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.

More articles from Planned

5 min read 3 months ago

Ownership and Involvement

Planned exists to offer event planners everywhere the best solution available for their events. In practice this translates to providing a dashboard view of the multitude of decisions and tasks which make an event successful — reliably providing event planners with a seamless, efficient, and comprehensive platform which enhances the experience of event planning for all planners. Over the past year we’ve taken advantage of the pause offered by the COVID-19 pandemic and re-invented our platform from the ground up. Our team of developers and user interface designers have created new features, a more intuitive interface, and easier discovery of suppliers. As the pandemic recedes and social restrictions are easing in many markets, we’re continuing to see the results of their hard work. You’re probably thinking that building a product of this complexity and scope 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 ever heightened expectations of our users and industry trends, many of which have emerged to adapt to the new post-COVID-19 world. Among the programmer wizards at Planned is the talented and resourceful Mark Conn, our Senior Software Engineer. Upon joining the team last August, Mark’s to-do list was well defined: help rebuild the foundation of the Planned platform. This rebuild would support an ambitious new feature set which will leapfrog us ahead of the competition. Since then he has been instrumental in completely restructuring our product and the way that our clients interact with it. A focus throughout 2020 was to recreate our product so that it would be scalable and eventually a self-serving platform. Mark recognized that the foundation of the platform had to be rebuilt from scratch. He shared that, “we brought in tools that would help us really achieve a more robust and serious platform. NextJS replaced our hand-rolled React boilerplate for our client app. Typescript became universal across all apps. We picked Material UI for our component library.” Mark’s passion for software development began in 2015. He received his Bachelor’s degree in Urban Planning from Concordia University in Montreal. And from 2007 to 2019, he joined the military as an infantry soldier and eventually got specialized as a close protection operator and was deployed to Afghanistan in 2014. Amongst returning home from Afghanistan, he decided it was time for the next chapter and found a coding bootcamp, DecodeMTL, that piqued his interest. From then on, his career in software development unraveled. Mark shared, “I always thought software was fascinating but I felt like an outsider in the sense that it seemed closed off to only those with computer science degrees. However, I learned that this wasn’t truly the case, and that anyone could access the material to learn and try their hand at it.” He naturally enjoys building and the foundations of what engineering is, and recognizes that software development is a career that is needed in any industry. “There’s a bit of a stigma of the old fashioned ‘programmer’ who just sits around hacking in solitude, but…

4 min read 4 months ago

Learning to Adapt

In accomplishing an objective of maintaining a strong level of usefulness within our client base, the tracking of behavior and user feedback is crucial to closing the loop between the customer experience and the ongoing product development process. Much of this responsibility rests with Planned’s Key Account Manager, David Cottingham. Celebrating his second Planned-anniversary today, David has become pivotally important in ‘taking the temperature’ of our users to measure how they rate their overall experience. David’s professionalism has been a calming influence throughout the pandemic that all his colleagues appreciate. The importance of client feedback and client usability testing cannot be understated, especially within a company that has developed a product to revolutionize an entire industry. Planned is thrilled to be in such a collaborative industry with hardworking and dedicated clients. We take pleasure in continuing to create tools to make their lives easier, and our Account Managers are key players in maintaining those relationships. David’s drive to succeed can be seen in many milestones and successes within his life. He graduated from Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia with a degree in Finance and accepted an offer to join the Finance team at the Royal Bank of Canada. With his entrepreneurial mindset he noticed an untapped market and founded a barbeque ‘tune-up’ service company during the summer months, cleaning backyard grills for those in his local area. Fortunately for Planned, David’s curiosity for the tech industry drew him to seek opportunities outside of banking. On March 31, 2019, Planned, at the time known as Entr, onboarded David and has greatly appreciated the effort he puts into any task at hand since. Throughout his journey at Planned, David has witnessed shifts in the company and the product, sharing that “we’re more big picture — we focus on how to get user adoption across an organization and ultimately aim to sell our product to an enterprise. Enterprise sales wasn’t even a thought when I first started. It was a team effort to get to where we are…“ A mission of Planned is to include our clients in the product development process, and at the beginning of the pandemic outbreak, David headed the Discovery Program. The goal of the Discovery Program was to allow our clients to help us continue to improve our product as the solution to all of their event planning needs. With the goal of channeling client feedback to the Product Development team, the initiative was designed as an exercise in continuous user services improvement. We want our clients to know that our product is for them and that many event planners face similar challenges so to be able to solve those has given us great pride. David’s approachable and calm demeanor makes him a natural leader and a talented Account Manager. A client shared, “If I had to rate how much he helped me and eased the stress of planning my latest event, I would say he’s a six out of five stars!” As a team player David shared, “typically speaking, no weeks are ever the same [at Planned] and that’s part of working at a startup.”…

4 min read 5 months ago

The Women of Planned

The global events industry was valued at approximately $1,135.4 billion in 2019 and is expected to grow exponentially during the next decade. Serving a pivotal role in the economy and across a wide spectrum of industries, it’s worth noting that between 60%-80% of meeting, convention and event planners are female.In contrast, an estimated 20%-30% of jobs in the technology industry are held by women. As a tech company blazing trail in the event planning sector, Planned is a combination of two statistically different industries. Thanks to the dedication of our entire team, we are well on the way to establishing Planned as the premier all-in-one event planning platform. Today, and every day, we celebrate this accomplishment as a culturally diverse group of professionals working toward the common goal of dominance throughout the event planning ecosystem. On March 8th the world celebrates International Women’s Day. Observed since the early 1900’s, this is an annual moment to commemorate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. It is also designed to signal that there is much more work to be done to achieve true equality around the world. Although women have made tremendous strides since the “suffragette” movement of the early 20th century, continued progress must be made with each successive generation. This March 8th we invite you to join us in celebrating International Women’s Day’s 2021 campaign theme #ChooseToChallenge. It’s an excellent opportunity to recognize the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women and re-dedicate ourselves to accelerating women’s equality. The official art for International Women’s Day 2021. At Planned, we’re fortunate that our corporate culture includes these exceptional team players and outstanding contributors to the Planned mission. The question of ‘What does International Women’s Day mean to you?’is a stimulating and thought-provoking springboard for discussion. How one answers may be informed by culture, upbringing, or personal experience. Here are thoughts on the subject the women of Planned wanted to share: “It’s about celebrating how far women have come yet recognizing that there is still a long way to go. It’s a commitment to the fight for equality.”“In its most simple form, International Women’s Day is about gender equality. It’s about embracing the progress that has been made thus far but understanding there is still work to be done. We’ve seen incredible leaps and bounds made by women in all industries across the globe, as women are holding more seniority positions and continuing to break the glass ceiling. However, it’s important to take into account that it is also about recognizing that in less developed countries, the gender inequality faced goes so far as to be a life or death circumstance and that is not something that people should turn a blind eye to.”“International Women’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate girls and women across the world. Not only is it a reminder of how far we have come towards achieving gender equality, but it is also a reminder of how far we still have to go.”“To me, International Women’s Day is about celebrating all women everywhere,…

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