Alan BelniakBPMA, business7 Comments

"Focus on internal politics?  I think you've got the wrong mentor circle."

Last week, I participated as a mentor in the Boston Product Management Association’s Executive Council and Mentorship program.  I’m excited to take part in this.  I’ve been fortunate to have two or three really good mentors in my professional career, and have learned quite a bit from them.  When I was asked to participate with this group, I gladly said yes.

This was the kick-off session, so part of it was setting the groundwork for future meetings and other administrative items.  We did have a few discussions, though.  Mentors and mentees paired up in groups of four or six.  We each discussed a few questions in small groups, then re-convened and shared the conversations.

What’s below is a collection of some of the notes I took.  Since the ‘PM’ in BPMA  focuses on Product Management and Product Marketing, that, too, was the focus for this group.  However, I think much of what is mentioned below can be applied elsewhere.

What do you think?  What would you have added if you were in the room?

What are the most important personality traits for career growth?

  • Passion
  • Enthusiasm
  • Initiative
  • Listening
  • Confidence
  • Endless learning/curiosity
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Humor

What other sage points can the mentors offer regarding career growth?

  • Learning how (and when) to exert influence without necessarily having authority
  • Conducting an objective and personal internal skills assessment
  • Being a do-er, and following through
  • Having visibility at the right time to the right people
  • Think like a writer (lead with a punch, follow with an executive summary, detail follows after that); “clarity, brevity, and relevance”
  • Learning how to package a deliverable for an executive

What internal and external factors influence product management careers?

  • Understand that there are elements of objectivity and subjectivity to your job
  • Understand internal politics
  • Understand what motivates others (it might not be the same thing that motivates you)
  • Be the expert or leader or ‘go to’ person in at least one thing.  Become known for that.
  • Create a monthly list of accomplishments.  Use this when filling out an internal assessment, performance review, or even keeping your resume current.
  • Turn your peers into your fans
  • Build a broad and deep external network, and not just in “your industry”
  • Know when it’s time to leave
  • Communicate effectively
  • Understand macro events
  • “It’s not what you know, and it’s not even who you know; it’s who knows what you know!”

image source: Men of The Community of Pie Town, New Mexico // via flickr