Product Managers are known to be very determined people. But even the most driven PMs can find themselves struggling to translate big dreams and inspiring titles into day-to-day actions.
When starting a new position, we sometimes experience other, less pleasant feelings alongside our excitement. We may ask ourselves, “Am I the right person for the job? Can I grow into this title?”
It’s not only ok to feel this way and think about these questions; it’s natural. It also means that you treat yourself like a product: You don’t take anything for granted and always focus on maximizing your opportunities.
So, what does a great PM do when she finds herself promoted to the head of product at her company? She seeks out a mentor.
This is the League success story of mentee Eliya and her mentor Shahaf, both from Tel Aviv, Israel.
A Challenge and an Opportunity
“I prove the fact that asking the right questions can lead you to achieve amazing things,” says Eliya. “I started my career on the content team, but wanted to improve the group’s experience and productivity. That led me to dive deeper into the product, recognize opportunities, and ask for loads of features. Thanks to the company’s amazing head of product, I got my chance to become a Product Manager. After he resigned, I received an amazing opportunity to replace him. Then came the questions, the doubts, and the challenges.”
“And then came Product League,” says Shahaf, her mentor, laughing.
“Exactly. Then came … you! And through the mentoring program, I gained a lot of confidence in my ability to perform well in this position,” Eliya says.
Talking with someone about your specific problems beats anything else
“I was able to reflect on my ongoing work and on how I conduct myself more generally as a PM. I also take online courses and listen to podcasts, and mentoring wasn’t a replacement for these activities. But it is something totally different. It’s like having a solution that is constantly being tailored to your needs. What can be better than having an experienced PM share their best practices with you?”
“It’s all about sharing,” says Shahaf. “I’ve had so many great people help me out across my career. Especially during the last couple of years, I’ve met a couple of wonderful mentors who opened my eyes to a new world of opportunities. It was time for me to give back to the community and empower others to put their mark on the world.”
An Instant Fit
“You also get the opportunity to get to know amazing people. I actually learned about Product League via Linkedin from an ex-colleague who had contributed to the program. I was intrigued to know what it was all about,” Shahaf says.
Product League made it easy to start. I just had to apply and the rest was accomplished through the process they created.
“I learned about it from a friend who took part in Product League before I did,” says Eliya. “I was so scared about the fact that the match is made through an algorithm. And knowing that the program is all about mentoring being a two-way street, I really didn’t know what it was that I was going to teach my mentor. But it was awesome! Me and Shahaf, my mentor, clicked immediately, which is the most important part.”
“Do you remember the time when you showed me the roadmap we built together?” asks Shahaf. “After a few iterations, Eliya shared what she came up with with the rest of the management team. I was so proud of her, and of her work. It made me look back at the path we took together and understand my ability to make an impact. I achieved the goal I set for myself when I joined the program: to do good and share my experience with others to help them grow.”
“We had weekly meetings that were an hour long. This allowed us to connect on a regular basis and really dive into the subjects I needed help with,” shares Eliya. “Additionally, I tried to keep up with all the wonderful activities that the program has, such as #MindfulMonday. This was a bit hard at times, but totally worth the effort. I learned a lot and I really recommend it to other Product Managers.”
Tips for Mentors and Mentees
“What do you say? Shall we share our best practices with the audience, Shahaf?” asks Eliya.
“With much pleasure,” says Shahaf.
- “Aspire to interact frequently with your mentee. If you can, interact with your mentee on a weekly basis, even if it’s just to check-in
- During the first few meetings, focus on establishing a friendly relationship that will drive open communication and trust
- Listen to your mentee. Try to really understand what he/she needs, not just the words he/she tells you
- Ask the difficult questions to confront your mentee regarding his/her challenges. Where it is painful is where growth is achieved
- Have fun and give yourself the opportunity to learn. Being a mentor is a fantastic opportunity for us, the more experienced Product Managers, to re-learn the fundamental aspects of our profession
“I love it,” says Eliya. “Here are my tips:
- Put your meetings on the calendar. When we had to, we changed the day/time, but we rarely skipped a meeting completely (I think only once)
- Prepare an agenda. During the week, I would write down the things I wanted to discuss, then bring those up in the meeting
- Don’t surprise your mentor with requests. If I wanted Shahaf the mentor to prepare something, I sent an email in advance so he wouldn’t be surprised
- Act like the PM you are and get some CTAs. For each meeting, we had an action item for me to follow up with during the next session
- Make sure to invest as much as you can ( and more than your mentor does), specifically by being there and truly committing to the process
A Way to Give Back
“I believe it is safe to say that we achieved wonderful things together,” says Shahaf.
“Amazing things!” says Eliya. “I achieved the goal of trusting my instincts and being confident in my ability to build great products. What can be better than that?”
“And it wasn’t only about the soft skills,” Shahaf says. “We covered the theory of important themes within product management (roadmap/strategy/pricing/prioritization/etc.), making sure that we were touching on all the important principles. And that’s beautiful. My passion for product management comes from working to create value for customers and addressing their challenges. That’s exactly the benefit a mentor receives, if they put their mind and heart into the process of being a Product League mentor.”
“This is why the program fits me like a glove and why I happily found time to participate. Time is always a constraint. But when you are a Product Manager who is passionate about your job, your field, and the product management community, the program offers the opportunity to change someone else’s career and set them on the path to professional success,” adds Shahaf. “This is the essence of creating value. This is product management at its best.”