Product Management Mentorship, an Essential Career Tool

by Lynne Levy

One of the most critical moments in my career as a product manager was when I was a junior product manager. I had emerged from a meeting with engineering where they tore my requirements apart, and became angry and emotional in the process.

I walked into my VP’s office (Jim) after the meeting and told him what happened. He was calm and we started to re-examine my requirements document. He was able to help me understand not only where my requirements could use some improvement but also how to handle the emotion that comes up in these meetings. To this day, I consider Jim to be my first mentor.

Having a mentor can accelerate your career and guide you in some of the most challenging moments as a product manager. We frequently get asked, “what is a mentor?” A mentor is someone who can help you:

  • Accelerate your career
  • Learn how to lead and influence
  • Move from tactical to strategic

A mentor can help you move from being a good product manager to a great product manager. They can help you learn how to innovate and build your brand. A mentor will help you expand outside of your comfort zone. They will push you as you learn to grow your career and influence. They will ask questions to help you discover your blind spots.

The best mentors are carefully selected. They come with years of experience, knowledge, and best practices. Mentors have walked the path, been helped by others, and know the way. A mentor gives direction, tips, advice, suggestions, motivation, and support. A mentor can be an invaluable resource for product managers.

Some topics that mentees can discuss with their mentors.

  • Feedback on documentation, email content, communication
  • Run through presentations before you give them
  • Ask for advice or resources on certain PM topics, like roadmapping, prioritization, Agile
  • Ideas on dealing with difficult stakeholders
  • Outside perspective on workplace politics
  • Career development goals
  • Tips on work/life balance and time management

For example, one of my mentees started as a junior product manager whose primary responsibility was creating use cases. We focused on building skills such as communication and moving from the ‘how’ the software should work to the “why”, the business problem the software needs to solve. She now has a team of product managers reporting to her and focuses on product strategy and collaboration with senior leadership.

Product Management Mentorship is about so much more than career advice. It is about helping product managers become thought leaders, influences, and world-class innovators.

Lynne Levy is Director of the BPMA Mentorship program. Lynne is an experienced product management leader and has mentored several mentees through BPMA’s mentorship program.

Note:

This spring we are making exciting changes that will totally transform the BPMA mentorship program with a faster matching process that may run continuously, easier scheduling and communication, and more, all thanks to new software from Mentornity we will be piloting this spring. We will also be providing more guidance to mentor-mentee teams about tips to help product managers grow. We hope these changes will make for a vastly improved mentorship experience that makes it easier for more people to participate.

Join the BPMA mentor program as a mentor or mentee. Sign up here.

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