When people hear about professional coaching, their mind goes to one of two places:
Very top of the organization: C-suite level executive coaching
Entry-level personnel: Mentorship to gain basic professional skills
But what about the developing professionals in the middle who make up the majority of the workforce? Professional coaching for specialized roles is absolutely needed to continue bringing their organizations value, and keep their career advancing at a high velocity.
Product Management Training Usually Happens “On the Job”
Especially in hard to recruit roles like product management, many talented individuals are promoted internally based on their performance in other roles, but are forced to “learn on the job.” That is a challenge in itself. Adding to the challenge is that new product managers are often immediately given products to manage independently — on day 1.
Now let’s make it even harder. Many companies lack senior product management or product marketing leadership experienced in the role. Basically, your boss knows what they would like to see you complete, but aren’t sure how you should go about doing it. Without having the experience and knowledge themselves, how can management guide and train the new could-be superstar?
Cross-functional Superstar Takes on Product Management
Cori Wixon had already held multiple leadership roles within a mid-sized tech startup. Her roles included everything from HR to finance, and now she was asked to step into a leadership gap that existed in product management. Cori still had her list of responsibilities from her current role, and the organization desperately needed strong product management fast as they were going through a period of rapid change before acquisition. The organization used Blinc to assist and coach Cori so that she could learn product management while also executing it.
Blinc interviewed Cori to learn more about her experiences working closely with Blinc, and the impact that product management coaching had on her company, and her career.
Blinc: Describe yourself professionally, before we worked together.
Cori: I spent 5 years post college working in B2B enterprise SaaS companies as a true generalist and held roles in every department from finance and operations to customer success. My experience was that of a true generalist and I love taking on new challenges that expand my skill set and business acumen. I was extremely fortunate to have amazing mentors throughout to help me grow, but lacked a disciplined understanding of product management or go to market strategy.
B: Why do you think your organization brought in the Blinc team?
C: Signal had amazing people, both talented and scrappy. However, we lacked a deep and tenured view of product management. Therefore, we weren’t accomplishing deliverables as effectively or efficiently as possible and our ability to identify and articulate a roadmap was weak. We brought in Blinc in order to give the industry knowledge and product management acumen to make our team stronger and our approach more targeted.
B: What was your first thought when you learned you had access to a product management coach?
C: Product management is extremely nuanced; it’s difficult to self-teach your way into success. Learning about Blinc and the opportunity to get coaching and feedback made me excited. It felt like the best way to rapidly advance my skill set and marry best practice with real world application. I feel lucky to have had such great mentors in Lindsey and Brie.
B: Were your typical coaching sessions therapy or did you get tactical?
C: Both! Blinc did a great job of assessing the situation and identifying the greatest need. If we were faced with a looming deadline or a big roadblock, we were able to spend the time breaking down the situation and identifying plans. Other times, we would be more philosophical, discussing the ethos of the product or the purpose of success.
Most meaningfully, however, were the sessions that felt most like a sports team practice. We would focus on areas for improvement, discuss constructive feedback, and even have the occasional Ted Lasso style pep talk.
B: What skills or methodologies did you learn because of the coaching?
C: I became a ninja at prioritization. Lindsey and Brie are amazing at assessing a situation and understanding where to spend time. This skill I use in my professional AND personal life on a daily, if not hourly basis. More fundamentally, while already well versed in agile methodology, I became great at applying methodology to action and adjusting based on the situation. This allowed me to manage stakeholders effectively and more importantly deliver an on time product that delighted our customers and had high adoption.
B: Any surprises while you engaged with Blinc?
C: I was surprised how much I looked forward to our 1 on 1 sessions. I always learned a ton, problem solved, and felt more confident in my approach. Further, I could better articulate and identify the career path that I wanted to pursue going forward and the sessions gave me the confidence to apply to top MBA programs, attend the Fuqua School of Business, and work as a Chief of Staff for an enterprise technology company.
B: What did your company get out of the experience?
C: Signal was able to build a strong product discipline that lasted long after our Blinc engagement and helped our company better integrate technologically with TransUnion post acquisition. Our product was more stable and better addressed customer needs by creating a roadmap and deploying resources efficiently to address the greatest product enhancements, architecture needs, and tech debt. Further, our messaging and go to market strategy were stronger as a result of our Blinc engagement.
B: How did the experience impact your career?
C: Not only have I spent time successfully as a Product Manager, but I also now coach recent college graduates in the tech space, much in the same style Blinc coached me. I am a better manager and am more successful in my current capacity as a Chief of Staff than I otherwise would be, having learned better how to influence without power, align interests, and build product management discipline. Blinc helped me feel confident in applying to business school. Now sitting in leadership classes during my MBA, I recognize many of the tenants taught by Blinc.
B: Any words of wisdom for developing product managers looking for a coach?
C: Socrates said it best: “The unexamined life is not worth living”. I would go further to say, we can’t really examine ourselves. By not enlisting feedback from experienced third parties, you are severely limiting your ability to grow. Look for individuals who have a different career path than yours, but have aligned interests.
Professional Training Isn’t One-Size-Fits-All
If this story feels familiar, and your organization could use a coach or outsourced manager to help you through a challenging period of growth, reach out to Blinc. We are happy to discuss options that range from low to high touch, and cover our areas of expertise – product management and product marketing. We know every organization is different, so there is no one-size-fits-all approach to achieve your goals.
Providing mentorship and coaching has become one of the more rewarding aspects of our time working with clients. We love to see our former mentees, like Cori, thrive and climb to the top of their organizations and industries. We also love to see the lasting impact to the overall organization, as challenges that have existed for years become a thing of the past. Let’s connect and talk about how we can work arm in arm to drive your team forward.