Reflections on my “Great Resignation”
A few months ago, I was at a career crossroads. I reached a point in my career where I was asking myself that scary and exciting existential question of “What should I do with my life?”. I became very deliberate in defining what would make me happy in my next job and what I was looking to change.
After some introspection and a few, admittedly lengthy, calls with mentors and friends, I (we) concluded that there were five aspects I wanted to maintain as my “must-haves”:
- Driving some kind of positive change, whether it be new products, mindset shift or digital
- Pockets of ambiguity in which I could help create something from nothing
- Smart, fun and inclusive colleagues I could learn from
- Product management and innovation focus
- Global exposure
Having worked at large financial services institutions for the past eight years, the major shift that I (we) realized would help me attain the above must-haves, but in a completely different context, would be to go work for a small company in its growth stage.
I was fortunate to have joined Ippon Technologies as a consultant in the Product Management Practice. Ippon is a technology consulting firm that helps its clients develop, deploy and accelerate their product roadmaps, including the initial discovery phase through delivery and implementation, with an emphasis on speed-to-market and software craftsmanship.
While my title is still “Product Manager,” and I’m still focused on digital banking, the transition from big bank to Ippon has completely changed my vantage point. Some reflections:
- Product Manager vs. Product Consultant — The difference is a subtle, but important one. In an advisory capacity, the Product Manager takes on an expanded and more intricate role. As Product Managers, we seek to find the intersection of user feedback, technology and business impact to create products that customers love, use and recommend. The additional layer is understanding and empathizing with the current state capabilities of our client’s organization. By preserving an outside-in point of view, we can encourage our clients to elevate their product roadmaps, optimize delivery processes and maximize collaboration between product and technology. Contextualizing product management best practices and recommendations to each individual clients’ needs is perhaps the most dynamic and rewarding aspect of the product consultant role.
- Being Entrepreneurial — The character traits and skills associated with being an entrepreneur are invaluable. Especially at an organization like Ippon focused on both flawless delivery and speed. For example, on a current client engagement, our team has tapped into skills like agility, tenacity, motivation and resilience across a number of varied initiatives: market landscape development, sizing a complex technical integration, new product roadmap development and more. When there is urgency around deadlines and deliverables, combined with resource availability at a smaller scale than at a large organization, things like status updates, socialization and rounds of approvals become less important, and others, such as flexibility, resourcefulness and execution become more important. Resurfacing my entrepreneurial side has been reinvigorating.
- Culture — I can admit I didn’t fully grasp the meaning or significance of a company’s culture until at least my third or fourth job. A good culture is certainly a “must-have,” but I didn’t explicitly note it in my list above because my approach has always been more instinctual. I tend to discern between a culture that is for me vs. one that is not with an “I’ll know it when I feel it” approach, as I think culture tends to be strongest when it’s something employees can feel.
There are a few things that have struck me about the culture at Ippon. The first is that I have a strong sense of what the culture is like even though my recruitment and onboarding were 100% remote. I felt immediately welcomed, valued and empowered. The activity across different Slack channels and within my own Product team reinforced full inclusion and openness from every single person I interacted with. Second, and in an attempt to articulate some of the principles behind Ippon’s culture, it helps to understand the name. Ippon, in the sport of Judo, is the highest score a fighter can achieve. It speaks to the ideals of striving for the best and winning, while continuously seeking growth and self-improvement. This ethos resonated with me on a professional and personal level, and it has been a welcome refresh for my career.
It’s still early in my Ippon journey and I am just scratching the surface, so there’s more to come…
In the meantime, have you made a shift from big company to small, or vice-versa? I’d love to hear your experience!