The Critical Shift is our mission to find the point in people’s lives where things shifted to launch them toward success. We interview successful people and share their stories to find their critical shifts. Our hope is that through these interviews, we find commonalities that will help us all shift upward toward greater success.

Shay Howe: Product Manager

Sitting down with Shay Howe is always enlightening. He is the type of person who you meet up for a beer with, get to talking, and then you end up closing the bar. For weeks after meeting up, you keep thinking about that conversation. He inspires you to be better.

Shay is a star at making friends. Growing up in Ohio and living in Chicago he has deep core Midwestern values and holds his integrity high. He comes from a family of teachers including both his parents and his brother. All of this has clearly helped shape Shay into the person he is. His thirst for learning and teaching has continued to be a consistent theme in Shay’s life.

The other aspect of Shay is his willingness to get involved. When he sees an opportunity to help out, he doesn’t hesitate.

In Tim Ferriss’ book Tools of Titans, Chris Sacca talks about finding opportunities and how important it is to “Say Yes” as you just never know where the lotto ticket is. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was talking specifically about Shay. Shay says yes and then really puts his talent and time behind whatever the task may be. It has really paid off as he is now one of the most sought after product managers in the country.

(Product Managers are basically the unicorns of the tech world. They combine business knowledge, technical expertise, and user experience design to shape technology (products) for businesses. The most famous Product Manager is Steve Jobs.)

Shay’s Critical Shift: A Meetup

Shay talks about how lucky he has been. But digging deeper, (although he is ultra humble), you quickly realize how he really has manufactured his luck. It’s just in his personality. When he moved to Chicago he didn’t know anyone. He quickly connected to people online in the design community and offered to help them with a meetup group they had started called Refresh Chicago. In no time he was finding sponsors, speakers, and helping to grow it to 3,000 members, arguably the most successful design meetup in Chicago. Everyone in the community soon knew who Shay Howe was and the hard (volunteer) work he put in. When they didn’t have a speaker, the other organizers asked Shay to jump on it. He gave his all into crafting a talk for himself to give. Even though it was his first time doing something like that, the effort he put in paid off putting his name on the map as a speaker. Since then he’s been speaking all over the world.. “Any time I put myself in a scenario that I don’t feel comfortable I learn a lot” That meetup changed the trajectory of Shay’s career and has led to jobs, friends, and opportunities that he could only dream of before.

When a local code school (Starter League) asked him to help out, he taught a free night class while building the best tutorial out there. Then he wrote an amazing book about it. That’s not luck, that is Shay being Shay.

Shay specifically mentioned two people who have changed the trajectory of his life. Matt Puchlerz and Russ Unger. Matt had just started the design meetup when Shay met him and jumped on board. Matt was very connected and helped Shay get to know the Chicago community. Shay had to tragically deal with the passing away of a few close friends and I think that is a big reason he is who he is. Unfortunately Matt was one of those, passing away in 2010.

Shay took that first talk and gave it at a conference soon after. Russ Unger happened to see that and gave feedback when Shay asked for it. This spawned a relationship that helped Shay grow as a speaker. Together they have organized events that led to both of them speaking all over the world.

Shay’s critical shifts started with his willingness to really get involved, create high quality work, and the deep relationships that he built. His parents instilled a learning first attitude that continues to drive his trajectory higher and higher.

1. Make deep relationships
2. Get involved
3. Say yes

Medium: Shay Howe

Twitter: @ShayHowe


Personal Website:

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The LaunchPad Lab Team

Our team is a collective of curious minds, problem solvers, and tech enthusiasts. Beyond our dedication to building innovative digital products that drive business results, we're passionate about sharing our knowledge and insights through engaging content — offering articles on the latest tech trends, practical advice on product development, and strategies to harness technology for competitive advantage.

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