Product managers shape the future of humanity. They build the future world we will live in. Recently over 1700 bright women product leaders met in California for Women in Product Breakthrough Conference, a conference highlighting women who have broken into their product management careers.
The conference was hosted by Women in Product, a non-profit organization aiming to build a strong community of women builders and leaders in the tech industry. Hopefully, these five hacks from senior product leaders who landed leadership roles as VPs or C-level executives help you break through and thrive as a product builder.
1. Sit At The Table Of Discomfort
Erin Teague, VR Lead at YouTube is the only black woman in product at YouTube today. “Every day at work is uncomfortable,” she explained. This leads her and other minorities in tech to experience loneliness, isolation, and imposter syndrome. She believes this can lead to the positive outcome of building resiliency, inspiring introspection, and personal growth.
She advises minorities to acknowledge your environment, and join companies where there are sponsors built in. “We need to win collectively as women, so Silicon Valley tech companies are no longer 20% female.”
Erin believes the key to getting more minorities in tech is to win. “People are attracted to winners, and haters become fans when you are succeeding.” Erin believes that while she may be the only woman of color in product at her company today, we must collectively work together to ensure she no longer is the only one in the future.
2. Organize For Customer Centricity
Does better technology, being first to market, or having access to more resources lead to product success? Tatyana Mamut, former General Manager at Amazon AWS, believes none of those lead to making better products. She argues customer focus is what leads to success: “Customer obsession is our key approach and what Amazon is centered on.”
She wants product builders to first center all decisions around the customer, and bring real customer photos and artifacts into your workspace. Second, measure what matters most to your customer by focusing on 2-3 key customer benefits. Finally, global products require deep local experience. Tatyana emphasized, “You need people who really understand what decision-making is like in emerging markets. To be a great global product, leaders need to be on the ground. You must live and work with the people who will use your product.”
3. Build Your Career Like A Product
When Ami Vora, VP of Product at Facebook is planning her career future, she asks herself: “What does ‘Ami 2.0’ look like? And when are you shipping?” She believes the best way to get a job is to do the job.
She believes women should step up to the table even though it can feel terrifying, take perfection off of the table, and learn. To further your career, Ami encourages women to ask their managers, “What are you doing today that I can take off your plate?” Women should ask their coworkers, “I notice you spend a lot of time doing X, so I took a stab at it. Does this line up? Feel free to use it.”
Ami recommends that you write 1-2 personal growth goals into your work goals. Think of your growth as a service to your team, and conduct user research about how you need to develop. For example, “My product goal is to ship 100,000 SMB users in the next 3 months with 30+% retention. My personal goal is within 2 months write a weekly status update that my executive team finds succinct, clear, and actionable.”
4. You Are The Product
“Every decision made about you and your career, happens in a room you are not in. You are the product,” states Joanna Bloor, CEO and founder of Amplify Lab. She argues having an effective self-introduction is essential to career growth. “I do X at X company is boring. Think about the problem you are uniquely solving and how you are solving it as a product manager. Articulate your value as a human and connect with people on an emotional level,” urges Joanna.
As a product builder, your job is to bring people together to solve problems. When introducing yourself, first state the problem you are uniquely solving. Then share the solution you are working on. Give your job title and company last.
5. Take More Risks
“All I see are entitled, under-qualified, 28 year-old-men applying for product roles,” Amanda Richardson, CEO of Rabbit angrily stated. She believes women need to take more risks in their product careers. Amanda advises women product builders to ask managers directly for what you want. “Doing good work won’t get you that promotion. Don’t sit on your hands and wait for your manager to promote you,” she says.
She wants women to take on difficult jobs, because they teach you grit and make you a better product builder. Easy product jobs do not teach you perseverance and strength. “We can’t predict the future, so optimize for today.” Solve for your situation today.