Learnings from 20 career mentorship sessions
Last week I offered to spend some time with folks impacted by the COVID-19 layoffs to talk through next career steps and how to get into product management. 20 sessions later, I've met a ton of bright and ambitious people, learned a ton myself, and noticed some common threads between most of the conversations.
I've opened up more slots, which you can sign up for here. Also putting below my learnings from these conversations and some resources I've written up to help this scale.
Of 20 mentees, 60% were 0-3 years out of college and 40% were 10+ years into their careers
The former group were a mix of technical and marketing/business folks and the latter were mostly technical fields like engineering and data science
Everyone was interested in getting into Product Management. 80% had never been a PM before
Most folks seemed to benefit a lot from just hearing about what mid-large companies are looking for in PMs and what generally goes into being a successful PM
In some sessions we went deep on the details of product sense vs execution interviewing. Lots of space for better education on this stuff!
Lots of conversations about how leadership experience from non-PM roles can be leveraged to make the case to be accepted into a PM role. Main guidance here was to focus on ownership, resolving conflict, and aligning large teams on commonly shared frameworks for goal-setting and prioritization
Trade-offs between joining a larger company vs a smaller company. Gist here is that larger companies typically have more mentorship and best practices to learn from but are harder to get a starting PM job at and more rigid when it comes to switching internally, while smaller companies are varied in quality learning but have more space to wear many hats and do product work. My recommendation is to prioritize learning early on and find a company where you'll have great mentors.
Some folks, especially more experienced engineers / data scientists, wanted to switch to PM as a way to feel more empowered on their team to make decisions about the direction of the product. This made me sad to hear - the best companies I've been a part of empower ALL functions to be equal owners of the team's mission and strategy, with the PM moreso being the person who brings everyone together to align on those things. Everyone deserves a voice regardless of function.