Sharon Lo: “We need to be thinking intentionally with human-centered design”

September 26, 2019

How is the technology we’re building affecting individuals? How are we affecting the next generation? If these questions are something you ask yourself about, make sure not to miss the talk of Sharon Lo on Saturday, September 28, at 11:30 at Product Track. Sharon Lo is a product manager at Microsoft, part of the Ethics & Society for AI team, a multidisciplinary group focused on the ethical impact of emerging technologies. Sharon is passionate about the intersection of technology and design, she’s motivated in understanding the sometimes adverse effects of technology on society and how to change that. Previously, she worked on Microsoft’s Cloud team, as well as Google and the United States Department of State. We managed to ask Sharon a few questions before her talk. 

Who is a product manager to your opinion and how the challenges Product Manager deals before and now have changed?

One of my favorite explanations I’ve heard is that if a problem is scoped into the “Who, What, When, Where, Why, How,” PM’s are in charge of driving the “Who, What, When, Where, Why” and engineers and designers are in charge of driving the “how.” PM’s need to have a fundamental understanding of who we are solving the problem for, what we are solving, why is this important, when’s the right timing, all while motivating and supporting a team to innovate the best “how” of solving the problem.

Technology has become so pervasive in our society that we have to think about how it’s changing ourselves, our relationships, and our experiences. I think as PM’s because we have the responsibility of identifying which problems to solve, we need to be thinking more than ever before about what we are building and how we are measuring success.


Why humanity-centricity is so crucial in our world?

The technology we are building is deeply impacting our society and culture; think back to our world less than 20 years ago — the way we communicated and connected was entirely different. We need to be thinking intentionally with human-centered design because the products we build are going to influence the future and the next generation, and question whether we are changing society for the better.

How to be an ethical product manager?

I believe ethics is as critical to a successful PM as skills in business, engineering, design, and marketing. As the expert of your product, you need to have the awareness if whether your product can possibly inflict harm on individuals and society and how to best mitigate that. Even if we don’t realize it, we’re building our values into the products we’re building; so this is an opportunity for us to critically examine any potential biases and harms.