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How do early career PM's proactively learn about skills that take them to the next level. How do they develop them.

3 Answers
Natalia Baryshnikova
Natalia Baryshnikova
Atlassian Head of Product, Enterprise AgilityFebruary 17

First thing I'd recommend is asking your team if there is a formal description of levels and skills associated with each level. More and more companies, whether large orgs or startups, actually have written descriptions of product manager levels and what those entail; the earlier you get to learn about them, the better. If there is no formal description available, I would recommend to:

1) Interview your manager of what the next level may look like, and draft a document outlining that

2) Review this document with 1-2 people in the product org who are on that level and see what they would add. If there is no one in your own org, venture out and ask folks from other companies what is typical in their orgs.

3) Review the updated document with your manager again, and make a growth plan for each skill, milestone, or attribute of the next level. It may look like this: "Product Strategy: be able deliver and present a product roadmap for area X to executive stakeholders". 

4) In growth plan, outline speicifc milestones (e.g. a succesful review of product strategy) and timelines (e.g. in the next 6 months).

5) Set up a recurring review of the growth plan with your manager (different from regular 1-1s).

The above may sound like a lot of work, but figuring out what skills you need, and proactively approaching your growth will pay off for you. 

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Milena Krasteva
Milena Krasteva
Walmart Sr Director II, Product Management - Marketing TechnologyOctober 7

There is no substitute for being hands-on, although there is now also plenty of literature on PM-ing. Become more technical by learning from your engineering and data science partners. Don't worry too much about annoying people. Most will be kind enough to explain and it will make their job easier when you increasingly not only "speak their language but incorporate the knowledge on the job. Observation of how other successful PMs and even other stakeholders operate is also very useful, especially when it comes to soft skills. You may even come across PMs who ostensibly lack domain expertise or technical skill, but are fabulous at communication and synthesis. Be curious about how they do it even if you don't have an affinity for the person themselves - you will start to distill your own playbook.

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Vasudha Mithal
Vasudha Mithal
Care Solace Chief Product OfficerDecember 6
  • Learning on the job - you already have broken into a product role. Work will give you the most time and mind space to acquire skills for growth.

    • Observe the work being done by senior folks at your company - ask if you can shadow them for any important sessions (e.g. strategy reviews). Find opportunities to help them out with any small pieces of that work. Usually, when you are moving along in your career, you have already started assuming the future responsibilities.

    • Widen your exposure to a variety of product areas and topics - data heavy, workflow optimizations, growth, new business, etc.

    • Don't hesitate to participate in product sessions outside of your wheelhouse - ask questions to the speaker, learn by following the thinking process and the why(s) of various projects going on at your company.

    • Ask your manager to support with creating a growth plan. Your manager should help with creating work opportunities for you to learn and grow. If manager is not supportive, seek mentorship from colleagues you trust and admire.

    • Don't get pigeonholed into thinking "is this a responsibility of product or cross-function xxx" - while it is important to leverage other teams effectively, it is as useful to understand how a variety of functions operate within a company to grow as a multi-dimensional leader.

  • Learning via external resources - dedicate however much time is reasonable for you based on your specific job demands, workloads and stress levels. This is not a 'must have' checklist but just a few ideas.

    • Follow thought leaders on LinkedIn.

    • Sign up for newsletters - can start with a few recommendations from your manager so you are reading something that's relevant for your work.

    • Consider courses on LinkedIn Learning, Udemy or Coursera. Ask your manager for recommendations, several companies have learning stipends as well.

    • Find what works for you in networking events or conferences. This is a tricky one since there is too much noise in such events but even if you aim for coming out of an event with "1 interesting connection" that you follow through, it can make a great impact in your growth.

368 Views
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