Written by Shane Taleisnik, iXperience '17 (Product Management), UCLA '20
Staying close to home for the summer is easy.
Following the crowd with your school friends is easy.
Practicing skills that you’re already comfortable with is easy.
I didn’t want to be comfortable; I didn’t want to do what was easy. I wanted to get out of my comfort zone. This ultimately led me to one of the best decisions I have ever made: getting on a 26 hour plane ride to Cape Town, South Africa for 8 weeks to attend iXperience.
When my friends asked me what I was doing over the summer, it was always hard to explain. I would usually just tell them I was going to be attending an 8-week program in South Africa to learn about Product Management and gain real-world experience…
Little did I know that I was about to embark on a journey that would take me to my limits in the classroom, take me in a plane 15,000 feet up in the air, and take me into a cage surrounded by Great White sharks.
As a freshmen, like many others, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do after college. And, when I found out about iXperience, I didn't even know what Product Management was. But after reading more about the industry, and checking out iXperience's industry spotlight on what PMs do, I knew I found the course that was right for me.
I learned more in those short 4 weeks under our Professor Johann Von Tonder and Teaching Assistant Trevor Hinkle than I could have ever imagined learning in a year of classes at University. I was invigorated by some of the brightest and most passionate classmates, who inspired me to unlock my true potential and achieve goals.
My journey throughout the course was intense, but extraordinarily interesting and worthwhile. Our class was assigned the ostensibly daunting task of thinking and developing a new product; the class would conclude with a final presentation outlining the process we experienced, as well as the components that determine the viability of the product. Johann’s teaching style epitomized action-based learning, which prepared us with various lessons and instructions that matched what stage of the process we were currently in. My teammates (Audrey Ou and Sami Mustapha) and I encountered many different experiences and emotions throughout the process of working on our final project that we truly believed could be used to revolutionize how people travel.
We were emotionally invested in the creation of an app named Layover, which would essentially help people around the world mitigate wasted, valuable time while traveling.
We spent hours planning a goal-oriented roadmap, business modeling, validating core user assumptions through qualitative and quantitative data, conducting competitor analysis and market sizing, and identifying value propositions — eventually creating an MVP (‘Minimum Viable Product’).
My team and I encountered a few competitors that offered similar features as the ones Layover provided, but we continued to put our heads down and develop our product. As each day passed, the more reluctant we became; we knew apps such as Google Trips could provide users with everything we had and more. Before we knew it, the realization that our efforts were centered around the final presentation instead of the feasibility of the product prompted us towards a significantly difficult decision. Less than 48 hours before the morning of our final presentation, we decided to swallow our pride, and pivot to a completely different product.
This process was stressful and challenging, but it threw me out of my comfort zone. I learned that it is crucial to make the moral decision, even if that means taking the more difficult path. My journey with the Product Management course taught me so much more than the catalog of skills I acquired throughout; it taught me that being uncomfortable can ultimately lead to the most impactful growth.
Thank you for introducing me to a network with some of the most passionate and driven students from around the world; not only are some of them my co-founders, but also my friends for life.
Thank you for the opportunity to spend two months with my big bro and hike breath-taking landmarks such as Lion’s Head and Table Mountain.
Thank you for letting me explore one of the most vibrant, fascinating, and hospitable cities in the world.
And finally, thank you for pushing me to learn everyday, appreciate the little things, reach my potential, and get out of my comfort zone.