Mentoring
Jul 8, 2022

Mentoring in product management: your questions answered

Want to land a job in product management? Or are you already a product manager and are feeling stuck in your career progression, or want to know how to improve your skills and level up? Joining a product management mentoring program might be just what you need. In this guide, you will find out all you need to know about mentoring in product management, including:

  • How mentoring helps product managers
  • What a product mentor does
  • How a product management mentoring program works
  • Input from product management mentees on how mentoring has helped them
  • Examples of goals you can set yourself for product management mentoring

What makes a good product manager

If you’re new to the field, or if you simply haven’t encountered good role models, you might be wondering how to be a good product manager. So what makes product managers do their job well? According to Julia Austin’s article in Harvard Business Review, we should look at three primary factors to evaluate: core competencies, emotional intelligence, and company fit. 

The core competencies which make a good product manager include examples such as running customer interviews and user testing, feature prioritization and roadmap planning, resource allocation, performing market assessments, pricing, or setting up and tracking success metrics.

Emotional intelligence is key to identifying with the customer and for managing relationships internally within the team and the company. The third factor - company fit - relates both to the product manager possessing the right technical skills which the company may require, but also identifying with the philosophy and approach to product management.

All three areas which are instrumental to being a successful product manager can be addressed with a mentor. So how can a mentor help you?

Why do you need a mentor as a product manager?

The first scenario in which a mentor can provide support is when you’re trying to get into the field. You may be asking how to get a job in product management, how to prepare for a product management interview, or how to learn product management and the skills required to be successful. A mentor can help you with all of these things. By sharing their experience about the inner workings of the field, an experienced product management mentor will provide you with the necessary knowledge and insights to arrive perfectly prepared for interviews, giving you a head start in the race to get the job. They will provide you with an insider’s view of the job and help you decide if this is the right path for you. A professional with several years of experience in product management will help you identify the skills needed, as well as support you in learning them faster and more effectively.

The second possible scenario is that you already work in product management. You have some experience, you’ve built some good skills and have a few projects behind your belt, but you feel like something’s missing. Maybe you feel stuck in your current job and feel like you don’t possess the skills or knowledge to move forward, or maybe you’re struggling with a particular project which you just can’t wrap your head around. What will help you in these situations is a mentor who will help you see it all with a fresh perspective, let go of the negative thoughts, and provide you with guidance in your next steps. People who have worked with mentors mention how much faster they were able to grow and advance with their help compared to tackling things alone. Your mentor will be your cheerleader on your path to become a better product manager.

What does a product mentor do?

You now may have a better idea of why a mentor can benefit you, but let’s now look at how mentoring actually works and what a product mentor does.

Generally speaking, a mentor will guide you towards reaching the career goals you set for yourself by sharing experience from their own career. Mentors are experienced professionals working in the same field as you (but it can also be someone from a different field depending on your needs) who were once in your shoes. Imagine if you could give advice to your younger self - how much easier would have things been? Mentoring works in a similar way. A mentor has already been through what you’re dealing with now, and will provide you with a perspective of someone who already knows how to handle things successfully.

To give specific examples of mentoring in product management, your mentor could help you with situations such as searching for a new product management job, developing a challenging product, identifying customer needs, finding a vision, or learning a new skill needed for you to level up.

How does mentoring in product management work?

Mentoring is a two-sided relationship between the mentor and the mentee. As the mentee, it’s your responsibility to ensure that you’re getting what you want from mentoring. You and your mentor will need to both prepare for your sessions in order for them to run smoothly, but primarily this responsibility is yours. At the beginning of the mentoring relationship, you need to let your mentor know what you expect them to help you with and what you want to achieve in product management (the SMART framework is perfect for setting goals). This way, you will get the most out of your mentoring sessions. Before each session following the first one, you should let your mentor know what you want to discuss and agree on the agenda. You might want them to share experience on how to conduct better customer interviews, how to set KPIs, or which questions to ask in a product manager job interview - it’s up to you and your needs. Find out more about what to expect from mentoring in our ultimate Mentoring 101 guide!

How does mentoring help product managers? 

See how working with a mentor has benefitted product managers in the Femme Palette Mentoring program.

I was made redundant on the same day I received the email letting me know you have found my mentor, so the objective that I had set - to secure a new job in 6 months - was even more important for me to achieve. Within 6 weeks I got an offer, and started in my new company little over 2 months after the mentoring sessions with Tony started. Forever grateful for all his guidance and support.

  • Joana Delgado, Product Research and Product Manager at Socialbakers

 

This was my first experience with mentoring and it was great from the beginning. I am very grateful that FP matched me with Barbora and we could share this experience together. My mentor is super skilled and she guided me very well with every single topic that I needed. Thanks to it I am more confident at my job and I can look at some tasks from a different perspective.

 

  • Veronika Stastna, Lifestyle Product Manager at Top4sport.cz

 

 

Thank you to the FP team for matching me with my amazing mentor, who was not only understanding of my fears and insecurities connected to my new position, but also very helpful when guiding me through the current challenges and beyond. The most valuable, action-filled feedback stems from honest and deep discussions, so don't be afraid and enjoy the ride, you might make new friends for life.

  • Iveta Acton Kalisova, Product Manager at Lifeliqe

How to find a product management mentor?

There are three ways how to find a product management mentor. One way is to find one yourself. This could be a colleague at work who you admire, your boss, or someone from your network outside of your workplace who you look up to as a product manager. If you feel confident that this person can help you, you can approach them and ask them to be your mentor. 

Another option is to join a mentoring program and be matched with a product management mentor. Look for a well structured program with a clear offer, good reviews, and one which offers product management mentors. At Femme Palette, we make sure to find each mentee the perfect match from our global pool of mentors. In our program, you will be matched for up to 12 hours of 1:1 sessions with your personal product management mentor to address your goals and needs.

A third option is to ask your boss or your HR department if your workplace offers its own mentoring program, and if not, would they consider starting one? The benefit of a workplace mentoring program is that you have the full support of your bosses and everything is taken care of - all you need to focus on are your mentoring sessions.

Examples of goals for mentoring in product management

Every product manager has different challenges and needs, and the beauty of mentoring is that it’s a personalized approach to development where you an address specifically what YOU need to focus on. Unlike going through a training with other teammates or trying to find answers online, in mentoring you will need to set your own goals to work on. These should correspond with the areas you want to grow and improve in, and there’s no universal recipe for setting the right goals. However, for inspiration and to get you started, here are a few examples of areas which product manager mentees choose to focus on.

  • Setting up a business strategy for a product
  • Learning how to better communicate ideas to other departments or management
  • Developing better testing skills
  • Developing strategic thinking and planning skills
  • Thinking outside the box
  • Improve teamwork and collaboration skills
  • Improve the company’s CRM system
  • Find better way to utilize data
  • How to become a better team leader
  • How to become more confident and have your voice heard in projects
  • Next steps to take as a product manager moving into leadership
  • Switching to product management from a different field
  • Finding a new job in product management

Are you ready to jump into mentoring? At Femme Palette, we support (not only) women in reaching their career goals through our Mentoring program. We have a number of experienced professionals in product management who are ready to help you. Here are a few of them.

Ricardo Luiz, Group Product Manager at Pipedrive

Dayna Hardgrove, Senior Product Manager at Delivery Hero

Nicole Bianchi, Group Product Manager at Chip Financial Ltd

Seda Elibol, Senior Product Manager at N26

Find out more about our Product Management Mentoring program here!

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