"Surviving Success at Lean Startups" by Holly Hester-Reilly

Lean Startup Summit Berlin is the place to be if you’re interested in innovation and networking. Professionals from all over the world gather here to exchange the latest ideas and transformation methods, share best practices from their companies and learn from each other. This year, GWiT joined the event’s partners’ line up, giving us the possibility to share with our community fresh news and opinions geared around the topics and speakers.

Holly Hester-Reilly, Founder and Product Management Consultant at H2R Product Science, speaker at Lean Startup, discussed with Floriana Scanteie, GWiT Content Manager, more about her career path, women in technology and her talk.

Floriana: You are proof that when you want something, with hard work and a clear understanding of what it takes to be done, everything is possible. You switched from the academic field to product management because you fell in love with the tech industry. Now you already have an impressive experience in helping businesses grow. Can you tell us what inspired you and what helped you grow professionally?

Holly: I've always thrived in dynamic environments. I love to learn new things and am driven to use my skills to help people in whatever way I can. I feel most inspired when there are interesting, valuable, and challenging problems to solve. When I got a taste of how powerful software is, when I saw that we could make an impact with just a laptop and skills, I knew that this community was where I wanted to be. Along the way, I always focused on people - building relationships, learning from them, and teaching them. I think this core belief, that we can use science and technology to improve people's experiences, is really both my inspiration and what helped me grow professionally.

Floriana: Design thinking, data science, lean, and agile are methods and principles that are highly used in the technology world. Can you share with us what’s their applicability in the product management process and business growth? Do people misuse them?

Holly: I find it really tricky to know when to use these terms... When it's helpful and when it's not. I think of them as short-hand for ways of working - how we independently and collaboratively approach problem solving. They lead to more progress and breakthroughs in our modern environments than more command-and-control, planning-based approaches.
They all involve the principle that we drive the most growth when we hear from as many viewpoints as possible, look at evidence, and give teams enough context and autonomy for them to make the decisions they are closest to. Operating like that makes great product management and great business outcomes.
Unfortunately, each of them is misunderstood and misapplied often. I always stress to the teams I work with the necessity to understand the core principles that drive them over a focus on the ceremonies that they suggest.

Floriana: As an experienced professional both in science and entrepreneurship, what’s your advice for the ladies in tech who want to make a difference with their work?

Holly: It's great to be aware of the realities, but in the end, you have to focus on what you can do. We often somehow expect ourselves to be a superhuman, or we get caught up in anger over inequalities. At the end of the day, change is both real and slow, and we can never truly know what it's like to be in someone else's shoes. Empathize with everyone around you as much as you can, and focus on the impact that you can make in your corner of the world, even if it's just rising above the fray and hitting your own goals out of the park. And help other rise while you climb your path.

Floriana: What will your presentation for Lean Startup Summit Berlin focus on? Can you give us some hints?

Holly: Over the years I've started to use a framework I call the product discovery loop. This helps teams break down their growth hypothesis beyond proposed solutions and identify what kind evidence they most need to guide their product to high-growth. It's handy because it applies equally to brand new projects as it does to scaling teams, and we'll talk through how it typically breaks down.