Jen Morrison Hosts Christa Hill and Renee Matsalla
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[00:00:00] Jen Morrison: Hello, everyone. Welcome to another episode of the LIBI podcast. My name is Jen Morrison and I am the learning catalyst and lead program designer at InceptionU, and I'm really excited to have this conversation with two women that I have met in the past year, I want to say, and so we've connected off and on and I continue to be amazed and inspired and empowered, whenever I have the chance to have a conversation with them and, hear about the incredible work they're doing. So I want to do things a little bit differently, for the beginning of the podcast today. So Renee, and Christa are joining me, I'm going to actually have them introduce each other because they know each other so well.
And I thought that would be fun to try for this episode. So Renee, I'm going to have you go first and introduce Christa Hill.
[00:00:51] Renee Matsalla: Oh my gosh. I am so excited to introduce Christa. Yeah. So as you can tell, and people will know by the end of this, you know, Christa and I are really good friends. We've worked together for years now we've been in, we've been in a band together. Actually, we were in a band together at Benevity where we met each other. We had this, this event called rock, the Cosmo where all of our co-workers made bands together and Sylvia, Chris and I were in a band together. So we've seen each other through thick and thin.
And, yeah, so Christa and I, we met, at Benevity. So she was leading the, you know, our work with causes and with our finance side. And it was just, you know, we met there and we knew we were going to work together. And I just remember with Christa she's just stood out because she's so frigging good at what she does as a product leader.
so she, she basically led all of the most difficult products at Benevity and helped us to. Funnel billions of dollars to causes who deserved it. And so after she did that at Benevity, that's where we met, she went on to Morgan Stanley at work. She did, she built many products that were the first of their kind.
[00:02:08] Renee Matsalla: So she has. Amazing experience in APIs. She built the first ever public facing API that scales the administration of a corporation's lifecycle from private ownership to IPO it's not the only. first she's done there. And before that, she was even at Getty images, she's led teams all over the world, and now we're co-founders together at Tacit Edge Product Leadership, where we took both of our passions for this role and coaching people. And we help people become product managers, a hilarious, charismatic, and so empathetic. That's her secret sauce. She sees things in people that they don't see in themselves, and she helps them realize their true potential. It's amazing. It's a magical watching Christa work with people.
[00:03:02] Jen Morrison: Oh, I love that. Well, on that note, Renee's set the bar Christa so it is now your turn to introduce Renee Matsalla. Do you mind taking some time to do that?
[00:03:13] Christa Hill: I don't at all. it's really been my honor, and pleasure to be working with Renee and we co-found a Tacit Edge Product Leadership.
you know, just help bring what our secret sauce is as individuals together. Because as a team, we are like, there isn't anything that we can't see in each other that we can find as strengths and then leverage what we know about each other, and really bring into the real world, just with our imaginations and with some great goal setting and with our skills.
[00:03:43] Christa Hill: And so when I met Renee, years and years and years ago, I was actually on my way leaving that company and I sat her down. I said to her, I'm like, look, we didn't really get to work together the way I really wanted us to work, which means like the intersections of our projects never went the way that I really wanted them to.
So we could spend a ton of time together. I said, but don't forget me. I'm coming for you. I don't know when it's not obvious to me yet, but when I call we're going to do something huge and sure enough, I, you know, it was maybe about two and a half years ago I reached out and I said I think I've figured it out, what we're going to do and it, and it looks a little bit like this.
And now of course, what we've created is, is quite different than what we originally thought we were going to do, but it started us on the path. And before that, I mean, I had a front row seat to Renee and her product leadership, you know, bringing some of the most successful products on the front end that Benevity ever had.
Right. Maximizing the power of matching between peers, their companies. Out in the world, accelerated the work that I was doing under the hood to make sure the mechanics were there so that the money could move and get around the world quickly. So it really was a game changer for the two of us on our expertise, just within that product line.
At that time, she was out there working on the hard issues, trying to bring so many great, innovations to workplace giving and the concept of diversity inclusion and belonging. She was at the ground floor of, and taught me new language in the workplace that I'd never had before. And that was one of the first things that really impacted me about the work that I did with Renee is that she, she took what I knew I had on the inside, around empathy building.
And she gave me new language, which got me curious to find out more and that I will, I will never be able to thank her enough work. So outside of that, even before that work, I mean, she was working in Berlin and San Francisco where she launched mobile monetization products used by Facebook, Google, and some of the world's most iconic, you know, game developers.
And now, I mean, here we are, we're, we're influencing that the tech ecosystem to help bring that, that concept of diversity inclusion and access to education. So all the things that we have built, we now have wanted to productize to bring product management to the masses and make it open to. And that's what we're doing.
[00:05:57] Jen Morrison: Well, boom, I feel like you both dropped the mic already. Christa. how would you describe Renee in three words? What would they be?
[00:06:05] Christa Hill: Like if there was a word that could like one word she has feels like overwhelming gratitude. If you know, Renee, the amount of gratitude that gushes out of her, just as a baseline.
Is above and beyond. And if you ever struggle with staying in a Headspace of gratitude, just hang with Renee for five minutes and you're like, you're back in there. So I know that was more than three words, but really that's, that's how I see her.
[00:06:29] Jen Morrison: Well, I, I think it's so lovely that you introduced each other and thank you for doing that.
It's way better than I could have done. So, really excited for, for the folks that are listening. I don't know if you can tell, but yeah. I'm having trouble sitting down. Like, I'm just so excited to talk to these two today. So I'm going to try to keep it kind of calm, cool, and collected, but I'm sort of fan girling on the other side here.
okay. So we're going to set the context for our conversation today, ladies. And, obviously you are leaders in product management and, creating space for learning and building and creating, in that area and the impact that it can have on the ecosystem. Before we dive into that, though, what I'd like to do is to have both of you think back to when you were kids.
[00:07:14] Jen Morrison: And I'm going to ask this a little bit differently than I've done in the past, and let's start with Christa. So, Chris, I want you to think about the people who love you the most. How would they have described you as a kid? And then do you recall any particular. Age or grade that you recognize things that you'd love to do or we're passionate about?
[00:07:35] Christa Hill: I, so I had a conversation with my mom about this cause she, she lives here with me and she, she gave me a very long list of things that describes not the view of my childhood, myself, obviously as children. We don't see ourselves the way that our parents see them. but she just basically described me as somebody who just was a doer. I just got curious. And then I just, I tried stuff and I did things and I was always busy. Busy with like a common theme. And as I would reach certain milestones and success, I just, I liked it. So I just pushed it even farther to see what else I could do. And I have to say, I've have had for those who know me and, you know, over the years, I've had a lot of different businesses.
I've run a skating school at a huge history of figure skating and competitive sports too, as well. And also working in the not-for-profit sector. Took me a long time before I reached the age where I knew exactly what I wanted to be. And for some folks, they know it when they're really young. And you would think that with my history and skating, I knew what that was really early.
But in fact, I think I was just really hooked on the success of it and just trying to do more and trying to do more. And I just deepened the art form within myself. And I just really enjoyed it, but it's not who I thought I was. And it wasn't until I was about 28. When I left the sport for quite a few years, then I wanted to go back and then created the skating school where I could give back and teach.
That's when I discovered what I wanted to do, that I knew, I love to get to a certain competency where I felt like I could teach it to others. And that's kind of the what's followed the cycle of my life is getting to a certain competency and then looking around, going, who can I bring with me? And that is essentially how I figured out what I really wanted to do in this world, but I was a pretty late bloomer, but I did a lot of really cool stuff in the meantime, but really didn't connect with my identity until I was nearly thirty.
[00:09:26] Jen Morrison: Right. It's so interesting that, that your mom shared that she saw you as a dooer and a creator and an explorer as well. I relate a lot to that. So, Renee, how about you, you know, the people that love you the most or knew you as a kid, how would, how would they describe you? And then also, you know, did you have particular things that you were curious or passionate about as a kid as well?
[00:09:49] Renee Matsalla: Yeah, it's so funny, so, like the way Christa's mom described her. Cause we both were like, oh my gosh, I have no idea how people would describe me like, I think of like my little nephews and I have so many words to describe them, but I'm like, I don't remember what I was like, sorry. I did the same thing.
And it was the same. The same thing. My mom was like, oh, you're a go getter. You just like decided you wanted to do something and you just did it. And you were always doing things. I was always, you know, outdoors having fun, being goofy, and I'm just like, oh, that's. The exactly the same thing. I that's exactly how I am now.
You know, I took a detour, in anxiety and stress, and that for a little bit, as many of us do, you know, in her teen years and early adulthood. And then we get back and find ourselves. And it's just so funny because yeah, I see that I'm more like myself when I was a kid now than, than ever before. And you know, that passion.
First came was, it was music. You know, I loved guitar. I loved, playing for hours, but similar to Christa, I didn't find my passion and still, I started sharing it with others and all through university, I tutored taught guitar. then. Again, got to competency with product management and learned as well that my passion is bringing others along and helping others, you know, realize the gifts that I've been able to realize in my life.
And then, so when Christa and I found each other, we're like, yeah, we have the, we have the same passion. Let's, let's make this happen.
[00:11:24] Jen Morrison: You know that, I don't know if you've seen like the gif with the two kids that are like these little kids and they haven't seen each other for a long time and they're running towards each other.
Do you know the gif I'm talking about? Where they like hug? I'm just thinking about that as you're both talking. which is that, which is really fun.
[00:11:40] Renee Matsalla: Every Friday after this to.
[00:11:41] Jen Morrison: Well there you go, oh my gosh. Well, I want to come and join that sometime.
[00:11:46] Renee Matsalla: Oh, any time. Open invite Jen.
[00:11:51] Jen Morrison: Okay. So it's so interesting because I relate so much to those pieces of both of you as kids.
And I, you know, before we started recording, you know, I was talking about how, these innate traits or characteristics or things that we love as kids can often get squashed in whatever way, whether it's through relationships or societal expectations or the shoulds of what we should be doing with our life. so I think it's really interesting. For the both of you. it was always kind of there, but it seems like it's almost been full circle and you know, the work that you do now, seems to really be leveraging those pieces that are so natural to the both of you. So on that note, I mean, you don't have to go through like a chronological order of what you did, but clearly your journeys, have been really interesting and you've done a lot of different things.
Were there some key learnings along the way that you want to mention or talk about that were really like critical to the next steps that you took. whatever those were. I hope that makes sense, but I'm just, you know, I feel like, I feel like that could be a whole other four-hour conversation about like, tell me about your journey, but what, like, are there particular moments for the, both of you that,stand out Renee I'm going to start with you for that one.
[00:13:07] Renee Matsalla: Oh, sure. Yeah, absolutely. You know, looking back there's, there's always those key, key moments where you're like, oh, I really realized something. So of course guitar was the first one started to be, you know, in bands around the city, having fun with that, but it never really felt quite right.
And I think, you know, I mentioned the, the, the stress and anxiety part of our early adulthoods that we all go through. Like, I wouldn't trade that for the world because I just tried so many different things and I tried marketing. I started in marketing. Really loved it. Didn't quite fit though I wanted to do more experimentation. I wanted to just try again, try more things are found in marketing. you really needed to be perfect before you launch something. So, but I also loved, you know, traveling loved being abroad. So I worked in Berlin, worked, in San Francisco and there, I learned just, you know, I can survive a lot.
It was tough, but I learned, okay, I can live in a country where I don't speak the language and I can learn enough to get by and I can try these different things. And, and then moving back to Calgary, and working at Benevity. I learned, I needed to just let go of that fear of failure and cause my desire to try new things was always kind of like tempered, like the joy was tempered by the fact that I had this fear and it was through Benevity that I was able to just say, you know what, that's it, I'm just going to try these things. And it was from working with people with, like with people like Christa that were like, no, it's okay, you can try these things.
And then the last thing was, I learned. You know, I knew my potential and I knew when it was time to do something on my own and to not let, what other people tell me. Define me. you know, I knew I was a coach. I knew I could really help people and I knew I needed to go and do that on my own and with an awesome co-founder.
So those were kind of those key moments that. You know, getting into music, trying different things, failing, being really scared in a new country, being really scared in a new role. Moving back, product management is not easy. It is hard and you have to just accept that perfection is not possible. And once I truly accepted that, my whole life completely changed.
Because I just said, I don't care. I'm going to try this. I'm going to try things. And again, it got back to who I was as a kid, just trying things.
[00:15:41] Jen Morrison: Oh that's so great. Okay. Krista, same, same to you. So like the key learnings along the way, are there any particular moments?
[00:15:49] Christa Hill: Oh there are so many standouts. I have to say. as I got older, you know, and I experimented in school and in the workplace, I was always super curious about technology and things that were disrupting, especially the banking system as working in the banks while I was going to school.
And so I was hearing about startups that were happening, that were moving money and for, you know, the very interesting ways that the internet was born of. I think we all know what I'm talking about there. And so I really. Got a line of sight to the fear that it was, bringing into some of our traditional systems and I was just hooked.
How could I like, could I get a job like that? Like I work in a bank, could I. You know, would they want my particular skillset? And so I was able to get in to a startup to experiment with some of those early, early, early wild, wild west, business models online. And from that point, you know, I just let it explore it even further.
Right. How could I bring knowledge of finance compliance and then turn that into. You know, working with teams to create working software. I couldn't believe how, how interesting it was to me. And then I took a pitstop and through other things in life happened and I was, you know, was into skating. I got my skating school off the ground and the, the rec center that I was, you know, coaching out of. We had amazing primetime ice that if you are in the world of trying to get ice times, you know that between four and six, multiple days during a weekday, and then Saturday mornings between nine and 12 is something you die for. Like you literally die for. And the, you know, we had no money in that rec center.
It was about to close. And so. You know, one night I was like, well, what could I do about this? How could I keep it open? I've got business acumen. I could do this. Could I run a rec center? And so I wrote a business case and presented it to the board. And the next week they threw me the keys and I was like, okay, now what? Software, right. I employed software to help me manage that facility and it saved it. It was a turning point, right? And that's when I knew the power of really amazing partners that could be, that could automate some parts of your job to free you up to do the things that are the real work out in the community or the real work out in the business world.
And so that was a huge turning point. But in the middle of that though, I had, I had my daughter and, you know, I became a single mom. And that was another major moment because I looked at what I was doing at the rec center, knowing that I was working around the clock because it was really intense. And I couldn't do that and raise her at the same time.
So, you know, we worked together to try and figure out what that could look like as I transitioned out of that role, just staying with the skating school. But, you know, there was a moment in time where I looked at her and I was just like, we need to build a life together. I need to make more money. I can do this on my own.
I don't have to be in a relationship to which brings me stability so that I can raise a kid and we can have a good life. We could actually, her and I just looked at her one day in her crib, sleeping, and I was like, we can do this, her and I. And so that was the beginning of me looking for more education around product management, within the community that I was working and volunteering.
So folks connected me with some recruiters that I've learned about the new roles. And literally I was, I was having dinner with some folks and one of them turned to me and said, Christa, you know, that there's roles in tech for people with social skills now. Right. I'll never forget this as long as I live.
And I was like, oh, that is so interesting. Tell me about those. And he described to me the product owner role at Getty images, and that was the first step towards where I am literally right now today with Renee. So I followed that and all the way through everything. One thing led to the next, and there was a lot of moments in that role with some organizations that as women in technology were really scary, for me. You know, in that point in time, it was not an overly safe place for women to be traveling and doing a lot of things. And we don't need to get into a lot of that, but you know, what really stuck out in my mind about that was that the next women behind me, I wanted it to be more inclusive and safer, for them to work and explore and accelerate their careers without the industry bias that, that Renee and I worked within. So everything we did had that eye of what's over our shoulder and who's coming in behind us. And how can we just make it a little less difficult for them than it was for us, because it doesn't need to be difficult.
It shouldn't be difficult. Right? And so that was really the key takeaway for a lot of my career. And, you know, the moment I sat in a meeting with Renee and she taught me the difference between feeling included and fitting in, and the difference between fitting in and belonging. And she taught me that I had no words or vocabulary for that.
And in that moment, I was like, I actually can just be me. And if they don't like it, it's okay. We're not a good fit. So in that moment I decided I was now just going to be me and I wasn't gonna try and fit in with my male peers. I wasn't gonna do what I thought they wanted me to do. I was going to follow my internal compass and that brought me to the next thing that I did.
And then I interviewed with that state of mind and got the next job saying these are my deal breakers. I need autonomy. I need to be myself. I need to practice product the way I believe it should be practiced. And also it's going to be contagious, get ready, but don't hire me unless you want that. So I was able to then reset the tone of what it was like for me to be in the workplace and it changed everything and sure enough, I've really realized my dream in the past two years.
I know it's been very difficult for a lot of folks in COVID. But it allowed me to experiment in ways, you know, that I've never known possible to create the life that I want for my child moving my, my mom in so that we can all be together and not have to worry about what's going on in the outside world, because we are here.
And I have, I can literally build a business with the best friend I've ever had in my life. And because of that, we can have the hard conversations where we always speak the truth. And because of that, we are building a wildly successful partnership and it is that all the journey. And there's so many things that have happened in the middle of that.
But those, those are really the highlights for me as to how, how this was possible and what I've listened to in those moments and what I did about it.
[00:22:20] Jen Morrison: It's so interesting to look back at our, our lives. I mean, I I'm, I'll be 41 in April and. You know, I don't know. It's I love that that you've shared what you have, because thinking back to my own journey and my own experience, everything, I don't know, everything creates space for something new, but the mindset and the awareness to pay attention, to be, to be listening. And I really love that you both talked about getting to this place of, I I'm going to be myself. And that's okay. And I want to find other people that want to work with me. You know, I want to find people that I want to work with, and I feel like that moment or that time period where that happened for both of you,
I think was really key. And I can relate a lot to that as well. Yeah. Any Renee do you have anything else you want to share?
[00:23:20] Renee Matsalla: Yeah, because honestly the, when you say, cause once you start doing that, the people you want to work with just start coming out. They're just everywhere. Like it, it changed like Christa and I found each other and we're like no we're going to be ourselves.
And we're going to be honest with ourselves and each other. And all of a sudden I'm only working with people I want to work with. And the people that, you know, we're, we're working with, through our business, through our course at SAIT around applied product management, we're all the same mindset of we're going to be ourselves.
We care about each other. We respect each other. So we don't have to worry about what other people are thinking about us. We know people respect us, we respect our students and they can experiment and try things and really discover what they love within the course. And that's what we're just aspiring to be in.
It's it's almost like why haven't we been doing this the whole time? Ha ha ha, Honestly ha ha ha
[00:24:23] Christa Hill: I know, and it, for us, like when we were in the industry, you know, working within other companies, we couldn't find anybody to hire. Right? Cause we were looking for attributes that were wildly coachable and even just the threads of folks that, that had similar inclinations to us is what we were looking for.
But then they didn't fit a model that the company wanted them to fit. And so therefore we were losing people in the screening process that would never get through that I would have been happy to hire and coach. And so that was the glaring problem that we just identified Renee. And I were like, we, We can do something about. Literally, if we put our minds to it, we could solve that or try anyways.
[00:25:09] Jen Morrison: So happy that you said that because I think, you know, the HR screening or the process of bringing people on to, organizations, companies, startups, whatever that is, can a lot of the time be a significant barrier to amazing people.
and I want, I'm going to pin that for a bit because I want to now dive into. You know, product management and you have started this company Tacit Edge, which is super cool. Where, where did the, the term Tacit Edge come from? I'm really curious about that before we talk about, you know, what product management actually is.
[00:25:41] Jen Morrison: Do you want to share with us, like the inspiration for the name of your company?
[00:25:45] Renee Matsalla: My gosh, that is the equivalent. It's totally like my name's this, your name is that let's combine it together. I did put a thought into Tacit Marketing and, because tacit knowledge, you know, that's what it is. It's the knowledge that just kind of gets somehow shared through osmosis.
and that's a lot of what we do at Tacit Edge. So I was Tacit Marketing and Christa had a business called Infinity Edge and we're like, well, wait a minute, actually. It kind of fits because it is that tacit knowledge that gives you the edge and that's what we're coaching. That's what we're working towards.
[00:26:26] Renee Matsalla: It's that, those experiences, that, those skills that you can't explain, but just makes you successful, like being yourself, like knowing what you're good at having a growth mindset, knowing what you want to work on, knowing how to ask for feedback, knowing how to lead and empower others. That's tacit knowledge. And that's what we're bringing.
[00:26:49] Christa Hill: And it's a deep, deep level of, of emotional intelligence that goes along with the foundation of the skills, these things together are literally the difference, in my opinion, between the best and the rest of product management, right. Anyone can take and we'll, we'll go into what product management is.
Cause I think that's really important, because I know there's a lot of weirdness and ambiguity around that, that subject. But we can define that in a second, but honestly, what made us wildly successful was the ability for us to stay with the problems that we were solving longer.
Then most folks, and to really use our emotional intelligence, to influence the room, to help us stay in those problems longer. It's not just us that needs to stay there. We have to, without having a direct reporting relationship to the majority of the folks that are responsible for our deliverables that make us successful.
And there's a reason why that has to stay that way. For sure. There's a lot of benefits, but to have that work for you, you need to have that deep, emotional intelligence to be persuasive, influential, and also inspiring that people want to get up and build the thing that you're building, because it's interesting and fun.
And they see the impact of something that they built out in the real world and they can see it live. They hear about it, and they're connected with the folks whose lives is changing. And that is really all encompassing of how we teach and the principles we teach.
[00:28:16] Jen Morrison: Oh, that's incredible. Okay. So let's dig into product management because this, this word I think gets, I don't want to say tossed around a lot, but it can get confused. I feel like it's easy to get mixed up about what it means. So what I'm actually going to do here is Christa. I'm going to have you share with the listeners right now. How would you, I want you to do it in, in a unique way? So how would you share what product management is with someone who is 10 years old?
[00:28:48] Christa Hill: So this is a great way to do this because I do have to explain to my family on a regular basis, what on earth I do, because of course they can hear me working all day. So it can sound like I'm working more with people problems than product problems.
So they get really confused as to what it is that I'm doing, but really how I explain it to my daughter, for instance, is I was able to write a book and I called it Violet's Virtual Cupcakes. And my daughter loved cupcakes. At that time she loved purple cause her name is violet. So I wrote a story that was about a little girl named Violet who wanted so badly for her birthday to have a cupcake.
That was a custom just for her had purple icing, have purple dough, had a gold wrapper, and then she wanted to do it all from her bedroom. So I walked her through a tiny story of what it would be like if she went on, she'd stole mummy's phone, without mommy knowing, and she opened up an app that looked like a cupcake on my phone.
Cause it just so happened that I had that. Okay. And she clicked on it and then it took her through all the steps of what kind of flavor she wanted, the kind of icing and then how it was going to arrive at her doorstep. We didn't worry about the money part cause that's too complicated. And it just showed up and how happy she was that she got her very own cupcake that afternoon.
And I said to her, I'm like, babe, this is in a nutshell, what mommy does. I figure out what you would want, what would make you happy? And what would solve a problem that you have? And we Renee and I would build something for you that would help solve that problem. And then after we built it, we would ask you how it made you feel and what you would have liked different about it.
And then we make those changes and we continue to build. She's like, oh, right. So essentially what I described to her was the build. Right. But she really got that and you know, a five to 10 year old, they're not really sure what happens behind the scenes. And so eventually expanded the story to include characters.
Once that she knew from the workplace, we have a beloved UX person, Bailey, that is a real, Violet, loves her. And so I described the work that Bailey would do in the app to make it so that it was really attractive and interesting to Violet, how she would pick the colors of the buttons and somewhere she would put them and then watch Violet use the app to see whether or not it was working the way Bailey thought Violet would use it.
And then I introduced her to another person who was a developer that she knew, right. And what the developer would be doing in the code. And then it's like a series of things that materialize these things on the screen. And so when I could relate it to people she knew and jobs that they had and how we intersected, then she saw how I fit into the big picture.
Right. And so that's essentially how I described it, but that also worked with my mom for the first time she got what I did too. And when I told the story, my mom was like, oh, so it doesn't matter. I think storytelling is such a huge part of our job. And when we have to figure out how to describe what we do, right?
We have to take a look at the person's experience, what they know of the world, what they're in, in our case, because we're heavily involved in technology, but product management is not just for tech is everywhere. How can I relate what I do to an experience that they have in their real life? And then I can use examples of how we would work together. And that's how I describe it.
[00:32:23] Jen Morrison: That's so cool. What an interesting way to have her connect with the work that you're doing and, and appreciate it and understand it and also probably get curious about it. thank you for that, Christa. Okay. Renee, how about someone? Who's like 30 or 40, like me. How would, how would you, how would you share it with me? How would you define it for me?
[00:32:44] Renee Matsalla: You know, it's a little, a little bit different because I find, you know, people who are in their thirties, forties, you know, they, we, a lot of us have been in the workplace. We work with products that we see every single day, but still it's like, I think about, well, what, what do you see every day that could have a product manager behind it. So for example, we're on zoom calls, you know, the effects that make my eyebrows look better or make my lips look like they have lipstick on, you know, as a product manager behind that, you know, Facebook it's even, you know, there's product managers, building our cars and thinking about what customers need, what they really want and how may we might be able to, to make that happen. So I start with kind of pointing out to people that there's a product manager behind every single product that you're using right now. And what that person is doing is they're identifying that customer need, and how we might be able to solve that, to make a business successful. And then we're articulating what success looks like, creating a vision around it and rallying a team to turn that vision into reality.
So what I like to tell people is it's the future of business and it's the future of entrepreneurship. That's what product management is and anyone can do it. Anyone can get involved in it. If you're creating a meetup, if you're creating a marketing campaign, that's meeting certain needs. If you're building a process, your a product manager.
[00:34:19] Christa Hill: And there's so many folks during COVID that, you know, experimented with entrepreneurship.
So we have an entire generation of folks that really went for it in this point in time, and now have identified that they could do it on their own. Right. And that I think when you meet that with opportunities, for education on how to refine those principles and to get strong on the foundational elements, instead of just winging it, because you don't have to.
Right. We, you don't have to make a ton of mistakes on the way to launching your own business. You can learn some basic things around risk reduction that focused on usability, feasibility, viability value, and morality of product builds, which is huge for us now, as we, we, we talk about what hit the news and product management over the past year.
And I think we can all say that there was a lot of stuff that came out about Facebook and Instagram and the impacts on children, you know, and this is a product management area. We have to be talking about these things. Right. And it's, I think that's probably what for the first time I saw on Crave, there was a show, I think it was called Scenes from a Marriage where the main character, she's a product manager.
And so first time I ever saw myself on TV, except I'm not her, obviously, because you know, single mom, but it was so interesting to see that now it's hitting the main screen. This is the opportunity awareness breeds interest. If we can meet that interest with education, how could we accelerate this competency, where we are.
[00:35:52] Jen Morrison: So on that note, I'm curious, because in conversations we've had previously, before today even, you both have mentioned, barriers or. The things that are getting in the way or creating unnecessary challenge for people to step into this work. Do you both want to share some thoughts around that barrier piece?
Because I think when it comes to the ecosystem here, that's a really important piece that I think we need to expand our awareness around and then take action to help address that. So, Renee, I'm going to start with you. what are your thoughts on the barrier piece?
[00:36:28] Renee Matsalla: Thank you so much for asking this question because in Alberta, you know, we're, we're still building our ecosystem and we don't have to put up the same barriers that maybe other ecosystems that are more mature have put up.
So right now, if you want to become a product manager in a lot of ecosystems, you have to get hired for the job and then you get get trained within the company. And that puts up a ton of barriers. So to learn these competencies, you have to first be hired and that doesn't, that just doesn't make sense.
You should be able to learn these, learn to be a product manager, learn entrepreneurship, learn these tactics just because you're interested. And what we've found is if you have to be hired first, we're hiring the same types of people. And we're overlooking the amazing folks that are out there in the ecosystem right now that actually have the experience we want.
So we think about new comers to Canada. They know, newcomers know how to thrive in ambiguity. They're entrepreneurial in nature, but they might not have the network to get hired as a product manager. What we're looking to do is to democratize the education. So people with those skills and ambiguity who know how to identify a problem and solve it, who are constantly solving problems, who are constantly looking for needs and adapting, they can get the skills and then they could get hired just because they know how to do this work and they are meant to be doing this work. So. That's what Christa and I, that's our that's our dream is that we democratize this. Anyone who's interested and has the skills can then learn the best practices and they can design our future because product management that we're designing the future.
[00:38:29] Christa Hill: Yeah. It's, you know, as Renee said it so beautifully, you know, democratizing the content, democratizing the access to education for funding, right. And getting access to funding. And understanding that, you know, you don't need to have to prove the competency to get the job without ever having to do the job. It seems like this massive chicken and egg scenario of that, the majority of us have been under for a really long time.
And it's impossible, you know, so with the growing demand in our economy, we can't afford to keep doing it this way. So either we are going to open it up and really let a bunch of folks into this field and help them along that way by also democratizing access to the network of folks that can get them these jobs that's really key. I mean, the exclusivity around this role is, is well-known and it's not going to serve us in the next phase of our economy and we have to let it go. So I think, you know, one of our biggest things that we're we're overcoming is, you know, when we look at the demands and the need within Alberta, for this role of what we could do with our economy, if we had more folks that time for exclusivity, it's over. And what are we going to do to support folks getting in? And so we can all thrive.
[00:39:44] Jen Morrison: You know, it's so interesting. I didn't realize when we had talked before that a lot of product managers actually only get the training in and around this area, once they're already within a company. And that fascinated me, I was like, I didn't realize there was this giant gap. accessibility or, opportunity for people to explore this work. that was so interesting.
[00:40:08] Renee Matsalla: And even a lot of the education that's out there kind of assumes you're already in the role. Where you need. And then to get the job, you need to have experience working with developers, working with UX folks.
And it's like, okay, well, how do, how is that possible? So we're just like, no, we're breaking this down, that's it? And I think Alberta can, and the ecosystem here has been more than supportive. You know, we get support from Alberta, innovates from SAIT, from InceptionU we're all partnered together. And I think that's, what's going to make Alberta completely different from our other, other ecosystems out there because we're building with this in mind. And we were going to tap into that talent that other ecosystems are, are not able to. So I'm, I'm so excited about where we're at in Alberta and what we're building together.
[00:41:00] Jen Morrison: Well, the mindset of not even just thinking about who's coming next, but almost like who's coming after that, you know, thinking ahead. And I think having that mindset so important. So I want to ask the, both of you let's flip this a bit. So there are companies and organizations that, you know, you've both said, product management is the future. This is what our future is going to be built from with of what is the whole for companies. I mean, what, what would they really benefit from by having product managers or like people with these skills on their teams. What's the pull for that for the organizations?
[00:41:39] Christa Hill: The drive towards value and increasing the business value, but more over having really rewarding work, coming to the teams. You know, we have a huge problem with churn, right? We have a lot of people resigning their roles and a lot of it has to do with a lack of connection to the work that they're doing in the difference they're making to the world.
What if you could have somebody come in and give everyone a compelling vision. We're collaboratively on a strategy, how we're going to make that a reality. Everybody co owning the process and owning it every step of the way. And then we get to see how it materialized that in the real world. This is satisfying work.
And people want that they crave it now more than ever. And I think that in and of itself from a retention standpoint and really understanding what connects folks to their work, and we see that disconnection now between the work that they're doing and, you know, the business vision, there's a lot of daylight between these two things, especially in the past two years when we've all been working from home and we're really quite siloed.
Right. So how do we kickstart that connection back into the workplace, reconnecting with our peers, learning how to work together again in person? And how can we have a compelling leadership strategy around the product that makes that really inspiring? And then by the way, a happy by-product of that is really valuable products that really matter to their customers.
So it's, it's an inherent, win-win all over the place, you know, but really it's some of the things that are standing in the way can be organizational structure of businesses. They've a lot of them have not known what a product management organization can look like. So they're trying to build it from the ground up with junior roles, instead of having a senior, helping to guide and build it as a competency within the organizations, we work with a lot of folks to build that.
Right. And to try and learn what that can look like for them, but ultimately at the end of the day, it's about making sure that your company is delivering value. You're growing, you're thriving, and everyone is really satisfied with the work that they're doing because it's high quality work.
[00:43:45] Renee Matsalla: And I also, I think Christa, you know, summarized it, it perfectly. And when we say senior too, it's not necessarily like senior, I've been doing product for X number of years. It's senior in mindset, senior in. Having the courage to ask questions, like, does this really bring value? Why are we building this? we've so many times in companies where we're building things, cause someone asked and, and that's it.
we don't know the real reason. So product is what brings the customer, the business, and then the empowered team. That's building the product together to really drive towards goals and that empowerment, that motivation. Brings the results that we want to see within business.
[00:44:29] Jen Morrison: At InceptionU, we do a lot of work, with our learners around unlearning, not just with our learners, even with ourselves.
I mean, I'm unlearning things every day. Unlearning things that I thought I understood things I thought about the world or how things worked. But from your perspective, ladies, what do you, what needs to be unlearned when it comes to, Product management or people that are either interested in getting into the field, or I guess people in companies, what do you think really needs to be unlearned?
[00:44:59] Christa Hill: Yeah. Yes. And then it's okay. That imposter syndrome is a thing for you in the beginning. I think too, there's we worked through a lot of fear of anxiety, fear of the unknown fear of ambiguity, with a lot of folks that are new to the field, right. And we have to just give those things a name and acknowledge that that's what's happening to you.
And then we walk it together. Right. And just knowing that staying in a place of not all knowing, but all learning is what we all strive for in this industry. So just unlearning that, being the expert in the room is not what we're valuing. What we're valuing are skills that can move us to the next decision, the next right decision together.
And that you're not leading through control and all, knowingness you're, you're leading through bringing context and information and learning more, and then we make the next decision together. So I think that's really what I think a lot of folks in the industry need to unlearn is that, that, that concept of all knowing, being all valuable and it's. It's a fact. It's not it at all.
[00:46:03] Jen Morrison: Renee, do you have anything that you want to add around the unlearning piece? I mean, I agree a hundred percent with Christa. Anything else that you want to add?
[00:46:09] Renee Matsalla: Oh, I think I just want to put a exclaimation point. It's get out there, try things. It's it's okay to try something and fail cause we're learning.
And so I just really want to emphasize that and if we can. Go back. You know, when w at the beginning we were talking about when we were kids, we're trying, being afraid. Well, looking for perfection, looking for this, but really it's fine. Be yourself, try new things and put yourself out there.
[00:46:40] Jen Morrison: Well, to the two of you, I'm so grateful for your time today. I mean, I wish we had two hours and, you know, we don't cause you both
[00:46:48] Christa Hill: We'll come back anytime.
[00:46:51] Jen Morrison: So, on that note, to, you know, the folks that are out there listening, hopefully feeling inspired or encouraged by what you shared today. How can they get in touch with you? Where do you recommend they go? And is there any resources or things that they could start to poke around with it? If this is something of interest to them?
[00:47:10] Christa Hill: You can find us on LinkedIn.
Also you can search, SAIT Product Management Applied Bootcamp on the SAIT website, where you can learn how to work with a team and build a real product so we can give you that experience in a safe environment so that you can experiment and grow. As you are trying to pivot into the ecosystem and learn the fundamentals.
I, I mean, honestly, we're we troll LinkedIn, like crazy. A lot of folks get in touch with us through there and even, you know, supporting and getting involved with demos of, of these great boot camps that are coming out. And what has blown my mind, especially the work at InceptionU, we are shaking up what it means to create developers, to create product managers, support the initiative.
Right, get involved. Let's create opportunities for these people together because as a collective, we're trying to shape what the future looks like. And so all opinions and all thoughts on that have all different backgrounds matter. So give us your voice, tell us what you think we need and what we should, what we haven't considered we'd love to incorporate it into the future of what we're building here.
[00:48:14] Jen Morrison: So to the two of you, I, again, I'm so grateful for your time. There's so many takeaways for me personally, in this conversation, and I am excited to actually check in with myself in a few areas that I think I need to just kind of touch on again, and I would encourage anybody that's listening, reach out to Christa and Renee, connect with them.
But also take action on the things that they have shared today. you know, we are building this together. They are clearly breaking barriers and, you know, creating space, for people to step into work that is meaningful and that matters. And, you know, I encourage all of us to really just pay attention, pay attention to the things that light you up that you're passionate about.
And be yourself. You don't have to fit in any box. So on that note, have a wonderful day. Everybody I'm grateful for your time and for your ears and, you know, check in with your passions and get to work. Have a great day.