We study the limiting behavior of multiple ergodic averages involving several, not necessarily commuting, measure-preserving transformations. We work on two types of averages, one that uses iterates along combinatorial parallelepipeds, and another that uses iterates along shifted polynomials. We prove pointwise convergence in both cases, thus answering a question of I. Assani in the former case, and extending the results of B. Host and B. Kra, and A. Leibman in the latter case. Our argument is based on some elementary uniformity estimates of general bounded sequences, decomposition results in ergodic theory, and equidistribution results on nilmanifolds.