I recently concluded a 6-month mentorship program created by Jeremy Horn, aka The Product Guy, that is aptly called The Product Mentor. The program is designed to pair mentors and mentees from around the world, across all industries, from start-up to enterprise.
My mentee, Merziyah Poonawala, is based in New York. Since I’m based in Santa Barbara, we conducted all of our mentoring activities virtually. Merziyah works for an agency and deals with lots of clients. As a coach and consultant, I, too, deal with lots of clients. This common ground gave our mentoring relationship a solid foundation upon which to identify concrete goals that she could work towards.
As we concluded the mentoring program last week, I looked back and identified the lessons I learned as a mentor.
1. Mentoring is a learning opportunity for both mentees and mentors.
Although my primary goal was to help my mentee become more successful, the mentee/mentor relationship caused me to challenge myself in areas in which I, too, could become more proficient. Treat the mentor/mentee relationship as a two-way street so that you can both grow and develop.
2. Make sure you’re on the same page.
A big focus of The Product Mentor program is on KPIs. While many open-ended mentoring relationships may not be as structured, I found it extremely helpful to use KPIs as the basis for identifying what success looks like for my mentee. Because we worked together to craft goals to help her achieve a successful outcome — how to become a more data-informed product manager — this gave us something concrete to discuss each week as we did our weekly check-ins.
3. Context matters.
Because of the nature of her job, Merziyah had a couple of real-world projects we were able to use as a way of putting her goals and objectives into practice. This proved to be extremely valuable. For example, at one point during the 6 months we worked together, she felt there was potentially a lack of trust coming from one of her clients. Because one of Merziyah’s KPIs was to use data to communicate more effectively, I coached her on using data to help her client understand the state of the project, thus building credibility and trust.
4. It pays to be mindful and engaged.
Being a mentor requires a commitment…a commitment to really engage with your mentee on a meaningful level. If you’re going to be a mentor, don’t just phone it in. Use that precious time to really focus on what your mentee is telling you and look for as many teachable moments as possible.
Want to learn more?
If you’re interested in becoming a product management mentor or mentee, click here to learn more about The Product Mentor program. Jeremy has included a lot of great content on this site, including videos of past mentor presentations. My presentation was about using metrics that matter (here’s a hint: outcome-based metrics are a must!), which you can find here.
I’d like to thank Jeremy for allowing me to be a part of this wonderful program. As I’ve said, this was a wonderful learning experience. Being recognized as an Outstanding Mentor for my participation in the program was the icing on the cake!
I’d also like to thank my mentee, Merziyah, for being such a great partner in this program and I wish her the best of luck as she continues to strive to become an even better product manager.