Product management intrigues me because it allows me to turn my imagination into reality.
While I am currently a Product Management Associate at the Auerbach Global-Impact Foundation (AGIF), my path to product management was not a straight shot. I began my career in an analytics role with Accenture. After I began to develop an interest in product, I dedicated my time to building out my product management-specific skills. What I quickly learned is that there are no handbooks or guides on how to be a good product leader. I found myself repeatedly asking the question, “What can I do today to grow into a product leader tomorrow?”
I quickly learned is that there are no handbooks or guides on how to be a good product leader.
Alankrita is a content strategist at Advancing Women in Product, an organization that develops aspiring product leaders.
The reality is that to bring value to a product team, you need expertise, experience, and PM best practices to guide you. You need a community. I am fortunate to have found an organization, Advancing Women in Product (AWIP), that focuses on empowering the next generation of women and underrepresented product leaders. With their mentorship program and access to product experts, AWIP helps aspiring product leaders gain essential skills and experience to advance their career development. To pay homage to the importance of community—and to pay forward the incredible support I’ve received over the years—here is the top advice I’ve collected from senior product leaders and executives:
To bring value to a product team, you need expertise and experience to guide you.
Phase 1: Reflect and be transparent about your goals
The advice everyone had for me was this: At the very start of a new job or your career, it’s important to take a step back and reflect on what you really want to achieve.
Visualize the desired outcome
The first step is visualizing where you want to go. It might not be extremely crystal-clear, but a general idea helps steer your course.
Identify key points of impact
Once you have set a short-term goal, break it down into more actionable goals. Take up projects relevant to your area of focus and start talking to business leaders as this will help you develop the right skill set.
Be Honest & Transparent
When you have these goals in place, share them with your manager and your peers. As daunting as it may sound in the first place, it really helps to identify opportunities in your current organization that will help steer your career in the right direction.
identify opportunities in your current organization that will help steer your career in the right direction.
Phase 2: Demonstrate the impact of your work
Most of the time people are supportive if they are able to see your vision and the efforts you put in to achieve that vision. It is extremely crucial to build relationships and your reputation.
Publicize your wins
Make sure you talk about your releases and, if possible, try to quantify the impact of your work.
Speak up at every meeting
Your voice needs to be heard and you have to be seen. While this may seem intimidating at the beginning, if you keep pushing yourself constantly, speaking up and bringing value to the conversation will be a rewarding experience in the long run.
Speaking up and bringing value to the conversation will be a rewarding experience in the long run.
Find your expertise
The goal is to be the go-to gal for a certain area. Once you’ve identified your expertise, know the ins and outs of that area such that if anyone had a question about it, they know who to call.
Build strong relationships outside your team
Besides building credibility amongst the people you work closely with, it’s important to get visibility across the entire company. Work on cross-functional initiatives that give you exposure to people who have similar interests but work in different areas.
Get visibility across the entire company.
Phase 3: Stretch outside your comfort zone
After getting exposure and building credibility, it’s time to step up your game.
Take on riskier projects
Maybe you’ve never worked on products that focus heavily on diversity efforts but you think there is an important social initiative that needs prompt action on the part of the entire company. On average, studies show that men are more willing to take these kinds of risk, while women often wait until they are almost over-qualified. Take that risk now!
Ask for increased responsibility
Career growth within a role is usually about increasing scope, complexity, autonomy, and impact. But, hey, maybe you don’t know what’s out there, but you are up for a challenge. Ask!
Solve problems for others
What if you could solve problems across other teams, peers and bosses? Working on a well-scoped data project for another team helps you get visibility in the inner workings of a new team you may consider transferring to. A little can go a long way.
I’m incredibly lucky to be a part of Advancing Women in Product, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that helps me advance my career with thought-provoking content and unparalleled access to product leadership outside of the confines of day job. I’m building strong relationships with other amazing women outside of my company, taking on challenging projects working with a global team, and identifying key ways I can bring positive impact to the lives of other women in product.
For other women who seek to eventually move into a leadership role, I highly recommend getting involved with an organization like AWIP, that emphasizes executive mentorship and skills-based training. Come check us out on our website, Facebook, or LinkedIn—hope to see you at our next event!