Inside the Lab: The Women Behind HPL
By Carlee Murray & Robyn Smith
Content Managers, Her Product Lab
We know, we know, everyone has a blog. But we’re in product, and content is a hot commodity, so here we are. Also, we have so many exciting stories in store for you. We figured our first should be about us—over the next few months, we’ll be inspirational, yes, but also vulnerable and personal with our sources and with ourselves. We figured we should start off that way.
First we have Lina Bedi, who previously helped fortune 100 companies with their strategy and business development. After helping her company launch a new credit card, she was fascinated by all the aspects that went into bringing a new product to market. The other half of HPL’s dynamic duo is Monica Rozenfeld. She works in the fintech industry as a product marketer, helping build tools that empower people to plan for their future (Think: saving for your retirement, paying off your student debt faster, launching your dream business, and more.) Both Lina and Monica have experienced how rewarding the world of product can be. They wanted to create this community for other women in product to connect, learn and grow together.
"We're building a space where it's totally okay to be yourself." — Lina Bedi, HPL co-founder
How did you two meet?
M: Lina and I met through her husband, Vivek—who happens to also be on our board! Vivek was my boss and during our 1-1 meetings, we would talk about all of our entrepreneurial ambitions outside of work. He actually told me he’s going to hold me accountable to them as part of my performance review, but I was then honest and told him how difficult it is for me to do something on my own. His response? “You have to get drinks with my wife. I think you two will hit it off.”
L: And he was so right! When we finally did meet for dinner one night, there was an instant connection. We grew up in the same town, went to all the same public schools. Monica’s intelligent, funny and ambitious, and I couldn’t be more proud to be working with her. We both had an entrepreneurial spirit and a passion for lifting up other women. The concept of Her Product Lab literally took off after our first dinner (and many drinks!) together.
M: And that’s the power of community when people come together around a common vision or purpose. We hope to recreate many more Monica-and-Lina moments as part of our effort with HPL.
How did you get your start in product?
M: My background is in journalism and I had big dreams to either be Diane Sawyer or work for a glossy magazine in New York City. Instead, I got a gig writing about emerging technology. To be honest, I took the job because it paid well. Little did I know that I would fall in love with tech. After doing that for five years, I really wanted to be part of the teams that are making the digital products we use day in and day out. It’s incredible to know the hundreds of considerations that go into product development, from the shade of the color to the size of a button, all of which influence how we engage with it.
L: My experience has been mostly in strategy and business development at big corporations like Johnson & Johnson and American Express. I took on the role of launching a new credit card into the market and was fascinated by all the aspects that went into it. From thinking through the details of the customer experience to working with tech teams on development to aligning with internal and external partners on priorities, there was so much to learn and different skills to tap into on any given day. I was always on my toes and always learning. When I learned how rapidly the field of product is growing and how few women are actually in the space, I knew I wanted to do something to support other women. I had incredible mentors throughout my career. It was time for me to pay that forward.
What excites you the most about the world of product?
M: Whether you’re a product manager at a company or launching a product on your own, you get to bring something new into the world that didn’t exist before. The field of product management is blowing up and, in this role, you’re truly the decision-maker of what the end result will be and the value you bring to consumers. It’s a big job, yet a very exciting one.
L: The field of product is accelerating at an unimaginable rate. In the ultra-competitive market we’re in, technology is constantly challenging how businesses’ meet customers’ needs. Customers want products that can actually add value to their lives. This automatically positions product managers in the spotlight and gives them the opportunity to use data, design and engineering expertise.
“Whether you’re a product manager at a company or launching a product on your own, you get to bring something new into the world that didn’t exist before.” —Monica Rozenfeld, HPL co-founder
What do you hope people gain from joining the HPL community?
M: One of the things we heard on repeat when interviewing applicants for our incubator is that what they need the most out of the program is support. Building up a community where we can help each other achieve our goals in a real way.
L: It’s our intent to make HPL feel like a safe zone where women are valued and lifted by like-minded ambitious women. The whole “boss lady” vibe is getting a little old, and is not a realistic persona for most women. We’re creating a space where it’s totally okay to be yourself, be vulnerable, and share your failures (as well as your successes!) with the hope that other women can learn from them.
M: In fact, we hold virtual events on Fridays, and I forget that I haven’t met some of the women in real life. We already have offline conversations about our personal lives and follow one another on Instagram. It’s pretty incredible.
Why did you want to start this new content section of the website?
M: I think there is so much collective wisdom in our community and it’s important we learn from one another. Because product management is such a new field, hardly anyone started out their careers in product, and many had to pivot and learn on the job. We’re all collectively learning as we go. Content is one way for us to provide education and share wins and fails in order for us all to build better products and succeed in our roles.
What stories are you most excited to tell?
M: I’m actually most looking forward to telling the stories of our first incubator cohort. We interviewed some 40 applicants and landed on eight exceptional women who will be part of a very intensive 7-week journey from product concept to pitch. One of the main reasons we selected this group is because they each have a personal story attached to their product concept, and all of their concepts will provide significant value to the end users. I look forward to others learning about their stories as well.
L: I love when women share their stories on failure. We hear/read about so, so many success stories, and they’re great. But there is much more personal growth that comes from the failures. Generally, society hasn’t really created this culture of showcasing failures, and there is much to be learned from one another here. Failures teach us to deal with challenges and adversity. They also give us a deeper understanding and appreciation for the journey.
Who is your female entrepreneur idol?
L: I’m really in awe of Melanie Perkins, the founder of Canva from Australia. I love the fact that she saw how difficult graphic design software was and made it her mission to solve for that. She didn’t have any experience in professional marketing, business or tech but dove into her belief in Canva, straight from her mother’s living room and then eventually taking over the house. She tells people that everyone fails, even if it’s not apparent. She said, “Knowing that it’s tricky for everyone, that any adventure will be filled with rejections and littered with obstacles — somehow makes the adventure a little less lonely. And it’s most important for people who feel like they’re on the outside to know this.” She’s also known as one of the coolest people in tech in Australia!
What's the best piece of career advice you ever received?
M: This isn’t necessarily career advice, but just a mantra that I try to live by, which is this: Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear. I truly believe that. It’s the idea that sometimes the biggest risk is not taking a risk. It’s true about investing, too. Not investing your money means you’re actually losing money because it depreciates sitting in your savings account, and not taking a risk in your career may mean depreciating your value in the marketplace or missing out on bigger opportunities (or even worse, your true calling). I feel a bit dramatic saying all of this, but I see this a lot with women. The statistic that women don’t apply for jobs unless they’re 100 percent qualified is real and meanwhile men who are 60 percent qualified are getting callbacks. So be fearful. That’s okay. But take the risk anyway.
L: Something I learned early in my career has been to focus 70 percent of your time on being a rockstar in your current role and 30 percent of your time setting yourself up for your next role. That’s something I’ve actively done, planning for what’s next even if that was 2 years away. I actively researched what I wanted to do next, spoke to the people in the role to get realistic expectations of what day-to-days looked like for them, networked and built relationships with the people in that group and assessed what I would want to achieve for the company in that role with an action plan. When a job opening became available, I was already prepared and lined up.
What's coming up that HPL readers should look forward to?
M: Our virtual summit! I am so excited. Our New York summit was scheduled the week of lockdown. We felt strongly about keeping it an in-person gathering and rescheduling for a later date, but what ended up happening is we organically expanded globally through our virtual events and incubator program that it only made sense to host our event online. Now we can’t wait to see what a virtual summit will look like! We already have such an incredible lineup of presenters, including Alexandria Stried, CPO of Ellevest, and Marla (MZ) Goodman, who has held senior product roles at companies such as Goop, The New York Times, and Glossier. We’re looking forward to learning from all of these incredible women over the course of the day.
Here’s more information on the Her Product Lab summit in March 2021. Can’t wait that long? Check out our Friday learning sessions. This week we’re talking to WeWorksLabs VP of Product, Osnat Benari, on everything you should know about starting your product from scratch. RSVP here!