Many PMs apply to Product League in order to build their on-the-job skills. These might include technical know-how or analytical abilities but are just as likely to involve the so-called “soft skills” needed to be a successful product leader. One such skill? Realizing what a badass Product Manager you are.
This is the League success story of Talia, a mentee from Tel Aviv, Israel, and her mentor Ashley, from New York, USA.
An Investment in Career Confidence
“Being a mentee is the ability to say: ‘Ok, I have been a PM for a few years now, but maybe I still have a lot to learn.’ Then it’s about actually accepting that fact and going on this journey with another person who is there for you, no matter what you need. And you know what? It feels good. I was not afraid to ask about what I didn’t know. I felt I had a professional friend with whom I could consult, and I used that to my advantage,” says Talia.
“And I appreciate this attitude so much,” shares Ashley. “I needed to be paired with someone who was committed to their own endeavor. I really don’t like feeling that time is being wasted. It’s our most precious resource. And Talia, my mentee, and I? We were there 100%.”
Creating a Long-Distance Connection
“And this is what I appreciate so much about you!” says Talia. “My mentor Ashley was there for me every time I needed her, despite being on the other side of the globe (she is in NYC and I’m in Tel Aviv). She was so committed to this journey and I can’t express my gratitude enough. I felt I had a listening ear and a new friend with more experience than I had whom I could talk to about professional matters. This was exactly what I needed from the program.”
“That’s actually funny,” says Talia. “Ashley and me? We are a little alike. What’s so interesting to me about Product Management is the challenge of dealing with difficult problems and trying to solve them. I am not afraid of ambiguity. I love the combination of business and technology.”
“And so do I,” shares Ashley. “Product Management requires both an analytical and a creative side. I never wanted to choose between the two so I get to do both! I am also a ‘get it done’ kind of person.”
“And I am truly determined to get the things I want,” says Talia. “Product League matched me with the right mentor for my personal characteristics. You nailed it!”
The Right Journey for Me
“We’ve both heard about Product League on Facebook, at different times and in different countries, far, far away,” says Talia, smiling. “I saw they were holding some interesting events and was curious about the program. I decided to apply, and happily, I got in. My goal was mainly to have someone I could consult with who is also a PM and who has more experience than I do.”
“My long-term goals are to improve as a PM and to understand what I need to work on in order to do so. Joining Product League was my investment toward achieving this future goal. It was an investment in myself,” Talia says. “I needed a better understanding of how others do product management, as well as gain some knowledge about Agile. And like any other PM out there, I wanted to work on my self-confidence.”
“This is such an important point to discuss,” says Ashley. “So many good PMs deal with imposter syndrome. I can also share that I honestly wasn’t sure I was senior enough to be helpful to other Leaguers. I battle imposter syndrome regularly, so when I joined the program, I was myself concerned about my own ability to deliver and be of service to my mentee.”
“And you were just wonderful!” says Talia. “You gave me the feeling that I had someone to talk to and learn from. I have to say that overall, this is why Product League was the right solution for me over the other options out there. It felt it was more friendly and ‘warm’ compared with other potential choices.”
Strengthening Skills for Both Mentor and Mentee
“When applying to the League,” shares Ashley, “my main goal was to exercise my coaching abilities. I wanted to build confidence and strength in my coaching know-how. In my current role, I’m working on my own professional growth with the goal of building a strong product management team. And being a mentor is the best opportunity to strengthen leadership skills.”
“As a mentor, you practice a lot of careful listening — listening to what is being said and also what is sort of ‘in the air.’ Working through an issue or problem or goal first requires me to understand where the gap is between where they are and where they want to be,” Ashley says.
“First, I wanted to understand my mentee’s needs and goals. This means asking a lot of questions and listening to the answers. I think asking questions is critically important for helping your mentee reach their goals.”
“In our first conversation, I could tell my mentee was a little guarded and felt a bit unsure in terms of what she wanted to do and where she wanted to go. It was a few conversations in when I started to see the change happen in terms of confidence, both for her and even for myself!” says Ashley. “I’ve learned so much about myself through this process and I’ve gotten comfortable reaching out to other mentors when I felt I didn’t have what my mentee needed. It’s so easy to feel like we have to meet all of a mentee’s needs but there is real power in simply saying, ‘I don’t know but I think I know someone who does.’”
A Thriving Product Community
“This community element is one of Product League’s best advantages for mentors.
When I applied, I really wanted it to be a great program and was worried about being disappointed,” admits Ashley. “This turned out to be silly. The League is wonderful! Product League did the hard work for me. They have content to help us prepare and be thoughtful in our endeavors, and it was great to have community support.”
“I am looking forward to the next batch of mentees to find out who I get to meet and work with,” Ashley says. “I’m reading Empowered by Marty Cagan and am hopeful I’ll find great insights to share with my mentee.”
“And I know the steps I should take to improve as a Product Manager. I have already started to work on some and still have more to go,” says Talia. “The sky’s the limit, Leaguers!”