Acorns Product Director on Becoming A Product Leader
From the early days of Twitter going public to revolutionizing wealth management, Paige Conrad has experience working at innovative product companies dedicated to making a difference. Every product manager thinks about leadership opportunities - and the first question is, "how do I get there?" As Paige explains, product leaders must first learn how to sell themselves - and ultimately become the best listener in the building.
Going From Individual Contributor To Product Leader
Everyone reaches a point in their career when they want to take the next step. After four amazing years at Twitter, I was ready for a new challenge and started to look at opportunities to become a product leader. I came across Acorns reading an article about financial tech. The company’s mission caught my attention and I started looking through LinkedIn for shared connections. Unfortunately, this turned into a dead end and I had to apply the “old-fashioned” through the company’s website.
To say the least, this was a bit of a “hail mary” on my part. However, once I started the interview process, I felt even more empowered to share my story and sell my value to the organization. Furthermore, everyone that I talked to at Acorns was incredibly passionate about the organization’s mission. As a result, it was very easy to relate to my future colleagues and also illustrate my personal interest in supporting the mission.
In many ways, this represents the first step I took in becoming a product leader. You should always craft your personal story and be ready to advocate for yourself. Simply put, we all need to learn how to sell ourselves – and of course, sell our products and advocate for their value.
Since becoming a product leader, the biggest shift in my day-to-day revolves around spending time with people. First, the team that you manage is effectively one of your customers. As a result, you need to spend time with each team member regularly in order to understand who they are. Furthermore, you should build individual career roadmaps and ensure that every team member is in tune with your direction.
On a related note, self-reflection is key for becoming a product leader. This begins with getting continuous feedback from your team and making a commitment to learning by example. In addition, I think a lot about the mentors who gave me guidance and direction. For example, it’s helpful to emulate the approach of successful leaders. At the same time, you can also learn plenty from people that you don’t want to emulate.
In the end, prioritization becomes your most important task as a product leader. Most importantly, you have to dedicate as much time as possible to your team. Simply put, the best minute that I can invest every day is with people.