Putting it Together

the intersection of business, design, and technology


Having a mandate to make tools accessible to all has meant that my team needs to create clarity with good design and employ a variety of accessibility techniques. This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list but these are some simple choices to keep in mind that will help keep your web pages readable for everyone:


  • Use clear and simple language
  • Ensure that text and background colors have sufficient contrast for legibility
  • Use relative font sizing to improve visibility on different devices
  • Avoid images to display text or unnecessary animations
  • Never convey information with color alone to emphasize or highlight text
  • Create proper headings and a logical tab order allowing screen-readers to easily bypass information
  • Ensure all images have alt text to convey equivalent information
  • Simplify table structures and avoiding complicated nesting
  • Use aria attributes strategically so a variety of screen readers can properly interpret different elements
  • Use native HTML elements because they give you focus, keyboard support, and built-in semantics

One less keystroke

Dear VIM users,

:x does the same thing as :wq

You’re welcome.




As an engineer, I can have a hard time with this very important product management technique. We’re driven to seek elegant, flexible solutions, test thoroughly, take time to refactor, and leave a code base better than we found it. But sometimes our perfectionism can keep features from making their way out the door.

Truthfully, timeboxing can be your best friend if you let it. The time limits forces you to ignore distractions and prioritize work. It keeps those perfectionist tendencies in check, and limits the amount of time spent on low-value activities.

The constraint ensures that the team is building and delivering the most valuable work as soon as possible and those less critical tasks are left to the end. Sure it may mean that some requirements won’t get implemented but what gets shipped are the most vital requirements.

I found The Ultimate Agile Planning Handbook to be a good read on the subject. Check it out.

A Product Manager’s Job

My mentor recently sent me this slidedeck from Josh Elman. I had some takeaways…

  • The most important thing you do is document decisions. Follow-up notes usually take longer than actual meetings
  • Talk often about the bigger vision of the company
  • Identify metrics to demonstrate impact
  • Communicate often the value target the product delivers to users

…which led to a pretty interesting conversation about Product Management.

It is the PM’s job to aggregate, study, distill and understand the needs of the users.  The more effective you are in making clear what the problem to solve is, the better the team is at solving it.  Product insight and market awareness is key.

Ask your team, what can I do to make your life easier? Everyone on the team should understand what is important, what isn’t important, what the guiding principles are, and what key tradeoffs are being made.

The mark of a great PM is that the team should understand what they are doing well enough that if you get hit by a bus tomorrow, the team still ships a great product. Find some chaos, make order out of chaos, make yourself unnecessary, then go find some more chaos.

Think about your own personal goals: What is one thing you do really well that you want to continue to do? How are you going to stay in the habit of doing that? What is one thing you need to improve at? What steps are you going to take to get better, and how are you going to measure your progress?

What do I build?

Last night, I attended a class at General Assembly on Validated Learning to help you determine if a new product idea is worth pursuing. As an engineer, I learned about similar processes working in an agile environment where we would regularly implement and enhance features through iterative sprint cycles. It feels like the same principles really.

To validate your product idea, you identify your assumptions. Starting with your riskiest assumptions first, you determine the metrics that mean your assumption is correct.

Test your assumption. If you are successful you move on to the next one. If you are unsuccessful, you revisit by either re-evaluating the metrics, the implementation of your test or the assumption itself. Rinse and repeat. This is called the Build, Measure and Learn Loop.

The idea is to catch missteps early. If an assumption is wrong, you want to find out early so that you can course correct before you’ve invested too much time, money and effort.

So what sorts of questions do I ask to help me understand my assumptions and test them out?

  1. What is the problem you are trying to solve?
  2. Is this problem painful enough for users that they would be willing to pay for your solution?
  3. Does your solution actually do what you claim?

So how do you validate if your solution is actually a problem that needs solving? You need to talk to people to understand their existing process. Have them describe their work flow for you and ask about where the pain points lie. Folks might not know what they need but they do know what they don’t like.

Once it looks like you’ve got a solution, you want to find people or companies who might be willing to pay you to take their pain away. One low cost way folks vet out this assumption is to create a google form or a landing page to collect email addresses and generate a customer list to gauge interest. Your landing page is also a great opportunity to start collecting data about your customers like capturing the keywords folks are using to find your website.

Awesome, now you’ve got some interest but is this really a business? Test things out as simply as possible with your early adopters and confirm if your users are willing to use your service again. If customers are coming back, then you’ve got something exciting.

To me, this sounds really similar to  the way engineers iterate towards successful features and how we’ve been working at product here at MYH.  But as I was digging around for more substance, I came across a post from Amy Hoy who I’ve been following for many years.  I really love the way Amy has always been able to communicate her business advice and experiences in a focused and digestible way.  I think it’s her designer background that helps make her ideas really pop.  Checkout https://unicornfree.com for more.

PM Manifesto

An awesome product manager colleague sent this around today.  Imma gonna decorate my desk!

PM Manifesto

PM Manifesto

Smith College Leadership Consortium

This summer, I had the opportunity to revisit my alma mater and attend the Smith College Leadership Consortium. It’s a custom designed leadership program specifically designed to develop and advance women in business.

Faculty from Harvard, Wharton, and Tuck business schools and other thought leaders led interactive sessions focusing on business and wellness topics. I learned about business strategies, negotiation, communicating vision and forging stronger relationships on my team and at the company.

The all-woman environment at Smith focuses on the unique needs and challenges faced by women in business. Having spent the last few years organizing various technology meet-ups, I was already aware of the dynamics of a mix gender group and how the conversation changes drastically when the men are absent.  And I appreciated how this program allowed me to hear candid stories of accomplished, successful women navigating tricky politics in the workplace.

I was most surprised to hear that the majority of women have children and are the breadwinners in their families. Even more surprising was that these women are managing their families with the support of their stay at home/ part time working husbands. …And here I thought I was an anomaly.

This program was developed to help companies develop, retain, and advance female talent and promote inclusive leadership. Like many women, my focus can be narrowed to the goals of my product and team rather than forming a broader vision to create impact across the company. And I found it interesting to consider my own career from the perspective of creating a personal vision and strategy.

We’ll see if my learnings make me a better product owner and leader, but the shared experiences, personal connection, candor and trust I experienced in this women-only program felt truly transformative.

Talk early and often

Hard conversations turn into easier ones if you have them early enough.

Sunday in the Park with George

Bit by bit,
Putting it together…
Piece by Piece-
Only way to make a work of art.
Every moment makes a contribution,
Every little detail plays a part.
Having just a vision’s no solution,
Everything depends on execution:
Putting it together-
That’s what counts!

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