Continuing the Age of Product Series, Products That Count CPO and former Microsoft Product Lead James Gray sat down with members of the Product Awards Advisory Board to discuss the various competencies product leaders need at every stage of the product life cycle. Joining him this week is Neha Taleja, current Prezi Product Director and former Senior Product Director at Macmillian, to discuss the superpowers of the design stage of the product life cycle.

So far in the Age of Product series, we’ve touched on two stages of the product life cycle: collaborate and operate. Similar to these two, other stages of the product life cycle tend to live and exist behind the curtain. Design, however, shines out front and center, to be felt and experienced by all users. To put it lightly, the impact of design should not be underestimated.

On the impact of design on the consumer

Starting off with a bang, Neha provided listeners with a succinct breakdown of the impact of design within a successful product. Continuing on, she broke down the various types of experiences present in a product that are manifested through design. From interface on to user experiences, she emphasized that product managers should make decisions with the intent of clear, thoughtful design.

“Design is one of the components of your product that affects one hundred percent of your users. Creating good design takes a lot of effort. Collaboration and thoughtfulness and good tools can help you in all of these.”

“How your users experience your product impacts the retention and the success of your product, and ultimately, the health of your business. So from the first time user experience all the way through retention and monetization, it should be driven by very conscious, thoughtful design choices.”

“Your stakeholders, executive team, external audiences, all of your users, they’re all touching your product, and they experience design. This means the focus that a product manager puts in this stage is one of the most important and crucial decisions that will lead to the success of a product.”

On decision fatigue and the advantage of a product acceleration platform

With thousands of decisions to be made each day, decision fatigue is an ever-present possibility for product leaders. Touching on the topic of a product acceleration platform, Neha shared the benefits of the concept to the design stage. Finally, to round out the discussion, James brought in one of our favorite questions here at Products That Count. What makes a great product?

“A product acceleration platform is a set of tools and resources that allows you to help evolve your product team. It helps assess the gaps that may exist in your product team, helps you bridge skills, and promotes out of the box thinking. Ultimately, it strengthens the bonds in the community through camaraderie between product managers, and promotes better decision making.”

“Simply ask, ‘does the product solve a problem?’ I think there’s a lot of choice fatigue. Meaning, product managers live with the paradox of too many choices, too many products, too many options. But the ones that should stick are the ones that make life easier. They make life more fun and they make things more efficient, both economically and operationally.”


About the speaker
Neha Taleja Director of Product Member

Neha is the Senior Director of Product at Macmillan Learning leading a set of start-up products under the institutional group aimed to address challenges in higher education such as affordability of educational materials, retention and student success. She has been bu.ilding, growing and scaling products in the ed-tech space for the past decade with her experience ranging from course-ware solutions, student facing applications, to analytics and insights tools for decision makers. She loves to travel and lives in South San Francisco to stay close to the airport

About the host
James Gray James Gray Innovations LLC, Founder

Seasoned executive with three decades of experience envisioning, building, and operating software products and mission-critical platforms at startups to large organizations such as Microsoft. Throughout his career, James has held a diverse set of roles and developed expertise across leadership, product management, data science, IT operations, consulting, software engineering, and sales. As Chief Product Officer at Products That Count, he leads an online platform to help organizations learn the craft of product management and win as a market leader. As a coach, he leads mastermind circles to facilitate peer-to-peer learning across product management executives. As a podcast host, he interviews CEOs of companies held within Mighty Capital’s portfolio. Creator of the Career Strategy Framework and an online platform that teaches and coaches professionals how to reach their full career potential. Learn more at

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