The best product managers are visionaries who can creatively problem solve. They help guide the success of a product and lead the cross-functional team that is responsible for improving it. This is an important organizational role — especially in technology companies.

Over the past year the Planned platform has been re-invented from the ground up. It’s all about understanding the user needs and ensuring an intuitive and seamless experience. As the pandemic recedes and social restrictions are being removed globally, we’re continuing to see the results of our hard work through the events that our clients are booking.

You’re probably thinking that building a product to entirely streamline a process that is seen as having many inefficiencies must be challenging. It is exactly that, especially when one considers that our goal of completely transforming the event planning industry is a moving target due to constant changes in market trends and a large desire for innovation from our users.

Among the talent-density at Planned is Gabriella Hachem, our Product Manager. Gabriella joined the Planned team in September 2020 and has overseen all aspects of continuous improvement of Planned’s platform and user experience. “Some people thought it was a bit odd to join a startup in the events industry during a pandemic, but I really believe in the product and team.”

Since joining the team, Gabriella has assisted in restructuring the product process, talking with clients to understand the needs of our users, set both short and long term goals for the product, and overall contributed to the passion and desire to innovate on the team.

Gabriella graduated from McGill University in 2017 with a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing and a minor in Entrepreneurship. After graduating, she pursued a position as a UX Designer then a Product Manager at a startup based in Montreal that focused on conversational AI for ecommerce. This was when her passion for product management began.

“Product management isn’t a career that you learn about in school. I had no idea this job existed and what it entailed.” Her interest in product management grew as she learned more about product development and spoke with product leaders around her. She says, “To me, the most inspiring and fun parts of the role revolve around solving user problems, wireframing, and looking for patterns in the data.”

Some of Gabriella’s favorite Lebanese dishes.

In her day to day role at Planned, Gabriella focuses primarily on: sketching and laying out ideas for features or iterations, breaking down user problems to discuss with the team, and meetings with various stakeholders, as well as testing new features that the team has pushed that week and debugging or prioritizing new bugs that may come up. When she isn’t focusing on the product, she likes watching The Office,eating Lebanese and Italian food, and socializing with friends.

Her passion for the product and our users has helped in transforming our product entirely. She shared, “The product itself has grown significantly and I’m proud of the team for what we’ve accomplished with the challenges of the pandemic,”she says. “The biggest hurdle we’ve overcome, in my opinion, is building with a lack of quantitative user data. We’ve really done the best with what we have, and our qualitative user interviews have been a great alternate method for feature validation.”

“The most prominent change is probably our product process. It used to be very waterfall-y, where the features and solutions were pretty much fully decided before they got to the developers. The process is now waymore collaborative, with product and designers and developers solving our user problems together.”

A couple of her favourite product people to follow are Shreyas Doshi and Bo RenThese innovators have a wealth of experience that anyone can learn from, including their contributions to StripeInstagram, and Twitter. Shreyas and Bo share insights about product management with concrete and applicable frameworks that inspire their vast audiences. “Another amazing product thinker is a mentor and friend of mine, Justin Evans, whom I got to work with in my previous role. He engrained impact on user x cost as my main prioritization framework. He’s constantly pushing me higher and I learned an immense amount from him.”

Gabriella’s drive and focus has contributed to the growth of Planned, and from the onset her approach to strengthen the user experience and develop the product has made her a key asset. In addition to her passion, her excitement to continue to grow with the team and improve the platform inspires those around her. “Everything we’ve built is only the first version of that feature — there will be many improvements and iterations to come for pretty much every piece, so I’m excited about everything. I’m particularly excited to build the admin and reporting dashboard for our clients. I personally love interacting with dashboards so I’m excited to build and deliver value to others through one.”

Her ability to face problems head on and her genuine curiosity are two features that contribute to Gabriella being a successful Product Manager at Planned. We look forward to continuing to see how her enthusiasm drives innovation.

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Broaden My Skills

Broaden My SkillsIt takes drive, ambition, and clear action to take on the event planning industry and push the boundaries for what is possible in events. With the dedication of a mighty team, Planned has continued to work with clients and suppliers to produce unique and innovative events across North America. The talent density at Planned is at an all time high, and one of those talents is Jared Carbonneau. Jared is a Software Engineer at Planned, and since joining the team in February 2021 has made a large impact on the communication flow of the product, through enabling email notifications to be sent when a message is received on the platform, and allowing status changes to be made based on availability. He has also spent his time focusing on implementing the design system and ensuring its ease of use for all developers on the team. Jared joined Planned at at a crucial point in our product development process and has since played a large role in improving our product and suggesting ways to engage our clients and suppliers more through the platform. As far as his path prior to joining Planned, it may not be what you might assume. After graduating high school, Jared was trained as a carpenter, and worked in the field for a few years. During that time he was also focusing on volunteer construction projects in the Dominican Republic. “Volunteering really brought me to cultures, languages, friends and new ways of doing things that I otherwise would have missed out on.” After a few years in the construction industry, Jared headed across seas to China, where he learned Mandarin, taught English, and travelled to factories to inspect goods for Canadian clients. “I inspected a lot of iron castings, which are pretty cool because of the melted metal, I then transitioned to inspecting construction materials, like tiles and cabinets. China really is one big factory, and I traveled to many areas to help my clients.” After exploring other parts of the world, Jared landed back in Montréal. While planning his next professional move, Jared took a two month coding bootcamp called DecodeMTL (now Concordia University bootcamps) and hustled to learn an entirely new industry. To Jared, “Software engineering wasn’t exactly a dream of mine, but after some friends suggested taking free online classes, I fell in love with it.” His love for software engineering shines through in his enthusiasm to brainstorm new concepts and creatively solve technological problems at Planned. Jared’s career as a Software Engineer today is not surprising if you look at his interests in high school. At a young age he enjoyed psychics and woodworking: subjects that encourage creativity and emphasize problem solving skills. In his view, “Software engineering allows me to build really cool things, just like when I was working in construction.” When Jared isn’t coding, he spends most of his time with his family, exploring the great outdoors that Quebec has to offer. It’s common for Jared to take some time off from work and come back with great stories about his adventures to share with the team! “Our favorite spot this summer was Sepaq Mont-Tremblant:…

3 min read 2 months ago

Pure Passion

Pure PassionNot many people would move from California to Montreal in the middle of a pandemic, but that’s just one of the things that makes Madison Bonser such a special part of the Planned team. A psychology graduate from the University of British Columbia and a lover of anything active, Madison joined Planned in June 2020. Madison at the University of British Columbia. As with any early stage startup like Planned, employees often have to wear different hats. Given this nature, Madison has been a key player in driving supply and operations initiatives forward. Just a few months after joining Planned, Madison became lead on marketing, while also being an awesome organizer of many team activities. Here’s what Madison has to say about the changes since her arrival: “When I joined Planned, it was the beginning of truly onboarding vendors into the marketplace, as well as growing our partnerships with venues across North America. Since then, the Planned marketplace has exponentially grown, and our user platform has improved dramatically and looks completely different. As for marketing, we’ve really taken steps towards including our clients and partners, by featuring our partners in various outreaches and on our social media platforms. We’ve also been engaging with our clients in a highly meaningful way and receiving feedback through post-event surveys and conversations!” Since Madison has picked up more marketing initiatives, Planned’s online presence has grown and we’ve been able to connect with the event planning community at a much more significant level. Madison’s passion in her marketing and partnerships role at Planned shines through, and when asked how that connects with her major in university (psychology), she commented: “To me, marketing/partnerships and psychology are very similar; at the end of the day it boils down to human behavior and understanding people. I am incredibly passionate about connecting with people and understanding what motivates them. Marketing and partnerships allows me to explore that in a variety of ways and, in doing so, recognize behavior patterns and trends and utilize that data in multiple ways.” When she isn’t at the Planned HQ, she’s always on adventures in the outdoors! Along with her continuous drive and creative user-centric ideas, Madison wraps her high performance presence up in her contagious smile. A genuine pleasure to work with, Madison is excited about a few of her upcoming Planned projects: “We have several important initiatives underway. One being updating the website, which we're reinventing to make as innovative and exciting as our product is. We really want to have the website reflect how fun event planning can be and the constant desire to improve and elevate.” She adds that an overarching mission of the marketing programs is “building Planned’s credibility externally through various facets. We’ve created product listings on third party websites to view direct feedback from our users, because we’re always looking to build our product alongside our users. In addition to these two initiatives, we’re starting a Partner Program to collaborate with organizations across North America to grow our community and continue to revolutionize the event planning industry!” One of Madison’s favourite…

4 min read 4 months ago

Part of the Evolution

Part of the EvolutionThe power of the Planned marketplace is a major value proposition that sets us apart in the industry. Currently, we feature over 20,000 carefully curated suppliers across North America. Over the past year, despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Planned marketplace has evolved into an indispensable resource for event planners in major markets throughout Canada and the U.S.. The highly intuitive and user-friendly nature of our supplier discovery is largely the result of the talent and dedication of Stefan Trivuncic, one of Planned’s Senior Software Developers.Joining our team in October 2020, Stefan quickly established himself as an invaluable architect of Planned’s rapidly evolving platformin support of refining our user experience into the leadership position we enjoy today. Stefan- the tennis star at Planned! Born in Belgrade, Serbia, Stefan’s family emigrated to Canada when he was just four years of age. Their journey brought them to St-Jerome, a bucolic town on the Rivière du Nord and gateway to a ski country in the Laurentian Mountains. From a young age Stefan has enjoyed computers and science fiction, while also enjoying hockey and tennis — all of which he remains passionate about despite his busy schedule. Later, the family relocated to Ottawa where Stefan studied Criminal Justice at Carleton University, earning his Bachelor’s degree with a minor in Business Law. Stefan’s first exposure to programming came about while working atAcademie de la Capitale, an independent school using the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum which incorporates a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) approach to learning. There, Stefan was introduced to coding as the lead instructor was a computer science professor at the University of Ottawa. Stefan teaching at Academie de la Capitale. “He introduced me to the world of programming and the opportunities it brought,” Stefan recalls. “I have no formal education in software development and am completely self-taught via various online mediums of educational platforms for software development, like Udemyand FreecodeCamp.” “I originally wanted to go to law school to become a corporate or intellectual property lawyer and focus on areas in technology. But it became clear to me that the law was always reactive and not able to catch up with the ever changing technologies and software. I decided that I would rather be hands-on and be part of the evolutionin software development instead of just reacting to it as a lawyer. During the rest of my B.A, I would balance my time between my university classes, learning to code, and work at that private school teaching students during the school year and summers.” His journey eventually led him to join Planned in October 2020. When he initially joined Planned, the software was beginning to shift and that involved a lot of oversight, planning, and moving away from copious amounts of legacy code. While that process was initially difficult and required a dedicated team, Stefan has enjoyed seeing the progress of where the application started to where it is now. “Working in the Marketplace, you really get to see where the application shines in terms of providing a variety…

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