Chatting about chat bots with Megan Berry, Head of Product at Octane AI

Interview by Allison Grinberg-Funes

Hi Megan! You work at Octane AI, a great company in the artificial intelligence space. Can you tell us about what you do and why you became a Founding Member of Tech Ladies?

I joined Octane AI as Head of Product in November. Octane AI is a venture-backed startup that allows anyone to easily create a bot. More people use messaging apps than social media, so bots are a huge opportunity to engage with your customers and audience where they already are. I’m hugely excited to help build best practices in this new industry. I think in the next year or two we’ll see that bots became an essential part of a company’s marketing arsenal, just like newsletters.

I’ve been a member of Tech Ladies since last July and have gotten tremendous value out of the community! I’ve been working in startups since I graduated from Stanford in 2009 and I’ve also consistently had more male than female coworkers and male bosses. It’s nice to have a community of smart, talented women in tech as a go-to for moral support, advice, or simply just to feel part of a larger community. I became a founding member of Tech Ladies to further support this community that has helped me.

Chatbots are a hot topic. What are some key things we need to know about how this new technology will affect the tech industry?

I think the big change you’ll see this year is a shift from a pure technology conversation to a focus on how businesses can create engaging content and experiences for their audience on messaging apps. If your users are there (and they are), then companies should think about what presence they need on messaging channels. I think you’ll see the same shift that happened with Facebook — first people question if they need to be there and if there is ROI to this “new thing.” Then, as it becomes clear that the audience is there, the conversation shifts to how to be effective and the best strategies to succeed.

Bots are here to stay. It’s not a question of if businesses will use them, but about what bots will be most effective and engaging for their audience.

You head up the product team at Octane AI. What is the biggest challenge you face leading your team and what can other Tech Ladies working in product do to remain competitive?

I work with an incredibly talented, all-remote team. Everyone is a self-starter, very motivated, and excited about what we’re building together.

I focus on doing three things:

  1. Ruthlessly prioritize. Everyone is so excited and there are so many ideas floating around, it’s important the team is always clear on what will move the needle the most at any given time. There’s always more we want to do, but we only have so much time in the day.
  2. Make the “Why” clear. When you’re working with talented engineers and designers, the worst thing you can do is to make them feel like they’re working on tasks but don’t understand why they matter to the business. I make sure each ticket has a “Why” clearly in it. This provides two benefits — it allows engineers or designers to be a part of the creative process and come up with better ideas of how something could be done (i.e. if they know why we need something, they may have a better idea of how to do it then what I was thinking. I LOVE getting those ideas!) and it also helps clarify the value of the work they’re doing.
  3. Celebrate victories. Everyone works really hard, so I try to make sure I am celebrating successes. It is all too easy once something goes live to just quickly move on to the next important thing we need, but we also try to take a moment to give props to the person who worked on it. We use GrowthBot in Slack to help highlight these moments.

I’m constantly trying to get better at what I do and always try to be very open to feedback from everyone I work with. I think my biggest learning is that no one is perfect, so take all the help and advice you can get, wherever you can get it.

Also, remember to take care of yourself. As a product manager I think it’s super important to always be a motivated and positive force on the team, but you can only do that if you’re taking care of yourself. You’re much better off going for a 20 minute walk than getting on a call when you’re frustrated.


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