Anna Divers
Jan 12, 2015
6 mins reading time

A Year in the Life of a Holiday Extras Product Owner

2014 - a year of travelling, learning and transforming. My New Year’s Resolution last year was to get out of the building more, learn more from external sources after the previous year very much head down on a conversion and traffic-migration mission. Here’s how it turned out…

February 2014 - Holiday Extras’ ‘mobile moment’ has not happened just yet but with it around the corner, we took a trip to Appsworld in San Francisco https://www.apps-world.net/northamerica/. This event demonstrated just how fast moving and diverse the mobile app space is and just how much there is to learn, or to quote @lukew ‘unlearn’. A huge event, too much to cover by just the three of us who went - later in the year some of our developers went to the London event, so we’ve covered most of the content. The highlight has to have been listening to Steve Wozniak being interviewed - two points really resonated as a Product Owner - design is important - how something looks is very important - looks can convince people to buy it, and this applies to both the company and the product. And his other point is that it’s real important to know what features not to include - the ability to say No is critical.

P.s. San Francisco is an amazing place, I fell in love with it. If you get a chance, go!

March 2014 - Found a neat (new-to-me) lean product development conference - LeanDayLondon https://leanday.splashthat.com/ (found through the equally resourceful site for product owners http://www.mindtheproduct.com/). Really recommend this 2-day conference - high quality talks and I loved the fact that the content was also aimed at applying lean in large, established companies and not merely start-ups alone. Loved listening to Dr Tendayi Viki talk about the Ambidextrous Organisation and how the biggest challenge for large organisations trying to innovate is their size - they have to keep their cash cow going but innovate at the same time (they need to develop new cows). Thank you Neo Innovation http://neo.com/ and Made by Many http://madebymany.com/ for putting this event on - one for a return visit this year I hope.

May 2014 - and an absolute must in a Product Owner’s calendar and anyone passionate about user experience, UX London http://2015.uxlondon.com/. This year was my 4th year to this London conference and workshops. Hosted by Andy Budd and the crew from http://clearleft.com/ - this has never disappointed. Workshop highlights for me this year were the insights into Google Ventures and how to build and test a prototype in just 5 days. Daniel Burka and Jake Nap are very entertaining speakers so if you hear they’re speaking agin, book a seat. UXLondon is a great place to network too - this year we hooked up with Luke Wroblewski and as a result he came down to our learning academy to do a workshop with us later in the year.

May also saw us transition our web team to a more agile product development organisation - in the shape of cross-functional pods. No mean feat - a large, homogenous web team of 50 people rearranged into a series of cross-functional pods, aligned around our strategic themes and also trading functions. It was some time in the making - planning and collaboration began in the January of this year! If you’re interested there will be a separate blogpost on this very exercise, the challenges, the successes and lessons learned along the way coming soon…

August 2014 - one of two highlights for me this year. Jeff Gotthelf (of Neo Innovation) came to run a 3-day workshop with us on Lean UX. This saw 50 of us work in multi-discipline teams, creating hypotheses, building prototypes and fake features, and getting out of the building to speak to customers to test our assumptions. Was an exhilerating, high energy, action-packed few days for all of us - from product owners to developers to scrum-masters. Exhausted by the end of it, but left feeling a huge sense of achievement, lasting memories and enduring take-aways from these three special days. Was invaluable and great timing as given the major transformation we had just gone through structure-wise - so the process and approaches Jeff shared with us really resonated with our new way of working. ps. If you ever get to meet Jeff ask him about the Leafblower incident.

October 2014 - second highlight of the year was in the form of Luke Wroblewski, who spent 2 days with us, educating us on the mobile landscape and how to design for multi-device. Never known someone to know their subject matter so deeply and broadly as Luke - no kidding he came with a 451-slide deck! Great insight for the 30 of us who had the privilege of participating in his workshop - can see why Google snapped him and his start-up up!

November 2014- a hop over to Dublin for http://websummit.net/ - much like Appsworld, a massive event needing several of you to divide and conquer. Very much a look into the future and what’s coming next in most instances. Two favourite talks - firstly From Monkey Coders to Smart Gorillas courtesy of Traity - a framework for always keeping the big picture in sight, they presented a neat way to communicate the whole picture from top line vision to functionality and how it fits together, and gave a warning of the dangers of getting lost in small tasks and losing sight of the big picture. The other was from the founder of https://trueandco.com/ all about building trust and friendly data collection - and asked us what is the reward for the customer by giving us extra data? What is our double handshake, how do we build a virtuous cycle of data?

December 2014 - hooked up with an old friend and associate Gwyn Morfey (formerly MD of New Bamboo) to talk about how best to scale and manage Scrum teams, was reassuring to talk through our transformation in the web development space this year and hear we were doing a lot of things right!

So what’s next in 2015?

  • a small matter of some homework pre the arrival of Roman Pichler to our Learning Academy for our Certified Product Owner Training (better late than never!)
  • More on mobile and mobile in Travel specifically at Mobile World Congress, Barcelona in March
  • UXLondon in May is already booked and in the diary. Can’t wait!
  • we have more pods to embed, and new product owners to develop.

Thanks Holiday Extras - great to be part of a company who facilitate and encourage learning.

Tags Product-Owner, Lean, Agile, Product-Development