This post serves as a reminder to myself to do more and as a call-to-action for tech and design professionals AND aspiring product managers, designers, and engineers to get in touch with me and each other. Write, speak, talk. Help each other out.
Experienced professionals: If you’ve been fortunate to have had a long career, you undoubtedly have a wealth of stories of how to navigate professional growth, what it’s been like working on different types of teams at different companies, overcoming challenges, and what you’ve learned from managing projects or people. Your experience is much more helpful to share with up-and-comers than you may realize.
New professionals: If you’ve recently started your career, you can provide highly valuable tips about interviewing, share the story of your first break, surprising things learned, or how your first year or two have gone. Notably, it could be enlightening for others to hear what new skills you’ve been rapidly developing and about collaborating with others every day.
Aspiring professionals: Whether you are just starting out or changing careers, there is SO much you don’t know! (Secret: this continues to be true no matter how much experience you have.) The easiest way to find out what you don’t know? Ask questions. Reach out to people — product managers, engineers, designers, business analysts, researchers… anyone working in the field (or company) that you are interested in. Ask for an informational call or offer to meet up for coffee. Mention something specific that you’d like to learn or are interested in hearing about and you’re more likely to get a response.
I am proud of and quite grateful for the career I’ve had. Besides hiring and managing design, writing, and UX research professionals and being on hiring committees for product managers and engineers where I currently work, I felt that I could do more to help a wider range of people in a personal way.
So this past year, I’ve increased my efforts to meet others and help however I can. Here are a few things that I’ve done that might motivate you to do more:
- Taken informal calls, coffee, or lunch chats: It takes a lot to reach out to someone you don’t know and ask for something. So, I respond to inquiries as often as I can if they are inquisitive and authentic. These have ranged from a designer looking for feedback on her portfolio to an MBA student who is interested in the field of UX design to a seasoned product manager kicking around a startup idea to a research biologist just wanting to know what it’s like living in the San Francisco Bay Area. Taking 30 minutes for an informal call or an hour for coffee or lunch once in a while is really not much effort.
- Judged a student hackathon: When I was asked to be a judge, I just thought it would be fun. The event exceeded all expectations. Not only were the participants excited about their projects, but their drive and determination inspired the whole audience, including us judges. A side benefit was networking with folks from other companies and getting a glimpse into their product, design, and development processes as we evaluated the student projects. You might just find your next hire.
- Been a mentor: While this could require more of a commitment, it’s up to you to set expectations and the cadence with mentees. It may not even be explicitly “defined” as a mentorship. If you’ve met someone who has potential, an interesting background, or just a unique perspective, perhaps you can offer to catch up every month or two and see how the dialogue develops. Or, you can seek out formal mentorship programs, such as the well-run First Round Fast Track. You’ll be surprised how beneficial these relationships can be in helping you re-frame your own challenges or just to maintain a fresh and open mind by interacting with individuals outside of your direct bubble.
Think about what you can do to help others in your field — respond to a cold email or LinkedIn message, accept that coffee offer, write a blog post, volunteer to speak at an event, or advise a non-profit.
Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn and send a message if there is any way I can help you or if you just want to talk shop!