Product Management During a Crisis

Northwestern's Master of Engineering Management (MEM) program will host three webinars in the coming weeks about how product managers can lead businesses through a crisis.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world as we know it, with businesses across the globe screeching to a halt and millions of Americans told to remain at home in an effort to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. 

As society endures through this unprecedented situation, it also will be faced with a wide variety of questions, some of which may ultimately be the difference between life and death.

  • How can you quickly and consistently ventilate a patient with limited ventilator resources?
  • How can the pandemic be fought in parts of the world with limited resources?
  • What solutions will be needed to allow people to return to work safely?

To help address these questions and others, Northwestern University's Master of Engineering Management (MEM) program is hosting three webinars in the coming weeks about the role of product managers and the impact they can have on society. The webinars will be led by Adjunct Professor Birju Shah, who is Head of Product: Platforms and AI at Uber.

"I am looking for the webinars to showcase the role of product management in society as a way to focus and harness the energy of the gifted engineers and product designers to solve societal problems in a practical way," said MEM Director Mark Werwath. "Product managers really focus on rapid adoption of their solutions and this is how the world gets changed. 

"They are experts at achieving product-market fit."

Learn more about the three upcoming webinars below.

Skills Needed to Survive Product Management in Tech for the Next Ten Years 

Wednesday, April 22 - 10 a.m.

Product managers are in charge of the vision for launching a product, gaining traction for the product, making revenue, and ultimately scaling the product in hopes of a dominant market share. The role is also in charge of the small tasks related to the project that go unnoticed, such as filling gaps where other colleagues may be falling short. 

It's an exciting role, but it is also a strenuous one. Product managers in the world of technology often get the accolades when a product is successful, but the finger-pointing also is directed their way when a product fails. 

In this webinar, Shah will talk about his experience as a Silicon Valley executive and what technologies he thinks future product managers should learn to understand in order to survive and thrive in the future software product landscape.

"We are in a paradigm shift moment," Shah said, "and awareness of what technologies will lead the world in solving top problems over the next decade is what we hope to go over."

Managing My Product Roadmap During a Crisis

Wednesday, April 29 - 10 a.m.

Visit the Uber website and you will be greeted with a message that says, "A company that moves people is asking you not to move." That is the current reality amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

In response to COVID-19, Uber temporarily suspended its UberPool shared-rides service around the world. Uber, like companies across the globe, now faces a wide-ranging series of questions:

  • What does that change mean for the company's product roadmap?
  • How should Uber reprioritize efforts given the company won't be able to experiment or launch new products for an unforeseen amount of time?
  • How do teams within the company manage time allocations given so many uncertain timelines and outcomes?

"Black-swan moments cause businesses to rethink their plans, and usually the companies that adapt the fastest survive and do the best coming out of it," Shah said. "We will discuss product strategy and planning during a crisis to shift your product plans."

Shah will be joined by John Mark Nickels, a director of product at Uber, where he leads product for the Marketplace Dynamics group. Nickels and his teams are responsible for real-time decisions in the marketplace, including rider/driver matching assignments, waiting/walking optimization for shared rides, and surge pricing. 

Tectonic Shifts & Re-planning Product in a Crisis

Wednesday, May 13 - 10 a.m.

Everything changes in a crisis — companies all over the world are realizing this right now. 

In this webinar, Shah will highlight a product strategy framework in order to demonstrate how to create "crisis pillars". He also will explain how to focus on certain projects to help the company move forward, how to emphasize cash preservation, and how to create a playbook to help the company set itself up for success as it comes out of the crisis,

To get more information or to view any of these webinars, visit the Webinars page on the MEM website.

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