Austin Product Conference features fast growing tech companies, enjoys turnout from 150 universities, 20 countries

Shama Gupta, Life & Arts Reporter

Ben Taylor felt his nerves kicking in during a job interview last Tuesday. He thought back to the previous night, when an audience member at the Austin Product Conference asked Samantha Berg, head of design at Chime, what to do about interview anxiety.

The computer science freshman remembered how Berg said she appreciates when interviewees tell her they are nervous because it shows honesty and self-awareness, and Taylor put that into practice.

Texas Product Engineering, a student organization that builds software products and teaches students about product, engineering and design, held its second annual APC virtually from April 25 through April 27. The event featured executives and CEOs from fast-growing technology companies, such as UiPath and Bolt. Siddharth Shende, a management information systems sophomore and Texas Product Engineering member, said the conference, which had 200 attendees across three days, aimed to give students a chance to hear from industry leaders about their experiences in the tech world.

“It’s inspiring for someone who’s on the fence for tech (to see the world) they can jump into,” said Shende, who led two of the six speaker events. “It’s even more motivating for those who are breaking into tech to see (what they could be doing) 20 years from now.”

Due to APC’s virtual format, students from 150 different universities were present, and people from 20 countries tuned into the conversations, Shende said. Featured speakers included Rahul Sood, CEO of Irreverent Labs; Param Kahlon, chief product officer at UiPath; Palak Kadakia, vice president of product management at UiPath; Bolt engineering manager Niraj Jayant; and senior designer Irene Zou.

Taylor said these big titles and companies first caught his eye when he saw marketing for the event. Taylor said he was inspired to see that Zou pivoted into the product design space despite having a business background, which gave him hope that he could eventually traverse the design industry himself.

“It could come off that getting into design requires you to have a whole high school, middle school background and being a traditional artist,” Taylor said. “But maybe it is possible to get into it (through something as simple as) a boot camp.”

Irena Lee, a computer science and economics junior who led the talk with Sood along with Shende, said the conference showcased the fast-paced, invigorating environment of the industry, as well as the challenges that come with it.

“We hope listeners will get a really good look into these different companies and representatives that are coming, as well as the area of product and product design in tech and its (growth) in the next few years,” Lee said before the conference.

Ultimately, Shende, Lee and the rest of their team were thrilled with how smoothly the conference ran, and said they are looking forward to hosting an in-person APC next year with more Austin-based companies.

“It was amazing that everything worked end-to-end without any problems,” Shende said. “(Next year), I want to make sure (there’s at least) 100 people in one room for (each) event having great conversations. There’s food in the back. There’s socializing. There’s networking. Virtual is great, but I’ve always loved in person. I think it’ll be very likely you’ll see APC in person next year.”