Building a POC for a Puppy: How Product Methodologies Help Guide My Decisions at Work and at Home

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Many R&D buzzwords and acronyms can seem like complex jargon — unnecessary shortcuts for concepts that are already pretty basic. But really, the good ones are put in place to help processes flow more smoothly. And they’re so simple, even a child can understand them.

I learned that first-hand during the pandemic.

As the VP of Tech Operations for Taboola, I specialize in accelerating teams to develop products. And I’ve always believed that an agile and iterative approach leads to a successful and innovative company.

Now, my ten-year-old daughter understands that, too.

Here’s how it happened.

The Pitch

In March 2020, my family was doing what many others around the world were doing: staying safe and quarantining in our home. As many others were experiencing, nothing seemed to be going well. Then, to make matters more stressful, my daughter started asking (a.k.a. begging) for a dog.

Despite my off-hand joke about her little brother already being a sort of pet, she made a face and went to ask my husband instead. His response? “Yeah, maybe.”

“Oh no,” I thought. “Big mistake!”

Assessing the Product-Market Fit

Then my business side kicked in. While handling my toddler son who was trying to “help” with the dishes by dangerously perching himself on the counter, I turned to my daughter and said, “Sure, you can have a dog. But first, let’s do a POC.”

I didn’t even think before I said it. I just blurted it out as if I was in a meeting with a colleague.

Here’s how that conversation went:

Kid: A PO what?

Me: A POC, dear. It means “proof of concept.” If you really want a dog, you need to prove that it is feasible.

Kid: Ok, let’s get a dog and I will prove it to you.

Me: No, no, you’re missing the point. I won’t get you a dog until you prove you’re capable of having one. Why waste time and energy on finding a dog if you might not be up to it?

Finally, we agreed on the following terms for our POC: My daughter needs to take an imaginary dog with an imaginary leash for a walk twice a day around 6:00 AM and 6:00 PM. If she can do it, the MVP, or minimal valuable product, would be to have a four-legged animal at home for a few days. (I figured the neighbors would be happy to let us sit with their cat for a short period of time.)

My daughter said she understood, but she still thought it would be a waste of time because, in a few days, we’d be back where we started — with her asking for a dog.

“Ok,” I said. “Let’s see in a few days.”

The Results

Two days later…

Kid: Mom, will you go for a walk with “the leash”? It’s cold outside.

Me: No way! Are you saying the POC failed?

Kid: *Grunts and slams the door on her way out for the walk.*

The next day, at a family barbecue…

Me: It’s 6:00 PM. Enjoy your walk, sweetie. Beware of cats on the way.

Kid: Oh, no. I forgot to tell you. The POC failed. We won’t be doing the MVP after all. Pass the kebabs, please.

Me: *Smiling, knowing what victory feels like.*

Thirty seconds later…

Kid: By the way, mom, what’s the POC for hamsters?

Me: *Not smiling anymore.*

The Takeaway

Looking back, I think this experience had three positive outcomes:

  • Sharing more of my work life with my daughter
  • Helping my daughter learn about the responsibilities of owning a dog – so that I won’t find myself taking care of her dog
  • Experiencing how useful and valuable it is to use concepts like POC and MVP in real life

In fact, I already have my next lesson planned! If we must go into lockdown again as this pandemic continues to unfold, I think I’ll use the opportunity to explain how my kid’s Nintendo Switch affected the EBITDA and cash flow of the household.

You know, good old family fun!

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