Welcome to the Tech for Non-Techies podcast

How I got to the top in tech

Jennifer Byrne studied Psychology at university and went on to become the Chief Technology Officer of Microsoft US. Listen to this episode to learn how this liberal arts graduate transitioned into tech and became one of the most senior people in the industry. 

Learning notes from this episode:

  • "You have to understand the difference between acquiring digital context versus digital fluency. Context means seeing the bigger picture of how things connect together, but not necessarily understanding the detail," says Jennifer.
  • Jennifer says that it is impossible to know everything about technology, even when you are at the top. Instead, she says understand the broad context of how tech products get made and do deep dives into areas that interest you.
  • As a CTO you have to think strategically: what problem are we solving? How can technology be applied to this problem? 
  • Good CTOs must connect technology strategy to drive business decisions.

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Why Uber competes with Tinder and with chocolate

Consumer facing tech businesses like Uber aren’t just competing with other firms that provide a similar service. They’re competing with everything that vies for your attention.

This is why B2C tech businesses tend to be more innovative, better at design thinking and take inspiration from a wider pool than their enterprise tech counterparts.

Learning notes:

  • The Attention Economy refers to products which compete for consumers’ attention, which widens the competitive landscape exponentially. Uber isn’t just competing with Lyft, or your feet. Going out competes with staying in, so sometimes you’re choosing between an Uber to a party or Tindering at home. 
  • Smart B2B companies are taking inspiration from consumer innovation. The innovation team at Barclays asked if Domino’s Pizza could track customer orders, why couldn’t Barclays could keep borrowers up to date with the progress of their loans?  
  • If you’re working on...
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How smart start-ups and corporates hire product teams

What’s technology for? Tech products can make our lives better and make businesses a lot of money. But, without a focus on the user and on the business, technology is an academic project at best, or just an expensive hobby.

In this episode, you’ll hear from Elisabeth Bohlmann, VP of strategy at December Labs, a product and development studio that works with corporates like Google, and start-ups to validate ideas and build products.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • If you don't have a technical background, learning from other people who are succeeding in tech but aren't techies, is often the best way to learn. They can anticipate your questions and mistakes much better than someone who has been coding since they were 8.
  • Before hiring developers, always validate your ideas and create a prototype with designers. Design thinking is central to tech.
  • Whether you're working in a start-up or a corporate, think about business needs first and then find out...
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What Product Managers do and how to become one

Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, and Ben Horowitz, the co-founder of VC fund A16Z, both started their careers as Product Managers (PMs).

PMs rise to leadership positions in the tech sector, because the job combines user perspectives, business needs and technological capabilities.  Whatever you want to do in the tech sector, learning how product managers think will help you succeed.

Learning notes:

  • A product is a solution to a problem somebody is experiencing. Good product managers always focus on the user and the problem.
  • Product Managers lead developers, marketers and designers, but rarely know how to do all those jobs themselves. 
  • To lead the team successfully, product managers set product goals. This means telling the team where to go, not how to get there.
  • To get into product management, learn a bit, do a bit. Taking courses is useful, but make sure to also participate in making a product.
  • You can get involved in product management by...
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Why cloud computing isn't just for techies

You’ve probably heard the term cloud computing, but like most non-techies, you’re not sure what it means. In this episode, you’ll learn what it is and how businesses use it to solve problems.

You’ll learn from DJ Johnson, who works at Microsoft Azure. DJ started his career as an NBA player and transitioned into a career in tech.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • Cloud computing allows businesses to rent space to store data. Previously, companies had to store data on their own servers, which was much more expensive.
  • The two biggest players in cloud computing are Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure.
  • As a non-techie, first identify business problems and then see if technology can fix them.
  • For example, during Covid when suddenly many people ended up working from home, one of DJ’s clients suffered from major time lags in their communications. Their internal messenger service was taking 3 days to deliver a message! This was making customers...
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Product Management at Apple vs Amazon

Product managers combine user perspectives, business needs and technology capabilities in one job. But, what they do day to day varies widely. In this episode, you’ll hear how what PMs do differs between Apple and Amazon from Souvik Bhattacharya, who has worked at both.

This episode is for product managers, founders, investors and those who want to understand tech companies from the inside.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • Founders play the product management role in their start-ups, and venture capital funds often employ former PMs as investors.
  • What Product Managers do day to day depends on the life cycle of the product. For example, in the launch phase the PM role also includes product marketing.
  • Software vs. Hardware Product Management is incredibly different.  Hardware products, like those at Apple, take years to develop and incremental updates are typically not an easy option Software Product Management is much faster as changes can be made virtually and...
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How space tech impacts us all

Space tech developments aren’t just a battle between middle aged billionaires. Nor is it a Cold War leftover. 

The technologies we use every day to watch TV and hail a taxi rely on connections in space. As the cost of space tech falls, and VC investment in the sector rises, the opportunities for business and consumer innovation open up.

Listen to this episode with Dr James Lambert, Head of Operations at private space tech company Pulsar Fusion, to get an overview of this fascinating industry.

Learning notes:

  • The cost of getting satellites into space is falling, which means more companies are using space technology.
  • Space tech is particularly useful to scan images of the Earth to answer specific questions, such as: where shall we mine for gold?
  • The companies that can reduce the cost of getting satellites into space or connecting space hardware with Earth level software, are those getting the most interest from investors today.
  • Innovations by private space companies,...
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What data scientists do and how to work with them

Big data and predictive analytics can help you make profits, sell clothes and strike oil. But, unless you know how to ask data scientists the right questions and then use their answers, data are just a collection of meaningless facts.

Listen to this episode to learn what data scientists do and how to work with them.

 

Learning notes from this episode:

  • Every senior level professional today has to learn to speak tech: knowing the concepts of how digital products get made is now basic literacy.
  • Working with data scientists can be broken down into three steps: 1) ask the right question, 2) get insight 3) take action based on the insight.
  • Predictive analytics are based on past data, which does not make predictions future proof and does not take account of shocks to the system.

 

Enroll in How To Speak Tech For Leaders by 26 July 2021.

If you want to sponsor several employees in your team to take the course and want a group rate, email us on ...

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How To Measure Success In Your Produc‪t‬

If you don’t where you’re going, you’re not going to get there. Having a key goal in your product means you can lead a team, track your progress and invest wisely. 

Whether you're funding a product or building one, listen to this episode to learn how to set your product goal.

Key learning notes from this episode:

  • A product is a solution to a problem someone is experiencing. The goal of your product is to solve that problem.  
  • Different products focus on different metrics, because they are solving different problems. For example, Airbnb measures the number of nights booked, but Facebook focusses on daily active users. 
  • Product goals are not the same as business goals. Business goals relate to money, product goals relate to solving a problem. It is then up to you to figure out how to make money from solving the problem, and thus link product metrics to business metrics.

 

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What do tech CEOs actually do‪?‬

Whether you’re leading Netflix or a tiny start-up, you're going to develop similar skills. You will need to work with people who have different talents and skills to you, like your CTO or your tech lead.

Your job is to learn to ask the right questions and set clear aims, and then work with your team to help you get there. These are the same skills that great product managers and smart tech investors have mastered too.

Learning notes from this episode:

The tech CEO's job is to work with other people who have different skills to reach a clear business aim. It is not to supervise everything or do everything themselves. 

You can use technology and data to answer all sorts of business questions, such as:

  • Where shall we drill for oil?
  • Should we make more lipstick? 
  • How should we price our product? 
  • Who are our most profitable customers? 

In all of these questions, the aim is to make the business better, not to build tech tools for the sake of it.

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