Product Career: Building Your Technical Skills
Slack Product Lead on Building A Non-Technical Product Career (Part 3)
While applying non-technical skills is equal parts useful and challenging, it’s important to focus on four areas that will ensure long-term success for your product career. Each of these areas will continue to enhance your skills, while building a long-term product career.
Seek New Knowledge.
When I joined Etsy, my customer service experience was tied to in-person experiences. For example, my frame of reference was live interactions at my coffee shop as a barista. Conversely, responding to tickets for an online marketplace involves a different engagement process. With this in mind, it’s important to always look for ways to increase your capacity to approach different situations.
From my own experience, this involved getting close with the engineers at Esty. Specifically, I needed to understand the company’s technical processes. As a result, I was able to learn more about why certain areas of our product were crashing or underperforming. Most importantly, I built empathy and rapport with the engineers by truly understanding what they faced every single day.
Usually, we only talk about empathy as it relates to our external customers. However, I can’t stress how important it is for the betterment of any product career to build internal support at the same time.
Work With Smart People.
This may seem like a given, but there’s more to it than just being around people who are really good at their jobs. Instead, you need to take this one step further and seek out people who are “smarter” than you. For example, I intentionally chose to work with the search team at Etsy.
Specifically, I chose this team because it was notorious for being a difficult team to lead. To give you an idea, they insisted on having a circular reporting structure where they reported to themselves. Meaning, they didn’t want to report to our actual management team! That said, it ended up paying off greatly because I challenged myself to operate in an environment outside of my comfort zone. In the end, I built strong relationships with a group that had been historically difficult to reach – and we produced some outstanding results in the process.
Again, another recommendation that seems very straight-forward. That said, it’s important to understand what it means to actually define your product career with shipping tangible results. For example, it’s not enough to say “I shipped some new code” or “I performed 20 experiments this week.” Ultimately, your success will be defined by the impact that you make on customers by deploying features or enhancements that truly make a difference.
Advocate For Yourself.
Throughout my product career, I’ve been fortunate to join product teams at the perfect time within specific companies. For example, I joined Etsy when the company only had 100 employees. However, even with great timing – you always have to keep focused on how you’re performing and being reciprocated for your performance. Simply put, don’t hesitate to reinforce your impact with leaders at your organization. Ultimately, you’re not going to get a new promotion or pay increase unless you’re able to go to bat for yourself.