Thursday, September 19, 2013

Preparing for your next career move!

This subject has been on mind quite a bit given my own career shifts and transitions. As that time approaches for me (and in the past) I try and take these types of transitions as a learning and reflective time. So this blog post is my attempt to share some of the questions I ask myself as I make that next career transition.
  • What are the top 3 things that I learned in this job that I can take to my new job?
  • What are the top 3 things I want to change to improve about myself?
  • X years from now I want to be a . What skills do I need to work on to fill the gaps in order for me to get there.
  • What are the top 3 words that I want my new manager/team to say about me after my first 30/60/90 days? How will those impact my actions?
  • What are the key traits I would like to see in my ideal manager?
  • What are the things that frustrate me about people/situations at work?
Thoughts? Do you think I missed anything?

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Importance of being Prepared!

There are a lot of key skills/traits that product managers (and for that matter any employee) need in order to succeed. That includes the obviously "hard" skills such as experience writing requirements, etc. and it includes the "soft" skills that often go unsaid but not unnoticed. I've coached/mentored/managed product managers (and am one myself!) and have started to create the framework/steps below as I look at my own development and goals. There are 4 steps in the evolution, but this blog post will only cover the first. You'll notice each step has a blue "summary" word that I use to help summarize the trait.
  1. Preparedness - While this term doesn't need a formal definition it is really about having the discipline needed to hold yourself to a higher standard. For me it is about the willingness to set a high standard and submit your actions to that standard. It is a form of obedience/discipline to yourself.
    • Meeting Preparedness - Learn and prepare for your meetings and work. Do not be lazy or "wing it". This lackadaisical attitude results in mediocrity and we have all seen what those meetings look like. You should be prepared and mindful of how prepared others are. In product management, there are many opinions and thoughts on what to do and where to invest. A prepared and organized mind can separate the the noise from the insight. Being prepared always brings clarity of thought and purpose. Don't go too overboard, as there is something to be said letting the conversation flow. Find that happy medium.
    • Transition from reactive to proactive - How many times has someone had to scramble to get the executive request done? Creating a roadmap one night because of a request. Updating the competitive landscape slide urgently. It is a constant effort to stay one step ahead through anticipation and proper time allocation. There are two key issues that I have seen with product managers that constantly prevent them from being prepared. First is the anticipation. Spend the time it takes to anticipate the requests. Look at certain "boundaries" such as the end of the fiscal year, or the mid way point of the year. Perhaps every quarter or every release. If you are managing a product in production, perhaps looking at usage and feedback data on a monthly basis. Secondly, you have to carve out the time. Too many product managers are not balancing the tactical and strategic. They focus too much on the daily grind that they lose sight of the bigger picture and then they get being reactive.
    • Managing your Manager - Many product managers don't spend the time to properly engage with their management. They sit through their 1on1s without a plan (more on that here). Learning to anticipate what they will need ahead of when they will need it, is key. For example, if you know there is a management offsite in two weeks, are you asking your manager about what they may need from you today so that you can prepare? Not only that, perhaps your manager is thinking about what they will need from you, so by asking the question you are making sure your manager is prepared. Your manager will appreciate your concern in making sure they are prepared and that they are putting their best foot forward. You are showing that you care about their success. You are forming a deeper and more meaningful relationship with them based on mutual success. Compare that with others who are not prepared for their 1on1s or just bring their managers problems. You are creating separation through being prepared.
Thoughts?/Feedback? - Being prepared means being proactive and mindful about it!