Lenny Rachitsky | Lenny’s Podcast – How CNN builds product: Upasna Gautam
Upasna Gautam is a product manager at CNN Digital, where she works closely with editorial staff and journalists to build their internal content management system. She is also a longtime meditation coach and a board member of the News Product Alliance.
We delve into how product teams are structured and operate at CNN, how CNN uses OKRs and roadmaps, and the unique challenges and opportunities in designing a digital product for journalists. Upasna also shares a story about her team’s product saving the day during the 2020 elections and gives listeners a free mini lesson on meditation.
Maintaining mental calmness and composure, or equanimity, is crucial for product managers in the fast-paced and stressful world of news. Having backup plans and buffers in place can help manage disruptions. Mindfulness and meditation practice can also support mental composure.
Equanimity involves staying composed, managing emotional reactions, and being a stabilizing influence during unexpected situations. By cultivating this skill, we can serve as a guiding force for our teams and customers, even amidst chaos.
Quick decision-making and mindfulness
It’s crucial to build buffers in project timelines to accommodate unexpected roadblocks. Quick decision-making and mindfulness help make informed decisions. CNN’s product team collaborates with journalists through touchpoints to improve workflows and products.
CNN Digital leverages OKRs to build and optimize products while prioritizing customer needs. Despite its smaller size compared to tech giants, the organization’s depth of expertise sets it apart.
Successful product planning involves breaking down long-term goals into smaller, actionable plans. Collaboration between product and engineering teams is key for understanding technical feasibility and achieving company goals.
I think meditation is a practice that helps me be more present, more focused, more calm, and more compassionate.
One of the things that makes CNN’s product team so agile is that we have a very iterative and data-driven approach to building and launching products.
Meditation and mindfulness
Practicing mindfulness through meditation can help product managers develop clarity and improve their communication skills. Effective communication involves more than just speaking well and requires conversing in the language of the listener.
Product leaders should prioritize listening to the needs of customers and stakeholders, utilize meditation to enhance awareness, and focus on product management to improve the user experience and build trust with readers in the news industry.
Engage with customers
Regularly engaging with customers and users through direct communication can provide valuable feedback for businesses to improve upon. Don’t rely on assumptions; gather data and develop a consistent line of communication. Impactful business goals can serve as an anchor in tough times.