Product management is a highly lucrative and engaging career path for creative minds who want to help improve the lives of their customers. And it is in the top 10 on Glassdoor’s list of America’s 50 best jobs (2022). So, how do you develop and advance your career in product? In this week’s Product Talk, PLG at Adobe Senior Director, Heidi Gibson, interviews Bill.com Chief Product Officer Irana Wasti on best practices for developing a career in product.
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On developing a product career
Product management has spread to almost every industry and job field. So, if you want to develop your product career, all you need to do is ask! Talk to the people in your industry, tell them your intentions, and then get involved in the process.
Irana says, “whatever discipline you’re in today if you’re interested in learning more about product management, make that known to your team, manager, and company.”
“You can come from anywhere, as long as you are interested in it. State your intent, then look for shadow rotations and learning engagement opportunities to start chipping away at the discipline of being a product manager.”
Heidi says, “In my experience, one of the fun things about product is that it involves design, engineering, architecture, and communications. You do so many different things throughout your day. as a PM there. Really, you can start with any of those disciplines and work your way into the practice.”
On where to find a mentor
One of the most essential parts of developing your product career is to find a mentor who can show you the ropes. It helps if you make your goals and desired learning outcomes clear to ensure that you find the right person.
Irana says, “when I was just started being a product manager, I looked for mentors who could help me be a better PM and learn about the discipline of product management.”
“As long as you specify what you’re looking for in the mentor, it helps you find mentors. But again, at that time I was looking specifically for a mentor to help me understand the product management skill set and discipline. That was my focus.”
“Over time, my mentors evolved. My focus with mentors evolved into getting mentors on work-life integration, being a leader, and as well as having a family. Then it evolved more into leadership. And then, into international leadership.
“So, it changed over time as my career developed. But again, at every level, it was about defining what I was looking for in a mentor. Then, seeing if I can either find one myself or leverage what the company has to offer in matching you with mentors.”
On advancing your product career
So, how should we think differently about being an individual contributor versus being a product manager? And how can we advance our careers in product and make the jump into management?
Irana says, “ product management is a great discipline to be in even if you’re an individual contributor. You can get your job done without influencing many other people. And therefore, you get to practice leadership, even if you don’t have direct reports, initially”
“So, leaning into that part of product management that again, you don’t exist in a vacuum, and you won’t succeed in a vacuum, without influencing your peers and different teams across the organization, is a really important skill set to have moving into a management.”
Heidi says, “I’ve noticed the same thing. Being in product, by definition, gives you the opportunity and even responsibility to practice being a manager. You end up needing to influence a lot of people, bring people together, and drive decisions.”
About the speaker
Irana has recently joined Bill as their Chief Product Officer. Prior to that she was Chief Product Officer at Typeform, a global SaaS platform for audience engagement serving 500 million digital interactions per year. As well as President of GoDaddy EMEA and SVP/General Manager for GoDaddy’s Productivity business that provided SMBs with tools and services to help them improve communication and run their business.
About the host
Heidi Gibson has over 20 years of product management experience, with most of that focused on SaaS consumer/small business software. She is currently Senior Director of Product Led Growth at Adobe, and past companies include Typeform, GoDaddy and and other industry leaders. Heidi has a B.S. and M.S. in Materials Science and Engineering from MIT.