonated with me because I have experienced first-hand how a simple combination of:
- Web technology
- Video and
- The will to learn
can create endless opportunities for learning and development. By using free tools like YouTube, TED Talks and iTunes University, I have learnt about various topics in business, technology, and personal development from eminent personalities like:
- Clayton Christensen – A professor at Harvard Business School,
- Paul Otellini – The CEO of Intel, and
- Jeff Immelt – The CEO of GE
- Jamie Dimon – The CEO of JPMorgan Chase
- Jim Rohn – An acclaimed personal development author and speaker.
While I may never meet any of these people in real life, they have all taught me important lessons for my career and personal life. It really is a brave new world people. What do YOU want to learn?