How often do you get out of your comfort zone?

As we end the first month of the year, I am seeing more and more folks fading away from their resolutions…eating less sugar, working out, writing a gratitude journal… you name it. I am also seeing threads on Facebook on running 2018 miles this year or traveling to a new country. I find some goals inspiring and some of them to be a predictable pattern of human behavior.

Sticking to goals is hard, unless you make a habit out of it and start loving whatever it is you are doing! At the end of the day, the difference maker for me is whether someone steps out of their comfort zone or not.

More importantly, making a habit out of getting out of your comfort zone will serve you better in the long run than yo-yo dieting.

I have several examples of where I was OK getting out of my comfort zone and some where I’m still very much NOT! The perfect one is with signing up for a 200 mile bike ride from Seattle to Portland, on a whim might I add, and then going through the sufferfest. It was the hardest physical challenge I’ve tackled and finishing it is an accomplishment I will hold in my heart for the rest of my life.

On the other hand, I am still not comfortable facing a fear I’ve struggled with for most of my adult life – I am just not able to get over some of the psychological aspects associated with being with you in deep waters, literally.

I’ll give you another example. I am working on a side project to start a podcast called Leadership Vibes, a podcast on leadership, diversity and inclusion.

I’ve invited a bunch of folks who I thought really have unique perspectives and would be willing to share their thoughts candidly in a public forum and was surprised with the assumptions that I had made about their comfort zone. Folks I thought would not be interested in something like this, are taking a much deeper interest and are using it as a forum to practice a new skill. And then, there are folks who I thought would be willing to jump right in because the topic is right up their alley, have backed out because they’re super uncomfortable about their communication skills and public speaking.

Our initial reaction to hearing about experiences that we’ve never dealt with before really varies on our core values, backgrounds, experiences and priorities. I fully respect the decisions people make in their life but I find them fascinating to think about!

My key takeaway on the topic of comfort zone is that their are personality types who like to step out of it often and their are personality types that don’t. There’s nothing wrong with either but I do have an opinion that the former gives you a richer life.

So if you have an opportunity to do something you’ve never done before and while you may suffer through it, my belief is that you will learn something about yourself and the world through the experience.

There are life quotes out there encouraging you to step out of your comfort zone everyday, but that seems way too much!

If you can do 3-4 things in a year that really stretch you physically, emotionally and intellectually, the value you would add to your year would be exponential.

Let me give you some examples of things that might be out of your comfort zone.

  • On the physical side, there might be folks who have never run at all in their life or those who have run marathons. For them to step out of their comfort zone means different things, it could be a 5K or an ultra-marathon, respectively; either ways they are not just reading blogs on active.com or following runners on Pinterest and Instagram, they are taking action!
  • On the emotional side, an example of getting out of your comfort zone is to have a difficult conversation that you’ve been mulling over for maybe weeks, days or even years. Some conversations with your coworkers or family members can be just extremely difficult to have, but not having them is not adding any value to you or to them.
  • On the intellectual side, it would be signing up to stand in front of people and giving a presentation. Public speaking is the most common fear. I understand it, can relate to it, have overcome it and would highly encourage anybody who is interested to look into Toastmasters International. It’s a nonprofit dedicated to improving communication skills for literally a few dollars a month. It changed my life a decade ago and I still reap benefits from it!

The best resolution of all is to be better than yesterday, better at whatever you do.

In doing so, you naturally will get out of your comfort zone and stretch your proverbial wings! Hope you have a fly 2018!

AI in everyday life

Small Wonder was one of my favorite TV shows growing up. I was probably around 10 years old when I started watching it and to be honest it really got my imagination running wild. This was my first exposure to Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotics, and it was fascinating! The show was about a robot doll named Vici. Vici looked like a 10-year-old girl yet spoke like a robot and learned really fast from her surroundings. She was able to collate information, process it, use it in different contexts, anticipate and even act proactively, (a combo of machine learning, robotics and natural language processing!). Of course, the show is fictitious but the thinking was well ahead of its time!

Having just wrapped up a course from MIT on Artificial Intelligence, we are still far from this being reality but AI is embedded in everyday life, and not only we can but we must take advantage of it!

As a digitally savvy consumer, I heavily rely on technology around me for everyday activities (staying informed and organized, staying connected with my global circle, ordering trivial things like gum or more useful things like dog treats, turning the lights on/off, tracking health, finances, to dos — you name it, we do it digitally if we can!).

Having a background in technology makes me really appreciate the advances in computing over the last decade or so that allows for such powerful data processing to take place in a fraction of seconds. Here are a few things you may not have thought about:

  • Do you use recommendations on Netflix or Hulu or Amazon prime, or any video streaming service?
  • Do you stream music from Pandora or Spotify or Apple Music, or any music streaming service?
  • Do you use Amazon Echo or Google Home to listen to the news, music, weather or setup appointments?
  • Do you browse for homes on Zillow or Redfin?
  • Do you add new friends on LinkedIn or Facebook based on their recommendations?

Guess what, you’ve been a user of Artificial Intelligence! It’s the backbone for your experience — besides of course the behind the scenes work by thousands of people to make your interaction frictionless.

At the risk of throwing buzzwords, there is crazy processing power, data science, analytics, product management, program management, user research, design thinking, end to end testing and what not…all lending into a great product experience! I cannot express enough how complex the product management process can be… more on it future articles.

My biggest takeaway from the course is that the field is destined to grow by leaps and bounds, and we are the forefront of another revolution. Our generation saw the revolution of the knowledge economy and the rise of the knowledge worker.

Now, the future and the next generation of jobs belong to those who can find ways to creatively automate further and learn to augment their skillset with an acute understanding how to implement AI in their job function to drive up productivity and achieve way more!

Crosspost from my LinkedIn article:

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/ai-everyday-life-angela-govila/

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Favorite and Least Favorite aspects of Product Management

Someone asked me this recently and here are my thoughts. Does this resonate with you? What else will you add?

Favorite:

  • Solving customer problems: The field of product management exist to solve problems, whether it’s developing the next app that allows delivers Starbucks to your door or solving an accessibility challenge for children with autism. The most basic reason of why I am in this field is because I love problem solving and sometimes the solutions don’t need to be complicated. Creatively thinking of “how” to get the end result is my favorite aspect of product management.
  • Actual end to end execution I am a believer of the philosophy that ideas are a dime a dozen, it’s the actual execution of the strategy into action that drives business results. The action involved in getting a product launched to production is so exciting!

Least Favorite:

  • Stakeholder management: It just takes time and requires utmost amount of organized, clear and concise communication, usually coupled with long bouts of negotiation. Every organization I’ve been with has struggled with decision making and consensus building. This trickles down into how product development is done and for those in middle management it turns out to be a frustrating experience. It’s a necessary evil to ensure alignment on all the initiatives underway to avoid last minute surprises for management or the associates.
  • Continual changes to roadmap: Ideally there should be sustainable process that trickles into roadmap development and includes inputs from all relevant stakeholders, leaders and customers. These should periodically feed into the roadmap and less critical items should be pushed further out based on customer back analysis. There is a delicate balance needed when the roadmap is being shifted as it as an end to end impact to the product being developed and the business. In my experience, this balance is hard to achieve.

I can certainly add more but would love to hear your thoughts. Hit me up in the comments below!

Crosspost from my LinkedIn! Follow me there!

Its a small small world

Ever thought how connected we are in the 21st century…?

I am sure we all use the latest technologies to keep us in touch with our loved ones.. but how many times do you stop and think how far we’ve come along in the last 10 years. A good book that recaps the forces the globalization is The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman…. Its a must read for any Globerati!

This shrinking of time and space has led me to believe that living 7000 miles away from home doesn’t change much in this a high connected world. Yes, its low touch and its heart wrenching not to be close to family on special occasions, but the distances measured in human miles is overcome the fact that the world is now at at your fingertips.