What does it take to lead product in the startup ecosystem? In this episode of the Product Leaders to Watch series hosted by Cognizant Product Director Chenny Solaiyappan, Stay 22 Head of Product Laura Di Costanzo shares insights from her experiences in Montreal’s startup ecosystem. She speaks on her journey in product management, from marketing to leading a team of 10 across product and design. She discusses her work optimizing operations with workflow management platforms and enhancing collaboration. Laura is also passionate about giving back to the Montreal product community through organizing events and launching a training program for aspiring product managers. The interview explores topics including product management skills, AI trends, and how to best support senior citizens through technology.

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Show Notes

  1. Laura has over 12 years of experience leading in the startup ecosystem.
  2. She found her passion in product management after starting in marketing.
  3. Organizing meetups helped strengthen the Montreal product community.
  4. Laura prioritizes including women on speaker panels at meetups.
  5. Her work at Unito optimized operations with a workflow management platform.
  6. Soft skills like empathy, collaboration and communication are important for PMs.
  7. Products should continuously improve to address changing user needs.
  8. APM training provides structure for diverse and junior product managers.
  9. Mentoring is an essential part of the training program.
  10. AI hype may burst after overuse in products without solving real problems.
  11. Supporting seniors is an area of interest as the population ages.
  12. Great products solve meaningful problems for users at scale.
  13. Continuous user listening and improvement is vital when leading in the startup ecosystem.
  14. Technical skills are easier for PMs to learn than soft skills.
  15. Empathy is a core but difficult skill for PMs to develop.
  16. It’s often preferred to hire junior PMs and train them.
  17. Products should serve users rather than just business goals.
  18. Laura is excited by future of AR/VR but wants responsible development.
  19. Gender representation in tech needs more focus.
  20. Community involvement is personally rewarding for Laura.

About the speaker
Laura Di Costanzo Unito, Fmr. Director of Product Member

I am a seasoned product leader with a dynamic career spanning 12 years in the Montreal startup ecosystem, from the early Seed stage to successful Series B funding rounds. My journey has been rooted in the SaaS industry, primarily within the B2B sector, where I've championed product-led growth strategies. Throughout my career, I've excelled in defining and steering product strategy and roadmaps, consistently driving innovation and growth. My experience extends across diverse industries, including AdTech, Music, and Integrations platforms. One of my proudest accomplishments is my ability to build and nurture high-performing product and design teams from the ground up, fostering a strong product culture that values innovation and user-centric solutions. In addition to my product leadership, I have a proven track record in optimizing internal operations across departments, streamlining processes to drive efficiency and cross-functional collaboration. Beyond my product leadership, I'm deeply committed to strengthening the Product Community of Montreal. I've actively contributed to this mission through my involvement with ProductTank, APM Montreal, and, most recently, by organizing the first product conference in Montreal, Product4good, with Techaide. I'm excited to continue shaping the future of the product landscape and driving positive change in our startup community.

About the host
Chenny Solaiyappan Cognizant, Director, Product Management, Government Health programs

Chenny Solaiyappan is the Director of Product Management for Cognizant Trizetto's Government and Quality Solutions, and a founding member of the ClaimSphere suite of products, encompassing quality, HEDIS ®, CMS Stars, and clinical solutions. An accomplished Intrapreneur and Lean Startup Practitioner, he plays a pivotal role in shaping the overall product strategy and serves as the HL7 DaVinci Business Co-chair. With a notable track record, Chenny has provided consultancy to over 30 health plans across the nation, consistently raising Quality and Star ratings in Medicaid, Medicare, Federal Employees Health Plan, and Commercial health plan sectors, collectively supporting 30 million lives. His outstanding leadership and innovative contributions have earned him prestigious awards, including the 2023 Top 20 Global Product Manager Award by Products That Count, as well as the 2021 and 2019 Product of the Year awards by Cognizant Trizetto.

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