Hi, my name is Graham Kennedy.

I’m a product leader in web, mobile, and API development.

And this is my culture deck.

(New 2017 edition coming soon!)

Use the arrow keys to scroll through the slides.

Rather than using a traditional resume,

I’ll tell this story as a narrative.

I do have a resume, by the way.

So, here goes.

Deep breath. Adjust tie.

But first, a quick aside to meet the cast of this story.

They’ll guide you ‘round these parts.

Visionary Vijay

Profound and introspective, Vijay solves problems no one else even realizes exist.

He’s a keeper.

Pragmatic Paula

Extremely balanced, Paula recognizes the trade-offs between doing too much and too little.

A+ attitude.

Optimistic Olaf

Olaf’s smart and effective, but not a product guy. Sometimes he needs to be guided.

Well liked.

Boorish Bruno

Strongly opinionated and poorly informed, Bruno loves to hear himself speak.

Toxic. Stay away.

on The Topic of Me

I’m a proven product leader

with ten years of genuine hands-on experience...

...building profitable web, mobile, and API products...

...leading killer product development teams...

...and improving the way things get done.

I’m always seeking challenging product leadership roles

that meet my RAIL criteria.


Building useful, interesting, and topical stuff every day.


Practicing true product ownership.


Data-driven tweaking and experimentation.


Culturally ingrained from the CEO on down.

As a product leader I share a few characteristics

that all product people must have. No exceptions.

Naturally Curious

Question everything and accept nothing at face value.

Factually Loyal

Data doesn’t lie, though it doesn’t tell the whole story either.

Pragmatically Flexible

Informed and transparent, but not afraid to negotiate.

While I do like modern office environments,

that’s not enough to win me over.

It’s cool that you have beer on tap. And free lunches are definitely appreciated too. Sleek desk designs and MacBook Airs for everyone? Nice.

Yep, I get it. Your office is hip.

But if your company makes things no one cares about, no amount of perks can save it. I’m restless. I require meaningful opportunities.

Challenge me or I walk.

I’m also the reason why there are so many cat videos.

I watch them all.

And I won’t apologize for it.

on Electric Cars

Electric cars accounted for only 1% of sales

in the United States in 2014.

Yet the electric car has already won the war.

The electric car’s innovation curve is in its infancy while the internal combustion engine’s is mature.

It’s only a matter of time until someone figures out how to flash charge a battery at an intersection.

Or how to get a 50,000km range on a single charge.

Meanwhile the internal combustion engine is stagnant with only minor incremental improvements.

Game over.

Innovation trumps establishment.

This isn’t disruption. This is destruction.

on Product Philosophy

Dream big.

Don’t let reality get in the way.

So, what amazing product are you dreaming up for Q3?

Well, I had a killer feature in mind. But we don’t have the technology stack to support it. It’ll be too hard to build from scratch. We don’t have enough time. I don’t even know how to release it. I’ll probably just upgrade something we already have.

Do you also dream of coming in eleventh at the Olympics?

Make stuff that matters.

Create something that can be harvested by future generations.

Your boss's side project is probably worthless.

(You can tell him I said that.)

Attack the problem, not the symptoms.

A customer just said our transactions aren’t working. We need to add three tables to the database, create three new pages in the app, add in two new models and deploy it right away!

Or, perhaps, we can spend a few minutes to see what “aren’t working” actually means.

Don’t fear failure, but don’t celebrate it either.

Seriously, how did that become a thing?

Question! What is failure? To the ignorant or those in conventional industries, the recent Nucleus glitch may seem like a failure in the negative sense. But we in this Valley know that failures like this one are really stepping stones.

The point being, what those in dying business sectors call failure, we in tech know to be pre-greatness.

Gavin Belson

Make decisions on your own terms.

Don’t get forced into making a decision when you can least afford the consequences.

Speed and execution speed are not synonymous.

Move fast with stable infra(structure).

We don’t need a methodology. We just get shit done.

I think you put the emphasis on the wrong word.

It’s easy to say you need to move faster.

But if you’re not competent enough, they’re just empty words.

Execution is everything.

Numbers or it ain’t real.

Every deliverable must be measurable.

Your first priority for shipping something is to determine how to measure its success.

If you can’t measure it, how will you know if it’s successful?

Mercilessly vet everything.

If you can't justify the return, you're running an experiment.

If you can't measure the experiment, you're winging it.

If you're winging it, you're going out of business.

on Product Workflow

Building a complex product requires a simple workflow.

I try to stay as consistent as possible without becoming too rigid.

From concept to delivery

I aim to follow eight linear steps in my product development process.

Step #1: First Pass

Does the idea pass the smell test?

I have a great idea for a Hello Kitty app. Everyone told me that they’d use it. I guarantee it’s a money maker.

I think I know of a way to reduce our customer service costs by 10% with 10 weeks of effort.

Bruno (sigh), go away. Olaf, take 5 days to prototype your idea.

Step #2: Business Vetting

Determine if there’s any material business value to the idea.

Lean Canvas Boards are excellent tools for this stage.

(Read more about vetting ideas in the Product Innovation section.)

Step #3: Product Prioritization

How important is it compared to the rest of your pipeline?

Limit your focus to only a few priority items at a time.

Step #4: Product Breakdown

Get a sense of the work involved.

Wireframes and prototypes visually communicate the product’s objectives.

Epic user stories and business rules guide product direction.

High level estimates provide a sense of scope, effort, and timelines.

Success metrics help you determine if you’ve set and met good goals.

Step #5: Technical Kickoff

Communicate intent and success criteria to all stakeholders.

This is a dialogue, not a monologue.

Step #6: Execution

Git ‘er done.

Tee up sprints using a fully groomed and estimated backlog of user stories.

Provide ongoing continuous support to the team and keep focus on end goals.

Sign off on all completed work and diligently monitor quality and deliverables.

Communicate with stakeholders about progress and roadblocks.

Step #7: Rollout

Train staff, support business units, and get the word out.

(It’s ok to be anxious.)

Step #8: Measure and Learn

Continuously analyze data, monitor feedback, and tweak where necessary.

Test Driven Product Ownership

is something I totally made up.

But it has worked for me.

The first thing to do is map out the endpoints for success criteria.

Then map each endpoint back to its startpoint.

Fill in each step to get from the startpoint to the endpoint.

And, according to my spotty theory, business rules and use cases should emerge.

I am aware that this is not truly analogous to TDD.

(No hate mail, please.)

on Product Innovation

Ideas are cheap and plentiful.

Everyone has ideas. Some of them are actually pretty good.

However, a product owner must learn to understand root problems by teasing out details and asking probing questions.

This can come in many forms. The easiest is via a narrative.

Usually, though, I just want someone to tell me their story.

Eureka moments are rare.

That’s why ideas, which are simply assumptions, need to be vetted.

The cheapest way to vet an idea is through guerilla testing. That is, put a lo-fi prototype in front of users and see what happens.

Another way to vet ideas is through a design sprint. Get a few teammates. Then get a few craft beers. Then get creative.

(It works best when everyone has time to prepare. Don’t surprise ’em.)

Another way to vet ideas is through lean canvas boards. Don’t start any real work until you can fill it out entirely.

Validating ideas is an iterative process.

The idea will not be perfect upon conception.

After a little refinement, our idea starts to take form. Now we can create a few working prototypes and validate once again.

If the prototypes are good, we can start to collect data points. Otherwise, we’ll continue with our subjective analysis.

Eventually, after a little more refinement, we will probably have one or two good ideas worth pursuing.

Eventually we can enter the true build-measure-learn phase.

We take our A/B tests, behavioural data, and any other metrics we’re tracking in order to create a user persona.

These personas help us understand the customers’ journey, motivations, and expectations. Now we can sell them what we know they want.

on Product Leadership

Building a great product is simply a byproduct

of having a great team.

If you don’t have that, build it first. And fast.

Leadership opportunities are everywhere.

The Chinese word for crisis is composed of the characters for danger and opportunity.


Great leaders embrace a crisis

because when a leader overcomes a crisis, everyone wins.

And everyone notices.

When crafting a leadership message I try to keep it...



...and empowering.

The best leadership message

that I’ve ever seen belongs to Nordstrom.

I’ve learned a lot about leadership from...

...my successes...

...my failures...

...and great leaders.

But the most important leadership lesson I’ve learned is

as a leader, your job is to make everyone else better.

Everything else is secondary.

Great leadership creates

engaged, motivated, and ambitious teams.

Google calls these smart creatives.

And they’re the difference between winning and losing.

Leadership is a role, not a title.

Be wary of hiring people who are managers instead of leaders.

Leaders matter. Managers don’t (as much).

Leaders count supporters while managers count subordinates.

Leaders make it rain while managers are just the weathermen.

Leaders say "I can’t not" while managers say "I can’t."

People choose to follow leaders

while they are forced to follow managers.

A great leadership culture is sowed organically

and not manufactured artificially.

Hire the right people, empower them to make decisions, and then get out of their way.

on Final Thoughts

I’ve written a lot about development and leadership.

So, am I a great product owner?

Possibly, but probably not. I’ve built some good stuff but I’m still often treading water.

However, I am getting better every day.

So, am I a great leader?

Almost certainly not. While I feel comfortable in a leadership role, I can’t say that I’ve made others any better.

However, I am getting better every day.

Thank you for taking the time to learn my story.

Now, let’s connect!