Last week, Product Communications Associate Isabel Campanelli attended Women 2.0 HowTo, the largest conference for women involved in the areas of technology and entrepreneurship. Attendees and panelists — which ranged from tech professionals, designers, marketers, investors, engineers, and those with entrepreneurial dreams — engaged in conversations surrounding key issues facing entrepreneurs today: how to scale, how to envision, how to build, and above all, how to succeed. Find out what Isabel learned in each of these four categories in her event recap below — and if you attended too, tell us what you thought of the conference in the comments!
How to Scale
Many of Mavenlink’s customers are entrepreneurs; they’ve founded agencies, firms, and professional services companies. A huge part of starting your own company is the ability to scale your team for growth while remaining profitable, and this conference touched on a few strategies and techniques that companies can use for scaling, hiring, and building quickly and successfully – from growing your customer base, choosing the right partners, building business models, and more. These practices are incredibly useful to the tech world, but just as applicable to those in other industrie.
When it comes to scaling for growth and adding to your workforce, Kathy Savitt, CMO of Yahoo! had some inspiring words on what to remember when hiring quality employees: every hire ties back to who the company is going to be. She made the point that the DNA and culture of a company is always going to rest with its employees, so you should hire really smart, motivated, capable, bias to action people. It will be tempting to hire someone with a lot of expertise, but hiring people who have the ability to learn quickly is better than someone who has all the experience. “Hire people who are passionate — hire missionaries not mercenaries.”
How to Envision
This conference was as much about growing a business as it was about growing as an individual. “Make the right decision not the perfect one” was something Kathy Savitt said that has stuck with me. To me, this phrase means making smart, strategic decisions and accepting that perfection is a learning process, not a first time result.
“Make the decision in the best interest of your customers and if you fail, that’s ok. Listen to your customers and try again.” — Kathy Savitt, CMO, Yahoo!
Sometimes, we can spend so much time on something that really doesn’t need to be perfect, burning unnecessary time, money, and relationships in the process. To assess whether something is a worthwhile investment, Kathy suggests that you “make the decision in the best interest of your customers and if you fail, that’s ok. Listen to your customers and try again.” This resonated with me because listening to our customers is a daily practice at Mavenlink.
How to Build
Jocelyn Goldfein, former Director of Engineering at Facebook covered this topic, saying “it’s one thing to have an idea. Another to build it into an MVP or early product, one that helps you discover how your users interact and engage.”
At Facebook, one of their mottos is, “move fast and break things.” That might sound scary to the average customer, but what she means is that by letting the team get in the weeds through iteration and quickly writing new code, inevitably that code will break and by fixing it, you will learn the most.
“it’s one thing to have an idea. Another to build it into an MVP or early product, one that helps you discover how your users interact and engage.” — Jocelyn Goldfein, former Director of Engineering, Facebook
At Mavenlink, our engineers do something similar — it’s called test-driven development. This means we write tests to validate how a feature should work before we write the code for the feature.
To satisfy the product requirements, the engineers have to make sure that their code passes the tests that they wrote for the particular feature, as well as all the tests that have already been written for other feature development. Our tests help us move quickly because they identify whether development broke something well before we ever ship the final product to our customers.
Jocelyn also talked about Facebook’s culture of rapid feedback where they make sure that engineers are given as much information on the future of a feature as possible so that the engineers aren’t making shortsighted development decisions that could limit future functionality. At Mavenlink, our collaborative culture ensures that our engineers get the full picture, too.
How to Succeed
Another example of a customer-focused leader is Laura Klein, the author of UX for Lean Startups, which she co-wrote with Eric Ries of The Lean Startup. Laura stressed the importance of using data and customer feedback to help figure out what makes a happy, repeat customer.
For example, if customers are going through a product’s sign-up flow, what will make them continue all the way through? What does it look like? Then continue engaging with your customers to find out what is getting in the way of their experience. Throughout this customer engagement process, finding out what will retain them as a customer forever is the holy grail.
To find the answer, Sara Haider, Android Lead at Secret, recommends “putting the customer first because it also helps you build a better product.” It’s important to define what a healthy user is, know the conversion process, and learn how people use your product so you can test it appropriately. Go after people who use your product a little and then dropped off: Why did they sign up? What did they expect? And why haven’t they come back? This is where you will get the most critical feedback.
I enjoyed networking with other like-minded individuals at this conference, and the one-on-one mentorship lunch sessions were a great place to dive deeper into the conference topics. I also really enjoyed meeting a new group of women in my field who are truly inspirational and accomplished. I would recommend this conference to aspiring entrepreneurs, both women and men alike.
“Fail fast, fail often” has been a recurring theme for Silicon Valley in the past decade. After attending the conference, this theme (in my opinion) has evolved to mean accept failure, but also embrace resilience and learn from your mistakes.