2014 in Review

I sat down to write this on New Year’s Eve and struggled. I’m taking advantage of my (jetlagged) time in Jakarta to get it out.

2014 was a very good year — possibly supplanting 2004 as my favorite. It came with a lot of changes: two months of travel, a move (back) to Boston, and starting at HBS. I definitely got more done than I had in many other years. If it had a drawback, I’d say I spent a lot of time doing things, but not necessarily prioritizing which ones were important. I’ll need to figure out which ones are, because I don’t think I could keep up this level of activity every year.

HBS

This was (by far) the biggest part of my year. I learned how to read financial statements (FYI: an Income Statement and a Profit & Loss are used interchangeably). I learned how to use those financial statements to make future projections, or to value a stock based on a company’s expected income. I learned about discrete and continuous process flow operations — and the impact of adding a “buffer” to a system, or adding extra capacity. It’s impossible to summarize all the things you learn at HBS in one paragraph, so suffice it to say that I’ve learned a lot.

Reading

I read 115 books in 2014. This is the most I’d read since I started tracking in 2009, when my New Year’s Resolution was to read an hour per day. This was more notable for me given how much more I had to read for school than I ever did for work. I could tell by the end of the year that my reading speed was getting faster.

It was pretty equal fiction/nonfiction again — 56/59. It was shockingly biased towards women authors — 80 books by women and 35 by men. The full list is available on Goodreads. Here’s a few specific recommendations…

Autobiography of a Face and Truth & Beauty — if you read these, read them paired. It was enjoyable to hear Lucy Grealy’s take on her own situation, and Ann Patchett’s relationship on the situation. I’d read a bunch of Ann Patchett before going down this track, so I have to admit I preferred Truth & Beauty.

Whistling Vivaldi — For as much as I talk about gender and tech issues, I often worry about a lack of hard data for some of the things we discuss. (Kieran Synder has done some good work on this this year). I enjoyed seeing more of the academic studies on stereotype threat, particularly because they were done across groups and industries.

Several Short Sentences about Writing — As mentioned below, I wrote far more this year than ever before. Earlier in the year, Yancey bought 14 copies of this book for the Kickstarter office. I then bought my own, and one for a Secret Santa gift this year. I like the near-poetry format of the book, and it has some solid writing advice, too.

The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories — This is a collection of essays by Marina Keegan, a Yale ’12 graduate who died in an auto accident shortly after graduation. I read the Opposite of Loneliness shortly after that happened, and enjoyed getting to read a fuller collection of her work. I’m very sorry there won’t be more of it.

Inspired — I’d avoided reading this book for years because I thought the title was hokey. In reality, it’s probably the most solid “textbook” we have for Product Management. It forced me to reflect on how I define the role — and particularly about what I want out of the role vs. what the role should be.

Writing

I wrote 52+ things in 2014–46 on this blog, three on Medium (for TheList!), one for the Popforms blog, a The Setup profile (which ended up in MacWorld!), one for ACMQueue, and contributed to aboutfeminism.me. The most widely read was “I’m Angry because I’m Afraid” and my personal favorite was probably “Want to be a PM? Do a project.

One of the things I did during 2014 was try to only write if I had “something to say” — usually with a takeaway that was tied up in a bow. While some of the pieces were hard to write, I at least felt like I had an “answer.” I was afraid to write things if I felt like they left holes open, or people would be able to get traction to argue.

In retrospect, I think that limited my writing. This year, I’d like to be more courageous in a different way. I’d like to share more things that aren’t entirely resolved yet, and use the writing as a way to learn. That’s definitely been the case for some of the things I’ve written about HBS so far.

At some point I also lost a more personal nature that my blog used to have. If you read back far enough most of the entries are about baking cupcakes, and about my personal life. I’m going to try to weave that back in this year.

Shipping

2014 was a low year in terms of “shipping” — 2013 held my big three projects at Kickstarter — The Start Page, Advanced Discovery, and the Backer History changes.

2014 included smaller projects, like making the navigation menus match, and a security history feature. While they might not be as splashy, it’s still more than I shipped in 2010, or 2011. I think doing small improvements is an underrated part of Product Management.

On the bigger side, I did start working on a personal project. Tom and I made an iOS app that’s currently only on my phone, but I’m glad even that small version exists. Hopefully 2015 will involve a public debut.

Teaching, Speaking, and Events

This was also a big part of my year. I taught classes for Startup Institute again, and at General Assembly for the first time (including a 10 week class!) I spoke at #ProductSF and Beyond the Code. I also helped with a few cool events: a Women in Product networking event with Stacy-Marie, and ProductDebaters in Boston. Steven and I started a Product Management breakfast in NYC that’s still running regularly (get invites!)

I didn’t track exactly how many, but I met with a lot of people who were interested in getting into Product Management (I’d guess 1–2 per week, so between 52 and 104).

<update> Conclusions I was attempting to not do “takeaways” — but that was a bit abrupt. In summary, 2014 was a good year.