Taking Your Product Management Career to the Next Level (part 2 of 2)

Alan BelniakBPMA, businessLeave a Comment

my FY 2011 budgetThis is part 2 of 2 of my post, recapping the notes from our fourth BPMA mentoring session.  You can read more about the BPMA mentor/mentee meetings in past posts here, and you can read part 1 here.  We pick up, focusing on two questions: How long do you stick around at one company?  When do you consider leaving? and Given the economy, we’re all going through budget cuts.  How does your company deal with this and get along?

How long do you stick around?  When do you change companies?

  • As one attendee said it, “If you get an advanced degree, the halo isn’t automatic.”  If a promotion, pay raise, or some sort of recognition isn’t forthcoming soon, might want to start planning your exit.
  • It also might take a transition from one company to get that transition you’re seeking.  Rarely do people move companies laterally.
  • As a way to establish credibility, one person suggested creating a website and dubbing oneself as a consultant.  Create an attractive front page, about page, and services offered.  Become an expert.  Write often on a topic and establish yourself as a leader.  To get your first client or customer, offer to work for free or a reduce rate in exchange for being able to list them or use them as a customer testimonial.
  • One final comment that I think summed up the entire conversation: “As a product manager [or product marketing manager], you should always consider yourself [your career] as a product.”  Do you manage this as well as you manage your product/s?  Why or why not?

Given the economy, we’re all going through budget cuts.  How does your company deal with this and get along?

  • Everybody wants everything.  You can’t do it.  Stack rank/prioritize all that you do, and have a sit-down with your boss.  Agree what gets less of a focus and what gets more of a focus.   Agree to revisit it in a quarter and see if any adjustments need to be made.
  • Along with budget comes metrics.  Often you’ll get asked to track how well things are doing.  Use that to your advantage when asking for more money.  Frame it in the following way: “If i had x, i could do y.”  This, coupled with the first point, could do wonders for you and your department, even amidst budget contractions.
  • One attendee shared a comment and experience.  He was managing a team where motivation was lagging a bit.  A review of team desires revealed that people in this IT group wanted to either work on new technology, or be team leaders.  So, he reorganized the group around the team’s core values.  He immediately saw an uptick in morale and output.
  • Another take on the organizational behavior approach was to re-organized the team such that a person can ‘own’ the team and concept.  Then, empower them to get the work down.  By having a sense of ownership and ability to execute, the results are often greater.
  • When reorganizing teams, be sure that there are no single points of failure.  Don’t organize it such that if one person leaves a group (voluntarily or involuntarily), the remainder of the team is penalized.  One analogy that I thought of, but didn’t voice, was that of a RAID.
  • “When should I use a consultant or contractor?” came up as a discussion point in our group.  Our recommendation was that the best time for consultants and contractors is when you have a commodity task that can probably be farmed out at a better rate than paying someone internal; or a task that requires very niche, skilled expertise.  A skill like this may be learned by someone internal, but the time (and cost) it takes to learn it may not work well given the project constraints.  Also, spend some time to build a relationship.  If you intend to use the contractor again, you want to ensure good lines of communication.  A final note on contractors: if they are overseas, there is an opportunity to take advantage of time zones.
  • One attendee suggested that honing your “power of persuasion” skills is a must.  When cross-functional team meetings are held, and resources are reduced, the workload often stays the same.  Being able to persuade others to take on a larger portion of the work is a critical skill.
  • One attendee spoke about looking at budget from two different perspectives, and how that might affect the outcome.  Many times, when asked to reduce a spend from a previous year, people look to cut from existing programs (“I used to have x; I now have less than x; where do I cut?”).  Another way to look at it is from the ground up, and work on accumulating a spend, instead of reducing a previous spend. (“We have the following tasks to do, assumed we had no money, and have just been awarded y; how do I spend that smartly?”).
  • It will result in the same end point, but it’s fundamentally a different approach.
  • My colleague, Deepthi Bathina, offers her take on how general managers can handle the budget cuts from the same BPMA session.

photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/bendeming/4258998470/

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