Sometimes, decisions made on the spur of the moment end up being the most innovative ventures. Just ask Lina Bedi and Monica Rozenfeld, cofounders of Her Product Lab. The two started out planning a local event for women in product management over dinner, and less than a year later, ended up running a global community of women in this field.
Bedi and Rozenfeld met in late 2019 in New York, where they’re both based. They talked about how there was so much going on for women in technology, engineering, and other largely male-dominated industries — but not for women in product, at least not on the East Coast. And while 35 percent of product management professionals in the United States are women, most of them hold entry-level roles.
“That’s when we planned to put on a full-day event for women in product,” says Rozenfeld. “We were going to have our first summit in New York City on March 26, 2020. It was an experiment for us. If it worked, we would keep going, hosting events in other cities that don’t have a strong community of women in product either.”
But by the middle of March 2020, New York had banned large gatherings to curb the spread of COVID-19. Bedi and Rozenfeld had to change their plan as quickly as they had conceptualized it.
Surprisingly, very few of the women who signed up for the event asked for a refund. Most were keenly interested in knowing the rescheduled date for the event.
“We have such an engaged community and people who really wanted it to exist,” says Rozenfeld. “So, Lina and I thought, what can we do to keep the momentum going when we can’t meet in person?”
The obvious option was to go virtual. But the duo didn’t want to do something that was already available online, knowing that “there are a million things going on virtually right now,” says Rozenfeld.
Helping Women Create and Design Products
Bedi and Rozenfeld decided to pivot and launch a seven-week incubator program — entirely on video conferencing platform BlueJeans Meetings. The program helps women learn about customer discovery, user experience, design, storytelling, market positioning, pitching products, and more.
“We learned that many product managers have ideas for their own products but lack the resources and support that a company provides to help launch them,” says Rozenfeld.
The virtual incubator program aims to fill this void.
“What was funny about this was, we had a roadmap that in 2022, after we had done all of these in-person events, we’d launch an incubator in New York because incubators are mostly in some kind of coworking space with everyone in the same room, working on their respective ventures, says Rozenfeld.
However, going virtually turned out to be an incredible experience for both event participants and Her Product Lab.
“When we opened the application for the incubator program, we didn’t know what to expect,” says Rozenfeld. “Every single person we talked to was from a different city. We had a couple of people from the UK. In fact, I don’t think anyone in our program was from New York, when our initial idea was to have an incubator in New York City. Now, in retrospect, it’s like it should have been virtual all along.”
Choosing a Reliable Platform
With BlueJeans Meetings for its video conferencing platform, Her Product Lab’s engagement programs have been seamless and productive.
According to Bedi, Her Product Lab wanted a video conferencing platform that would let participants get on a call or join events without downloading an app or going through a cumbersome setup process.
“We were looking for something that was easy enough to understand, that, if you just look around and hover, you know what everything means,” she says.
“When comparing BlueJeans with other video conferencing platforms, we just loved what BlueJeans had to offer. The functionality was great. We could launch breakout sessions without a hitch, and it was so easy to record meetings and then forward those recordings to somebody who might have missed the session,” adds Bedi. “So, it felt like a really good fit for us for those reasons.”
And no handholding has been necessary since Her Product Lab deployed BlueJeans.
“The only thing we’ve been doing is that for our Friday online learning sessions, we do a dry run beforehand for 15 minutes with the speakers. And that’s just so they feel comfortable with a new platform before presenting,” says Bedi.
“Everyone,” she adds, “has been able to instead focus on sharing and learning without having to think about the technology they’re using and whether it’s working.”
Finding a Silver Lining in 2020
By going virtual — with help from BlueJeans — Her Product Lab has accomplished far more than just organize a full-day summit.
“The silver lining in 2020 for us is that our offerings ended up being so much more robust,” says Bedi.
Building a global community has also been so much easier by collaborating over BlueJeans. Less than a year since its inception, Her Product Lab has grown its community of women in product to 1,200 across the world. It now runs a learning series and produces a podcast with interviews recorded on BlueJeans in its quest to elevate women in their product careers.
“With our incubator program, Friday learning sessions, and other offerings for our community, we’re now able to think globally,” says Bedi. “We’re not just thinking about New York, Chicago, DC, and Atlanta like we were before. Our community is starting to grow globally because our outreach has been so much further.”
As Bedi and Rozenfeld explore how else they can grow their community, they expect to continue relying on BlueJeans to support their ambitions for women in product.
“We’d love to keep going,” says Rozenfeld. “And we’re going to continue using the platform because we find it incredibly beneficial to what we’re doing.”