Welcome to the Tech for Non-Techies podcast

Do this before hiring developers

Money isn’t enough to hire the best product teams. If you want to hire great people to build your product, you need to convince them that your vision has potential. To do this, techies and non-techies alike need to come prepared.

Learning notes:

  • A product is a solution to a problem someone is experiencing. You use Uber to get from A to B, not because you want to use an app.
  • Great outsourced product teams like the Evil Martians will question your assumptions and want to validate your idea. If a product team doesn’t ask you any questions and just wants to take your money, they are probably not very good, and so you should not work with them.
  • To prepare to work with a great product team, research the problem you are solving and your target users. This research will also be useful if you are fundraising or applying for accelerators.
  • User and problem research is also relevant if you want to get a job in a tech business, invest in tech or lead digital transformation. This...
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Break Into Tech: three examples of successful career transitions

The number of technology oriented jobs is predicted to rise to 190 million in 2025, according to Microsoft. But, if you're a non-techie, how do you get in on that?

In this episode, you'll hear how three people transitioned into successful careers and tech, and learn how to apply their tactics to your career transformation.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • To succeed in tech as a non-techie, you need to learn core technology concepts and understand how they translate to business outcomes and user needs. You do not need to retrain as a coder.
  • There are more ways to be part of the tech boom than you think. For example, if you're a marketing expert, you could run a marketing company, which only serves tech clients. 
  • Transitions into tech often have an interim step, like volunteering for a start-up or helping a product team do user feedback. You can use this interim step to build your network, learn about new opportunities and add a tech position to your LinkedIn profile.
  • Listen...
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How to solve the right problem

95% of new products fail, according to Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen. But, usually this isn't because they are badly made, but because they don't solve the right problem.

Before you delve into product development, define the problem you are solving. In this episode, you'll learn from Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg, author of What's Your Problem and Innovation As Usual, about how to reframe problem solving in business and in life.

Learning notes:

  • Non-techies can play an important role on product teams by being focussed on the problem they are solving, because they are less likely to get stuck in the weeds of building.
  • Not all problem solving needs fancy technology. Often, small changes in design can have a big impact, at a much lower cost. 
  • Being focussed on the problem is vital at the start of product development, and as your product matures. Keep analysing how people use it to see if you're still solving the right problem.

To learn key technology...

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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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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 To Hire Product Teams: Outsourcing vs In-House

Hiring developers and designers to build your tech product is always risky, because as a non-techie, you're hiring people to do things you don't know how to do.

Is outsourcing more risky because you're far away from the team? Or is in-house more risky, simply because it usually costs more? Listen to this episode to find out.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • Always get employees and contractors working on your products to sign over the Intellectual Property to the company. If a person or a firm is refusing to sign an IP Agreement, this is a bright red flag.
  • In the early stages of product development, your job is to test ideas, get an MVP out there and get initial traction. The focus should be on doing this as quickly and cheaply as possible, which often means working with an outsourced product studio in a cheaper geography.
  • After you've proven market need, you can hire in-house to scale the product.
  • Right at the start of product development, you don't know what tech...
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What on Earth is growth hacking?

Why do some products go viral and others die a quiet death? The answer lies in growth hacking. 

Growth hacking is a type of marketing that combines working on the product, which is an inside job, and working on promotion, which is an outside job. It is a new discipline born with the tech sector, and growing in popularity today.

Learning notes from this episode:

    • The Dropbox growth hacking case study is still seen as the Holy Grail in the sector. The team created a double referral program to grow 3900% in just 15 months.
    • A growth hacking effort is always done by a multi-disciplinary team, and will often involve a product manager, a designer, a community manager, engineers, someone with a marketing or PR background, and maybe a data scientist.

    • Traditional marketing is outside facing: billboards, TV ads and articles in the press.  Growth hacking is different because it looks at the inside of the product, and adjusts it to grow users and revenue.

    • PR...
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How to make a prototype for your product: The Sprint Method

Making a prototype is a key step in your journey in bringing your tech idea  to life. Begin with UX research, which we covered in last week’s episode.

With your research done, it’s time to move on to making a “fake product," which you will test with real users to see if there is enough demand to invest in creating the real thing.

To do this, Sophia takes you through the Sprint method developed by Google Ventures. Using this method, you can have a tested prototype in just 5 days.

 

Learning notes from this episode:

  • The aim of a prototype is test the key assumptions you are making about users and their behaviour.
  • Even the greatest prototype is usually very far from a plan that could be given to developers to code. For example, an app prototype from a sprint usually does not contain screens like the setting screen, where you can manage your account, or designs to reset a forgotten password.
  • Book 5 people to test your prototype. Research...
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How to make a prototype for your product: start with research

The prototyping process is the first step in the product development journey. To go from idea to live app, site or algorithm, you need to test it with target users.

A good prototype can get you funding, but more importantly, it can show you whether the concept is worth pursuing in the first place.

One of the biggest mistakes non-technical founders make is hiring developers before they have a tested prototype. Listen to this episode and avoid this costly mistake.

 

Learning notes from this episode:

  • The prototype serves as an illustration of your product: it looks and feels like an app / site, but you don't need to write code to make it.
  • Algorithms in their simplest form can be tested using a spreadsheet .
  • The design process consists of 4 phases: discover, define, develop and deliver
  • To make a prototype, start with research: "Design is not just about how to build a solution, but whether a problem needs solving in the first place. Before working on prototypes and wire frames,...
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What's technical debt and why should non-techies care?

If code gets written, that usually means that there's technical debt. If it isn't dealt with regularly, the product doesn't work properly, engineers leave and you'll have a rebellion on your hands.

In this episode, you'll learn from Alexandre Omeyer, founder of Stepsize, the core concepts that non-technies need to know about technical debt.

This is must know concept for founders, product managers and smart investors.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • Technical debt is the mess that gets left over from writing code and should be regularly cleaned up in order for the engineering team to work properly.
  • Alexandre suggests thinking of the tech development process like a restaurant kitchen. Having spillage and potato peels dropping on the floor is a normal part of the cooking process. But if you do not have a regimen to clean up, you will end up with a filthy kitchen that will affect your food (i.e. your product) and your customers will get sick.
  • Non-techies need to know that technical...
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