Life is harder than Product

By: Shereen Idnani

Left to right: Elizabeth Ames (CEO, Women in Product), Aye Moah (Chief of Product, Boomerang, Shereen Idnani (Director of Product Operations, Instacart), Leslie Kim Grossblatt (CPO, KQED), Sonia Sarao (VP of Product and Engineering, Fluxx), Lisa Cleary (CPO, Swrve), and Sharmeen Browarek Chapp (Sr Director of Product, Twitch)

We hosted Women in Product at our San Francisco office to talk about how women in Product can prioritize what matters to them in just the same way as they implement ruthless prioritization for their products.

Aye Moah, founder and CEO of Boomerang gave an incredible keynote, and we hosted an impressive line up of product leaders for a roundtable discussion about how they work to prioritize themselves as they balance products, their careers, their families, and their happiness.

Here are the top 3 takeaways from the night:

1) Raise your Hand

Aye Moah kicked off the night with a keynote centered on a simple, but powerful act: raising your hand. Studies show that female applicants are less likely to apply for a job if they don’t fulfill 100% or the qualifications or the requirements. Moah’s advice? Don’t wait for 100% — when you see an opportunity, raise your hand!

Earlier in her career, Moah wanted to transfer internally to a UX role, but she didn’t have a portfolio or the design background needed to make the jump. After getting a quick “no”, she started volunteering for projects that involved the UX design team, built out a portfolio in her free time, and eventually secured the role!

If you raise your hand, hopefully, someone will be there to see it. Moah closed the keynote with a powerful call to action: be willing to take chances on people. Look for potential and make yourself available for mentorship.

2) There’s always going to be something

Panelist Lesley Kim Grossblatt detailed how, during her transition into Product, there was always something she didn’t have that gave people a reason to tell her “no”.

There’s always something — Back in the 90’s everyone had to have an MBA to be a product manager…nowadays the profile has changed. You have to have an engineering background. People wait for others to invite them into professional opportunities. We expect a red carpet to be rolled out for a new role or promotion, but too many times I’ve had to shove the door open for opportunities.

Leslie’s advice? Ignore the “buts”, learn what your superpower is, cultivate it, and lean into it. Prioritize for the role you want. You’re not going to be perfect (nobody is!) so you need to create your own opportunities.

In the case of Sharmeen Chapp, when she didn’t get the internal transfer/promotion she interviewed for, she was encouraged to get out of her comfort zone and push back and build out a business case arguing for her in the role. Lo and behold, the business case proved to be the right tactic and she got the role. Sharmeen rolled out her own red carpet!

3) Take the time to prioritize what you want

A lot of people think they want to follow a certain career path because they’re supposed to. The panel discussed that before you set your career path, you need to understand what your needs are — you’re not going to be happy and thriving if you’re doing what somebody else’s vision for your career. Take some time to prioritize your happiness as you chart your next move. Develop criteria around what makes you happy, and intentionally look for opportunities that meet those criteria.

This part of the discussion resonated with me. Earlier in my career. I was offered a director position, but at home, I had (really young) kids and devoting additional time in the office was not what was going to make me happy. I didn’t accept the role — I liked what I was doing!

Now I’m at a point in my life where building out a team and nurturing talent makes me happy… and I’m excited to lead the new Product Operations team here at Instacart.

I’m a huge fan of Women in Product. I got my job at Instacart through attending the 2018 Women in Product conference where the theme of the conference was “Breakthrough”. I was so motivated and taken by the conference and knew it was my time for a career breakthrough which is what lead me to pursue a role in Product Leadership. It’s an incredible organization that empowers women across all levels of product. Get involved with the community!


Life is harder than Product was originally published in tech-at-instacart on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Source: Instacart

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