The nominations for the 2021 Product Awards are well underway and they are coming in by the dozens. The virtual event, being held March 1-5, is going to nothing short of thrilling, and our Awards Advisory Board definitely has their work cut out for them. Last week, we started off a series that lets our readers get to know the 5 members of the board and the Stage they represent. This week, we introduce you to the leader of the Design Stage.

Getting to know Neha Taleja

We could declare the amazing qualities of Prezi Director of Product Neha Taleja all day, every day. As the San Jose Head of Chapter here at Products That Count, she consistently leads conversations with well-known industry leaders to drive forward the product conversation. Her latest event brings in Google Product Lead Shilpa Vir, where they discuss specific examples of how companies utilize tools like lifecycle marketing and multi-touchpoint design to leverage loyal customers for rapid growth. Catch the entire conversation here.

“Good design means good business.”

Neha nails it with this quote from her Product Talk Podcast discussion. In addition to our monthly webinars, Neha recently joined our own CPO James Gray for an in-depth talk about the Design Stage. Catch that full episode on Spotify and on iTunes.

On choosing the Design Stage

A great product leader lives for product in every sense, and Neha does exactly that. She believes that the leap from good to great products depends on a few specific things. First, the product must have the ability to help users accomplish a task with minimal effort and cognitive burden. Next, it must delight the user and the buyer while accomplishing that goal. Finally, it has to be unique, yet easy to understand. This insight is exactly why we feel Neha is a perfect fit for our Awards Advisory Board.

Good design touches every single stakeholder, from internal to user. The post-2000 world of tech has dozens of examples of how good design can catapult a company to fame, or even revive it (Hello, iPhone!). With global business forced indoors, however, designing a product well is even more necessary. This is why the Design Stage is a crucial stage of the product lifecycle.

“Creating good design takes a lot of effort, collaboration, and thoughtfulness. Good tools can help you with all of these. They can keep you efficient in the effort that you’re putting in. They can help you become better collaborators, and they can even help you implement thoughtful design in a meaningful manner.”

“The Design Stage is a high need area, and it impacts one hundred percent of the product development process. We’ve all seen what happens to products that don’t go through this stage. So, it’s one of the most important, but most fragmented stages.”

On what makes a great product manager

“Different domains, companies, and cultures have diverse expectations from the product manager role. This means a product manager’s success depends on being versatile. Also, a great product manager is curious. They are a life-long learner who is empathetic in understanding the user’s needs.

“Another important aspect is a charismatic, affective presence that can help evangelize the product both internally and externally. You have to love challenges, and challenges and be passionate about coming up with solutions that are technically scalable, and viable from a business perspective. Basically, someone who is a delight to work with!”

“Finally, a great PM is self-aware. They have to be able to recognize biases. and objectively combine data, insights, and validated intuitive thinking in their decision-making process.”

On mentoring product teams

When it comes down to it, employees that feel empowered and see opportunities for growth tend to stick around. With the average product manager less than 2 years in a position, this is a crutch many companies are actively seeking to improve upon. One tried and true method: mentoring.

When teams have the support they need, great things happen, so we asked our Awards Advisory Board the ways in which they mentor their own teams. One way in which Neha promotes mentoring is by creating an overall development plan for her product managers. As one can imagine, having a clear trajectory for growth laid out helps immensely in achieving those goals. Along the way, she provides one-on-one mentoring, project-based support, and promotes involvement in brainstorming. Finally, playing the PM role for certain projects can open up opportunities to lead by example.

On the upcoming 2021 Product Awards

It’s no small feat to create a product. Product managers have to be adept at a baffling array of disciplines. That’s why the Product Awards are our favorite moments of the year. Not only do we get to discover new products and tools, but we also get to recognize the colossal effort and skills that live behind the scenes. Our Awards Advisory Board members live the life of product each and every day. For that, we say bravo, and thank you for lending us your expertise.

While the design stage may be her charge this year, we know that Neha’s passion runs deep. Naturally, we wanted to know what drives her love of product, and what excites her most about the upcoming 2021 Product Awards.

“Thoughtful products create impact, not just for the business but in the lives of users. The ability to have an impact through meaningful products is what drives me, personally.

“User empathy, data-driven decision making, creating solutions with innovative technologies, scaling up to deliver measurable value and cross-pollination of ideas from different domains. These are just a few areas that continue to fuel my passion for product management. Most importantly, product management provides a great deal of opportunities to learn and to continue to sharpen one’s axe.”

“I’m eager to have a list of recommended tools that the product community has voted for and is recommended for Product Managers. Of course, being on the Awards Advisory Board I know how much research, thought and community effort goes into selecting the nominees, finalists, and winners. It only increases my confidence in recommending the winning products to my team and those in my network.”

We know the holidays are a busy time of year, so make sure to get those nominations in early at

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