Gangsta Vision
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Gangsta Vision

Part 3: The Story of your Value

This article is the third part of a four-part series on Creating a Roadmap for your Product Management Career in my publication Gangsta Vision here on Medium.

For a limited time, get your copy of Gangsta Vision for $0.99 from the Amazon Kindle Store.

Photo by Angèle Kamp on Unsplash

From sapling to fruit

Under the perfect conditions, it takes a tomato seed at least five days to germinate. Therefore, it is powerful to see this tiny green seed transform into a sapling in just about a week.

And then it grows, seemingly forever. However, it can take from fifty to a hundred days for this sapling to grow and bear ripe fruit. That’s 10–20x the duration of the germination phase.

That’s no different from our careers. First, we grow fast in terms of title and responsibility earlier in our careers, and then we seem to hit a plateau, wondering when our efforts will bear fruit.

Most people conveniently forget that there’s much effort to create a healthy tomato plant: soil acidity, selective pruning, sun exposure, fertilizer application, and a rigorous watering schedule. The care towards these plants must be consistent and intentional.

Our careers need that kind of care and attention if we want to nourish them.

The most common complaint I hear from product managers who want to grow is that they don’t have time to invest in this.

They cite that “there’s so much work to be done and not enough hours in the day. So how will I ever have the time to focus on my career growth?”

The unfortunate consequence is that product managers find themselves inundated in keeping the lights on and the release train on track.

This condition is precisely the reason I spent the first two parts of this four-part series vanquishing any excuses about your lack of time. I am confident that you should have created sufficient time to dedicate to your career growth through those teachings. If you missed those parts, you would find them here and here.

Telling your story

I dedicate most of my book to the stories, tools, and tactics you will use to create a career roadmap. I certainly can’t fit it all into this blog post. A summary wouldn’t do justice to the undertaking that’s required. But I want to give you a taste of what you could expect.

For this purpose, I will focus on a specific tool, the “Story of your Value.”

What’s the difference between a story you want to tell and the story someone wants to hear? Are they different? Can they be the same?

Most of us have some experience in this department. We all know what to type on social media to get those likes. We know how to target our messaging to make it appeals to an audience.

But is that the audience you want to reach? And at what point does the audience take over? And you’re starting to say or type the things they want to hear rather than what you want to say? How do you stay true to your values and purpose?

These are tough, existential questions. Before we know where we want to go, it helps to apply the backdrop of where we came from. Those are facts, and we can wield them to give us direction.

So let’s get started with this tool.

Take a document that describes your professional persona. It could be your LinkedIn page, a resume, a video biography you may have recorded, or your website. Please review them to trigger memories of the past seven or so years. Think about your job titles, managers, peers, accomplishments, and challenges. Then, revisit the great memories and the ones that made you feel a little silly or embarrassed.

This piece is essential to bring those memories into your mind space, the good and the not so good.

Once you have that done, we can move on to the next steps.

Find a quiet space devoid of distractions. In this space, you will pitch your story to yourself. This story should be authentic — it isn’t an elevator pitch, but rather the account you’d share with a close friend. I’d recommend you use a voice recording tool instead of typing to help the free flow of information. I’d recommend something like otter.io, as it will automatically transcribe your voice into text.

Extracting your value

There are over 10,000 varieties of tomatoes out there. But unfortunately, not all of them are equal. Some types are great for salad, and some are ideal for cooking or sauces. And sometimes, you might find that the wind isn’t blowing right, or a lack of bees might lengthen the time it takes to harvest, despite all your effort.

You find only particular tomatoes for sale at your local grocery store because, sadly, effort does not correlate with value.

Is there a way to counteract it?

A visit to a farmer’s market will reveal that there are always new and tasty varieties still being grown. To take it a step further, a visit to TomatoFest.com shows that advocates for sustainable agriculture Gary Ibsen and Dagma Lacey have been growing and harvesting heirloom varieties for over forty years. They even founded the World Tomato Society.

Mission-driven purpose looks like this. Again, I am reminded that we can create value this way.

This is the point in the blog post where you stop reading and go back to the audio recording saved on your computer. And listen to it as if that recording is about somebody else. Someone, you don’t know personally.

Please give them a name, perhaps Akoto.

What questions would you ask Akoto to refine their story and articulate the value they have created? More importantly, what kind of value will Akoto create in the future? Here are some questions to help you get started:

  • Tell me more about job X. Why did you leave it?
  • In job Y, you talked a lot about it being a job you liked. Unpack that for me. Why did you like this job? What are the memorable peak experiences from this job?
  • Who are the managers you stay in touch with as mentors, and why?
  • What are the reasons you lost touch with some managers and mentors?

This practice will help you look at your story objectively. Now that you have interviewed this person, Akoto, you can rebuild that story with a level of value.

Please focus on the positive elements, how Akoto made their bosses look good, and how they helped grow the business. What skills would Akoto need to take their craft to the next level?

Now do that recording again, and see how that feels. Furthermore, it should feel completely different and remarkably empowering.

I have only walked you through a single tool in the Gangsta Vision toolkit. You will use this audio recording in other tools such as the Career Map, Personal Skills SWOT, Career Journey with S-Curves, and the Master Plan. Continue the conversation at www.gangstavision.com.

In the last and final part of this four-part series, we will explore the Gangsta Vision philosophy and how you can use it to make decisions by leaning into empathy and commitment.

In my book Gangsta Vision: Recipes to break into product management leadership, I address how, through several tactics such as Force Multipliers, you can reclaim “thinking time,” which you can use to create a roadmap for your career. Through real stories, tools, and the Gangsta Vision philosophy, I will help you find a way to break through your barriers and into senior leadership. The book will be available for purchase in May 2022. To learn more, visit www.gangstavision.com.

About the author:

Dilip Ramachandran is an entrepreneur who builds teams and ships software products in marketing and financial technology. He has many years of experience working with successful enterprises like Walmart, Experian, Marqeta, and Bond. As a pioneer of the “Chief Product Therapist” concept, he has assisted organizations in realizing world-class developer platforms and finding their product-market fit. Dilip is CEO of Nimi, an organization that advises high-growth FinTech startups and matches them with experts in Sri Lanka.

His book Gangsta Vision was inspired by his own experience and the challenges he faced when trying to break into senior leadership.

Dilip is an electrical engineering graduate from the University of Pennsylvania. He and his partner Alla, daughter Ariadna, and furry son (papillon-sheltie rescue) Wiley reside in Oakland, California.

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