Podcast: Moving Up the Career Ladder with Thor Mitchell "Product people - Product managers, product designers, UX designers, UX researchers, Business analysts, developers, makers & entrepreneurs September 09 2021 False podcast, Product management, Product management career, The Product Experience, Mind the Product Mind the Product Ltd 6384 The Product Experience logo Product Management 25.536

Podcast: Moving Up the Career Ladder with Thor Mitchell

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Thor MitchellThor Mitchell knows his bones – he’s an ex-Google product manager (Maps and Google+ APIs) and was most recently the Chief Product Officer at Crowdcube. Following a talk at ProductTank Bristol, he joined us to chat about the advice he gives both to aspiring product managers and to those angling for leadership positions.

Quote of the episode

In almost all cases, the person best qualified to make decisions… is the product manager, no matter what level they’re at… Have confidence in your convictions, because you’ve spent more time thinking about this than anybody else.

Listen if you’d like to learn more about:

  • What is the core difference between a product manager and leader?
  • How to communicate with people at all levels.
  • Assumptions that managers and stakeholders have the answers.
  • When hiring, what is the most important skill for product managers?
  • What kind of training do I need to become a product manager?
  • If a product manager does all the real work, what does a product leader do all day?
  • To advance your career, do you need to become a manager of product managers? Or can you continue to be a practitioner?

Links mentioned in this episode:

Episode transcript

Lily Smith  00:11

Welcome to the product experience podcast. My name is Lily Smith. And I’m Randy silver. And it’s our first episode we’re finally launched.

Randy Silver  00:22

We’ve been working on this for absolutely ages It feels like but in reality, not all that well,

Lily Smith  00:28

In true kind of product management style, we did a couple of pilot episodes, and then reached out to some of the main product and product tech community for feedback. We have one sentence, which I think are a couple of sentences, which really nicely sums up what we’re trying to achieve with this product. With the podcast, you are a single physical human being who cannot possibly attend all of the product tanks, this magical podcast that allows you to travel through time and space to hear all the best lessons from all the best talks around the world.

Lily Smith  01:02

There we go, not in our words, in words of our listeners.

Randy Silver  01:08

So the format of this is that we have guests every episode, and we get them from some of the best speakers from different product tags and product events around the world. This week’s victim really came from someone who spoke at product tech Bristol, which you organise. Yes, so I organise product tank in Bristol. And we have Tor Mitchell, who used to work at Google A long time ago, on the maps product no less. And now then worked at crowdcube as Chief Product officer and kind of has worked his way through various different product roles. And he came in to talk about what it’s like to kind of traverse that journey through product management, and kind of grow or move up the product management career ladder. He also has a website called product careers, which supports product management in their career path. And the talk went down really well. So we thought it would be a great place to start with the podcast.

Randy Silver  02:15

Absolutely. And you know, I think you infected him actually because he’s now one of the CO organisers of product tank in Exeter. So if you enjoyed this conversation, and you happen to live anywhere near Exeter in the UK, please feel free to join him.

Lily Smith  02:31

Is that right? Was there anything else that we covered? We also covered the kind of startup product management career as well as the the kind of the big corporate product management, career path and Thor demystifies. What the hell does a product leader actually do all day anyway?

Lily Smith  02:49

Which is a question on everyone’s minds. So but let’s hear it from the man himself and talk with Thor now.

Randy Silver  03:01

Thor. Well, welcome. Can you give us an introduction?

Thor Mitchell 03:06

Sure. Yeah. Thanks. Thanks for inviting me. So yeah, my name is Tor. I

Thor Mitchell  03:12

was until very recently, the Chief Product officer at crowdcube, who are the UK is a leading equity crowdfunding platform. They’re a start up of around 60 or 70 people. And I was managing a team of product managers and designers there for a little over three years. Before crowdcube. I was with Google for about nine years. And it was while I was at Google, that I moved into product management about halfway through my time there. And I mostly focused on developing products. So I managed the Google Maps API for many years. And then various other developer services and developer platform initiatives. And before that, I was at Sun Microsystems in more technical roles for about a year. So my path into product was from the technical side, although I’ve never really been a software engineer in the true sense. It was more as more sort of support functions. And what are you doing now?

Thor Mitchell 04:03

Now I’m mostly kicking back for the summer. So So I decided earlier this year that I would take a bit of a break in, I happen to be fortunate enough to live in a nice part of the country here in the UK down in the southwest. We have good beaches, and I figured I’d take a bit of a break over the summer and then evaluate my options come the autumn.

Lily Smith  04:25

And tell us what kind of inspired you or made you decide to do the talk on career progression and product?

Thor Mitchell 04:34

Well, it was really a question of, obviously, I been invited to speak at a product tank I was thinking about what can I talk about that will be broadly interesting to the audience. I thought about the sort of questions that I get the most, I do quite a bit of mentoring and coaching both one on one and also as part of the Tech City upscale programme. And so I sit with some CPAs and heads of colour And but also people who are newer to the discipline? And a question that comes up a lot is, what’s the difference between a pm and a senior pm? And how do I get to senior PM, or if it’s a senior PM, and they want to know how they get to the next step. And so it seems like there’s a lack of good information about how you move upwards. There’s plenty of information, lots of great information about how you do the job and how you do it well, and all the facets and aspects of it, but sort of really differentiating entry level from mid to senior, seemed like there was an opportunity there to provide some value in.

Randy Silver  05:34

So what is the core difference that you see between the middle of OPM and someone going more senior?

Thor Mitchell  05:42

So I think, you know, the way I look at it is that the main difference is really in the level of complexity of the projects that they manage. And when I use the word complexity, I use it in a fairly broad sense. It’s not just about the technical complexity, it’s about complexity in all manner of different ways. So it could be regulatory issues, it could be the number of stakeholders that are involved, it could be the involvement of external partners, it could be the number of external dependencies you have or the integration complexity. Or maybe internationalisation is particularly complex in that respect. So there’s many, many different ways in which a project can be complex. And the more of those factors that come into play for a given project, the more likely it is that your need or that you’re assigned a senior pm to handle that. And so a lot of the challenge of progressing upwards as a PM, I believe, is in developing the skills to handle more complex projects.

Lily Smith  06:38

And during during your talk, you kind of talked around this idea of the kind of this more senior roles being more complex, and how you kind of get to those sort of more complex projects, and therefore the kind of the more complex or the more senior roles. And so Talk Talk to us a bit about that that kind of framework or that that model that you use?

Thor Mitchell 07:01

Yeah, I mean, it might at times feel a bit of a chicken and egg situation in the sense that in order to be entrusted with complex projects, you need to have demonstrated the capability to manage complex projects. So how do you break out of that cycle? And, you know, what I would tell my team is, really, this is about building confidence. And it’s not just about your own confidence. In fact, if anything, that is secondary to building confidence within the business, the business has to believe that you are a safe pair of hands for projects that they perceive to be complex or particularly strategically important or sensitive. So how do you go about building the confidence of the business? To do that you can take on these kinds of projects. And the key to that, essentially, is communication. So this is obviously something we talk about a lot in the role. But effectively, what you need to do is make sure that at all times the various stakeholders and the people who are really watching your performance, if you like, feel like they understand what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, how are the projects going? Is it on schedule? If it’s not one of the reasons why, and what are you doing to mitigate those that slippage, and so on. And to do that, you just need to continuously communicate status, and it can seem a little bit repetitive, a little bit excessive at times. Often you’re delivering the same messages over and over and over again. But Eric Schmidt of Google always used to say repetition doesn’t diminish the prayer, which is a quote that really struck which stuck with me. And and basically, what you’re looking to do is make sure that at no point, is anybody in the business asking the question, what’s going on? Why is it like this, you should be ahead of them at all times, ahead of them with updates. And that gives them a very clear feeling, you’re, you’re in control that you’re on top of the project. And if projects become more complex as they have a tendency to do, and then you tend to find that projects that may be you are given because they weren’t expected to be that complex, develop complexities, which gives you an opportunity to demonstrate that you can handle that when it happens. And so if you can continue to maintain that high velocity of communication through a more challenging phase of an existing project, then you’re more likely to be assigned complex projects in the future. So working backwards, that’s sort of the framework that I’ve given people in the past, which is your you’re working towards complexity, you do that by building the business’s confidence in you. And you do that by communicating well with them. So you

Randy Silver  09:34

need to communicate well at all levels. You know, even if you’re a product owner, or a junior Product Manager, you’re communicating well with your team and with the adjacent teams. But there’s a difference in the kinds of stakeholders and people that you’re communicating with as you move up the ladder. what’s the what’s the difference in how you approach it, what makes you more able to speak the language at the board level as a as a CPO versus within a technology organisation as a more junior?

Thor Mitchell 10:05

That’s an interesting question. And I think also that this, I would hope in most modern businesses, that they’re not too hierarchical in the sense that it should not be the case that if you’re a junior or associate level PM, you never get a chance to speak to someone who’s at the VP level, but you have to go up through the layers, and people only talk to people above and below. So I’d hope that isn’t the case. And certainly, I wouldn’t imagine that’s the case in a startup. And it certainly wasn’t the case at Google. That having been said, there were a few common mistakes that that I think more junior people would make when they were dealing with people at the VP level. And, you know, these are mistakes that I made when I first made this transition as well. So for example, they might assume that the role of a stakeholder meeting or meeting with someone very senior, particularly if they are themselves a product person, so a VP of product or a CPA or something like that, is they might think that the role of that meeting is to get advice or guidance from that CEO or that VP of product. But the reality is that, in almost all cases, the person best qualified to define the strategy and direction and make the key decisions for a product is the product manager of that product, no matter what level they’re at, because they’re the person who spends all their day thinking about that product and understanding the challenges and faces. And so no matter how senior, the people you’re meeting with, the chances are that the most qualified and most informed person in the room will be you. And this is something I had to explain to younger people or more junior people before, because they might go into a meeting expecting the head of product or CPOE has some perfect judgement, and can be relied upon to give them the right direction. Whereas actually, that person is almost certainly looking to them for guidance. So if they go in without clear guidance, and that person is looking for guidance, you end up in a very difficult situation where the the VP will lose confidence in them because they don’t appear to have a clear understanding of what they think should be done. So I think that to me, is something that I’ve had to reinforce to people who’ve worked for me in the past is has have confidence in your convictions. And because you’ve thought about these problems more than anybody else, and essentially, use your time with more senior people as an opportunity to run your ideas past them. And they may be able to provide you with some, some good ideas or or they may be able to flag potential challenges you haven’t recognised, or issues that have come up in the past that you were not around for provides some institutional knowledge, but they’re not going to rewrite your strategy for you.

Lily Smith  12:36

And when you’re looking at the kind of the junior sort of, or entry level product managers, is there a particular skill set that you look at? Are you already looking for the kind of the level of communication so whether they’re looking to get into product is that one of the things you you look at when you’re hiring.

Thor Mitchell 12:55

So I’m a firm believer that the number one most important skill of a product manager is empathy. I’ve always said that. And empathy is often referred to in the product management context, with regards to empathising with users, which is clearly extremely important. But it’s equally important to be fair fight with the people, you work with the people within the organisation. And so, you know, one of the ways I think that you can really improve your relationships with the people around you and with your stakeholders is to really understand them well understand what pressures are they under? What expectations have been set on them by their management? What incentives do they operate under? What are they trying to achieve? What are their okrs, or their bonus scheme based on because you can do a much, much better job of predicting their behaviour and making sure that they feel like you understand them, which is the key thing to achieve if you want to build a good relationship with them. So what I look for most of all is, is empathy. And, and obviously, the communication skills kind of go along with that if you if you empathise with people, but you cannot make them feel understood, because you can’t communicate that empathy, then you’re not going to get the value from it. What I don’t necessarily do is, obviously Google has a bit of a reputation for only hiring people with a computer science background into product management. And as I understand it, that’s changing now has been changing since I left, but it was certainly the case around the time I moved into the role. And I don’t necessarily subscribe to that philosophy. I’ve, I’ve interviewed and made offers to and hired people from a really diverse range of academic backgrounds, been a people who did architecture or people whose music or people who did English literature, but also people who did mechanical engineering and you know, politics and philosophy. And so I do think that diversity of interests and backgrounds are really valuable and important to building a rounded team.

Lily Smith  14:52

And so when you’re going for your kind of your first product role, obviously demonstrating or being able to do Straight, some form empathy would if they were going to work for you, you’d be really important. And is there anything else that that people need to do in order to demonstrate that they’re right for a product role? And is there any training that people so I get a lot of questions myself about, you know, what training? should I do? I want to be a product manager. Yeah, have you got any kind of tips on that side?

Thor Mitchell 15:25

Well, I think the first thing I’d say is, if you’re someone, particularly if you’re kind of at the graduate level, and you’re considering a career in product management, then you’ve sort of crossed the first hurdle already, because you’ve discovered the role, and you recognise it as appealing and attractive. And, you know, my experience from working with students or graduates in the past is, that’s a pretty rare, actually, it’s not a well-understood role within the undergraduate population. So the fact that you have got to the point where you’re excited about it, is already a good sign. To me, that’s already a good start. I think it’s an interesting question of how you train up, as individually, when you don’t have the support of an organisation already, especially if you’re someone who obviously doesn’t have, you know, 400 pounds in their pocket to spend on a training course, or, or something more formally structured. So my advice to students who have expressed interest in this The past is really just to engage with the community is to join the appropriate you know, slack communities, attend product tank and other similar meetups. And, and just spend time with other product managers. There’s a lot of good, obviously a lot of good written content. There’s a world of media articles out there about product management. But I don’t think there’s any real substitute for spending time face to face with people. Because the reality is that day-to-day product management is not necessarily as elegant and straightforward as medium best practice articles would make you think, right, it’s a messy role. There are, there are day-to-day challenges, which people don’t necessarily want to talk about in a public forum, but sit them down for a drink, and you’re seeing here the reality.

Randy Silver  17:04

So getting into either into a junior role or a more senior role, it’s a vast difference, whether you’re joining a startup a scale up or an enterprise company, can you tell us a little bit about the difference and join those companies, let’s talk about the mid and senior levels, you already have a job, you’re working with as a junior Product Manager, Product Manager, you’re ready to move up in seniority, what kind of levels of what’s the difference in trying to look at those different types of firms.

Thor Mitchell 17:38

So I mean, my my perspective, obviously, is coloured my by my own experience, and I’ve sort of experienced this, that the opposite extremes of the spectrum. So you know, you’ve got one company that is very well established, has a extremely mature product management organisation and a set of processes for for hiring, onboarding, and training product managers. And you’re essentially surrounded by some of the best product managers in the world. That’s very kind of you to say. But it’s. But you know, the other extreme is one where, you know, essentially, it’s a startup, so you’re just sort of trying to get the organisation off the ground, you’re trying to introduce the function to the business. And then you’re trying to build a culture of product management within the company, and also build a good culture within the team of best practices and an expertise. So I think a couple things I think worth mentioning. One is that there is a, in my opinion, pretty significant difference between the experience of being promoted from, say, pm to senior pm within a business, versus leaving a business where you’re a pm to join a new business where you’re a senior PM, joining a new business carries a certain number of advantages. Some of them appear to be blunt, purely financial, you know, moving between roles is a good opportunity to kind of recalibrate your compensation to be aligned with market rates. But also you have kind of the the sort of the, the conventional honeymoon period, you have a period of time in the new business where everybody understands that you are building context, you’re trying to understand the shape of the problems that you’re facing. And consequently, you have an opportunity there to ask any question you want, no matter how simplistic you might seem to be, to question any decisions that have been made, to re evaluate the strategy to understand things like is the direction the product was going in, still, it aligned with the overall direction of the business. So arriving at a new company, you have the sort of people talk about the first 90 days you have this opportunity to to really shake things up. And you’ve you’ve got effectively some leeway to do that without necessarily causing too much disruption to existing relationships. So you know, my advice to someone making that transition is essentially make the most of that opportunity. Don’t be afraid to, you know, to to look under the bed for skeletons. And don’t be afraid to, you know, to ask difficult questions. Because it will get harder, once you start building very strong relationships with people and you start to understand the things that they’re sensitive to, and they perhaps have less patience for that sort of thing.

Randy Silver  20:25

So, as you start moving up, it’s pretty well understood, you’re a product manager, your junior midweight, you’re working directly with one or more Scrum teams, and interacting with them vary day to day you understand how you interact with the rest of the business, you go up in the ladder, now you’re managing other product managers, you’re managing at the portfolio level, what do you actually do all day? product managers doing all the work? They know the strategy, as you said,

Thor Mitchell  20:55

That’s completely correct. They are doing all the work. And and I think that’s as it should be, frankly, I don’t I would be, I’d be quite concerned, to be honest, if someone who was the head of or CPO level was spending a lot of their time on what you might consider day to day product management. It’s a really good question. And to me, it was a really interesting transition. Because when I left Google, I was managing a small team, I had a couple of people, but I was spending most of my time still on directly managing products. And crowdcube, I was hired quite explicitly to build the team from scratch. And, and create a high functioning product organisation. And I was really very surprised at how different the role is, in my, in my talk, on this topic, product tank, you know, I sort of talked about this as sort of like a castle that you have to cross at some point or this, you may choose to cross at some point. But don’t be surprised if it’s quite different role. Because once you get to the head of level, or, or in a larger organisation, perhaps it’s more around sort of group level, where you have a team of product managers you’re managing the the team is your product, for the most part, your essential role at that point is to set a clear vision, and then build a high functioning and support high functioning team. And that tends to involve a sort of a cycle if you like. And there’s there’s a couple of key things, there’s the vision setting piece, which hopefully, is extremely important, but hopefully not something that you’re doing often. And the vision shouldn’t be changing that often. It needs to be revisited, you know, every so often just to make sure that it’s still aligned with the overall mission of the business, but it should be relatively stable, then you’ve got the hiring piece. So hiring is extraordinarily time consuming to do well. It will, it will consume your life, but it is so worth doing well. It might seem obvious thing to say. But you know, when I’ve been sort of speaking to other heads of product in the past, my advice is always don’t take shortcuts on hiring because hiring well avoids everything you hate the most about your job, right. So if you hire badly, you’re going to have to deal with performance management, you’re going to have to have awkward conversations with people that you know work for you, you’re going to potentially have to let people go if their performance doesn’t improve, the reputation of the team will be impacted by their performance, you know, that you’re gonna have to work hard on managing those relationships with people in other parts of the business. And, you know, obviously, you can end up with with if you have a cultural mismatch within the team, and that could undermine the team’s performance as a whole. So essentially, hiring badly is one of the most toxic things that you can possibly do. But the, the upshot of that is that when you are in a hiring exercise, you just have to pour your heart and soul into it. And you have to be extremely selective. And, you know, that means you’re going to be reviewing a lot of CVS and resumes, you’re going to be having a lot of phone conversations. And, you know, it’s going to take time. So that’s one another piece of it. And I found that, you know, especially if you’re an organisation that’s growing relatively quickly, it’s essentially continuous, you never really stop hiring per se. And then the last thing is, is the sort of quarterly goal setting process or whatever goal setting process you use. So if you’re using okrs, it’s probably going to be quarterly. And that also feels sometimes like it’s endless, because particularly at the more senior levels, you’re not just looking at this quarter, you’re looking at next quarter, you’re trying to project forward. And so having those planning conversations, and making sure that the business is reacting to changes in the overall competitive and economic environment. You know, it’s something that you cannot afford to leave until it’s too late.

Lily Smith  25:00

Just one other thing that you one of the the other points that you made during your talk was kind of around the personal development side. And you talked a lot about coaching and mentoring. And I know that you do that a lot yourself, where have you found coaches or mentors from for yourself? And what’s the kind of what’s your sort of tips for like getting the best out of a coach or a mentor and knowing that you’re working with the right sort of person?

Thor Mitchell  25:32

Yeah, that’s a really interesting question. So one of the challenges I face, personally, is that, as I mentioned, we’re not based in London, and nor are we based in Bristol, nor we based anywhere where there’s a really significant product management community. And that has placed sort of a higher burden, I think, on me to really proactively engage with the community online and in person, I spent a lot of time on trains from Exeter to London. But it is, in a sense, kind of a lonely role if you like. I mean, I think once you’re at the, at the, on the sort of executive team, these roles do become a little bit lonelier. And that’s why there are so many good support networks in London, for example, for startup founders and suchlike. And so you know, I think the first couple of years I was at Crown cube, I was just facing so many new challenges on a day to day basis, as a kind of, as I adapted to this new role, that I couldn’t help but learn. But after a couple of years, I began to realise that I needed to practice what I preach and, and get some coaching of my own. And I actually spoke to the CEO. And he put me in touch with an executive coach who I worked with regularly as the last six or nine months that I was there. And that was extraordinarily valuable. And I think, so much of the value of a coach. So I don’t know whether you’ve heard of the trash. Remember, it’s the six leadership styles. It was a Harvard Business Review article that was written by, I can’t remember his name. Now, that’s terrible. The guy who did who wrote the books on emotional intelligence. And it talks about the various leadership styles and the fact that strong leaders are those who know which style to apply at a particular time. And he talks a lot about coaching as a style. And what it basically says is that coaching is not about telling people what they should do. It’s about asking them the questions, they should be asking themselves, and getting them to really think through the problem in the right way. And so that is exactly what the coach I had it for me was just asked me the questions that I needed to think about, and help me understand what I was looking for and what I needed, and where I wanted to go with my career and so forth. So, you know, I’ve done as you say, quite a bit of coaching and mentoring myself. And what I always say to people, who I mentoring is, is try and set that expectation is we’re going to have a conversation, and we’ll keep having conversations, and I will try and tease out of you the the things that you should be thinking about, but I’m not here to tell you what to do.

Randy Silver  28:13

We’ve got just a few more minutes or so one more question from me, which can be we’ve we’ve made an assumption with this, that as you progress in your product management career that you naturally want to go up the ladder and go into those senior management roles. Do you find that to be the case? How do you how do you Is there a progression in becoming more of an expert practitioner of craft rather than moving up towards the CPO role?

Thor Mitchell  28:39

That’s an interesting question. My experience so far and this may change or be changing, and I’m not aware is that the sort of the individual contributor track as a long term track is less common in product management. They didn’t say engineering so so Google, they have, you have a point in your career as a software engineer, where you can choose to go up the engineering manager track or you can continue all the way up to a Distinguished Engineer and fellow of which there were only a handful in the entire company. But within product management, certainly there comes a point where you cannot realistically progress further unless you start to manage teams. And I resisted that To be honest, for quite a while, I was concerned that I enjoyed managing products, I loved managing products, I loved shipping stuff, and seeing it used and I was worried that I would lose touch with that. And what happened which was quite interesting was that they reached a point if we talked earlier about complexity. And they reached a point where the complexity of the kinds of projects that I wanted to work on the essentially the complexity of my ambition exceeded my ability to execute on that vision on my own. And I realised that the only way I was going to achieve what I felt was the right thing for a particular product set was to was to start building a team who could help me do that. And so it was a gradual shift in mindset towards this. I idea that actually coordinating a group of people to really deliver on a compelling vision is actually an extreme and equally fulfilling approach to product management. So, you know, I do think that, that it is something of an inevitability and a lot of companies that will happen. But I don’t think it’s necessary to be scared, or I think it’s something that is worth embracing, because you might just enjoy it.

Lily Smith  30:27

So that was really useful. Thank you so much. And I just want to double-check his Thor, or though it is to say so yes, so thank you very much. That was very, very insightful. And thanks, again, for coming to product tech in Bristol. And we look forward to seeing you talk again that if you’ve got plans for more talks, or is it just kicking back for the whole of the summer?

Thor Mitchell  30:53

Actually, my, the rest of the day today is likely to be spent working on a South by Southwest proposal for next year. So I’m trying to keep my hand in a little bit, stay somewhere else.

Randy Silver  31:04

Do you want to talk at all about product careers before we sign off?

Thor Mitchell  31:09

Sure, yeah, that’d be great. So I alluded to this sort of somewhat obliquely earlier, but a few years ago, when I was looking to build the team at crowdcube, I made a decision or based on the experiences I had at Google to try and hire both someone with some experience, but also someone at  at the entry level. As you may know, Google has a fairly well-known and well-respected Associate Product Management scheme, by which they hire people straight out of university and train them into product management roles. And I worked with some of those ATMs and they were phenomenal, just amazing, amazingly effective. And however, you know, the reality is there isn’t much of a, an established process or pipeline for bringing people into product management straight out of university, most people fall into Product Management at some point in their career or stumble over it by working with someone in the role already. And this proved to be hugely frustrating in that hiring process, we, we really, really struggled not to find, well basically, we really struggled to reach students who had an understand enough of an understanding of the role that they were willing to consider it, and were excited by it. And the number of people I lost along the way to management consultancy, or, you know, other roles in organisations where I thought, well, they you know, they’re, they’re a good company to work for, but you’re not going to have the same impact you’re going to have here, I don’t think either enjoy it as much as you’re going to enjoy product management, if only I could get that across to you. And so I decided I remember it. Well, it was the evening before the minor product London conference in 2015. That, that I shouldn’t just complain about this, I should try and do something about it. And so I started a side project called product careers, which essentially aims to raise the profile of product management as a career option amongst undergraduates, graduates at universities in the UK. And it consists of presentation that I deliver to student groups, a website with supporting material, some some testimonials from existing product managers about why they love the role. And you know, in all honesty, it’s something that for various reasons, I haven’t been able to put as much time into it as I wanted to over the last a year. But now that I’m not working again, it’s something that I’m getting back into and quite care quite quite passionately about. So if that’s something that resonates with you, if you perhaps have context at university that might be interested, or would like to be involved in some way, I’d love to hear from you. There’s a contact form on the website, which is literally just product careers. That’s the URL. Well done. Thank you.

[buzzsprout episode='8711912' player='true'] Thor MitchellThor Mitchell knows his bones – he’s an ex-Google product manager (Maps and Google+ APIs) and was most recently the Chief Product Officer at Crowdcube. Following a talk at ProductTank Bristol, he joined us to chat about the advice he gives both to aspiring product managers and to those angling for leadership positions.

Quote of the episode

In almost all cases, the person best qualified to make decisions... is the product manager, no matter what level they’re at… Have confidence in your convictions, because you’ve spent more time thinking about this than anybody else.
Listen if you’d like to learn more about:
  • What is the core difference between a product manager and leader?
  • How to communicate with people at all levels.
  • Assumptions that managers and stakeholders have the answers.
  • When hiring, what is the most important skill for product managers?
  • What kind of training do I need to become a product manager?
  • If a product manager does all the real work, what does a product leader do all day?
  • To advance your career, do you need to become a manager of product managers? Or can you continue to be a practitioner?

Links mentioned in this episode:

Episode transcript

Lily Smith  00:11

Welcome to the product experience podcast. My name is Lily Smith. And I'm Randy silver. And it's our first episode we're finally launched.

Randy Silver  00:22

We've been working on this for absolutely ages It feels like but in reality, not all that well,

Lily Smith  00:28

In true kind of product management style, we did a couple of pilot episodes, and then reached out to some of the main product and product tech community for feedback. We have one sentence, which I think are a couple of sentences, which really nicely sums up what we're trying to achieve with this product. With the podcast, you are a single physical human being who cannot possibly attend all of the product tanks, this magical podcast that allows you to travel through time and space to hear all the best lessons from all the best talks around the world.

Lily Smith  01:02

There we go, not in our words, in words of our listeners.

Randy Silver  01:08

So the format of this is that we have guests every episode, and we get them from some of the best speakers from different product tags and product events around the world. This week's victim really came from someone who spoke at product tech Bristol, which you organise. Yes, so I organise product tank in Bristol. And we have Tor Mitchell, who used to work at Google A long time ago, on the maps product no less. And now then worked at crowdcube as Chief Product officer and kind of has worked his way through various different product roles. And he came in to talk about what it's like to kind of traverse that journey through product management, and kind of grow or move up the product management career ladder. He also has a website called product careers, which supports product management in their career path. And the talk went down really well. So we thought it would be a great place to start with the podcast.

Randy Silver  02:15

Absolutely. And you know, I think you infected him actually because he's now one of the CO organisers of product tank in Exeter. So if you enjoyed this conversation, and you happen to live anywhere near Exeter in the UK, please feel free to join him.

Lily Smith  02:31

Is that right? Was there anything else that we covered? We also covered the kind of startup product management career as well as the the kind of the big corporate product management, career path and Thor demystifies. What the hell does a product leader actually do all day anyway?

Lily Smith  02:49

Which is a question on everyone's minds. So but let's hear it from the man himself and talk with Thor now.

Randy Silver  03:01

Thor. Well, welcome. Can you give us an introduction?

Thor Mitchell 03:06

Sure. Yeah. Thanks. Thanks for inviting me. So yeah, my name is Tor. I

Thor Mitchell  03:12

was until very recently, the Chief Product officer at crowdcube, who are the UK is a leading equity crowdfunding platform. They're a start up of around 60 or 70 people. And I was managing a team of product managers and designers there for a little over three years. Before crowdcube. I was with Google for about nine years. And it was while I was at Google, that I moved into product management about halfway through my time there. And I mostly focused on developing products. So I managed the Google Maps API for many years. And then various other developer services and developer platform initiatives. And before that, I was at Sun Microsystems in more technical roles for about a year. So my path into product was from the technical side, although I've never really been a software engineer in the true sense. It was more as more sort of support functions. And what are you doing now?

Thor Mitchell 04:03

Now I'm mostly kicking back for the summer. So So I decided earlier this year that I would take a bit of a break in, I happen to be fortunate enough to live in a nice part of the country here in the UK down in the southwest. We have good beaches, and I figured I'd take a bit of a break over the summer and then evaluate my options come the autumn.

Lily Smith  04:25

And tell us what kind of inspired you or made you decide to do the talk on career progression and product?

Thor Mitchell 04:34

Well, it was really a question of, obviously, I been invited to speak at a product tank I was thinking about what can I talk about that will be broadly interesting to the audience. I thought about the sort of questions that I get the most, I do quite a bit of mentoring and coaching both one on one and also as part of the Tech City upscale programme. And so I sit with some CPAs and heads of colour And but also people who are newer to the discipline? And a question that comes up a lot is, what's the difference between a pm and a senior pm? And how do I get to senior PM, or if it's a senior PM, and they want to know how they get to the next step. And so it seems like there's a lack of good information about how you move upwards. There's plenty of information, lots of great information about how you do the job and how you do it well, and all the facets and aspects of it, but sort of really differentiating entry level from mid to senior, seemed like there was an opportunity there to provide some value in.

Randy Silver  05:34

So what is the core difference that you see between the middle of OPM and someone going more senior?

Thor Mitchell  05:42

So I think, you know, the way I look at it is that the main difference is really in the level of complexity of the projects that they manage. And when I use the word complexity, I use it in a fairly broad sense. It's not just about the technical complexity, it's about complexity in all manner of different ways. So it could be regulatory issues, it could be the number of stakeholders that are involved, it could be the involvement of external partners, it could be the number of external dependencies you have or the integration complexity. Or maybe internationalisation is particularly complex in that respect. So there's many, many different ways in which a project can be complex. And the more of those factors that come into play for a given project, the more likely it is that your need or that you're assigned a senior pm to handle that. And so a lot of the challenge of progressing upwards as a PM, I believe, is in developing the skills to handle more complex projects.

Lily Smith  06:38

And during during your talk, you kind of talked around this idea of the kind of this more senior roles being more complex, and how you kind of get to those sort of more complex projects, and therefore the kind of the more complex or the more senior roles. And so Talk Talk to us a bit about that that kind of framework or that that model that you use?

Thor Mitchell 07:01

Yeah, I mean, it might at times feel a bit of a chicken and egg situation in the sense that in order to be entrusted with complex projects, you need to have demonstrated the capability to manage complex projects. So how do you break out of that cycle? And, you know, what I would tell my team is, really, this is about building confidence. And it's not just about your own confidence. In fact, if anything, that is secondary to building confidence within the business, the business has to believe that you are a safe pair of hands for projects that they perceive to be complex or particularly strategically important or sensitive. So how do you go about building the confidence of the business? To do that you can take on these kinds of projects. And the key to that, essentially, is communication. So this is obviously something we talk about a lot in the role. But effectively, what you need to do is make sure that at all times the various stakeholders and the people who are really watching your performance, if you like, feel like they understand what you're doing, why you're doing it, how are the projects going? Is it on schedule? If it's not one of the reasons why, and what are you doing to mitigate those that slippage, and so on. And to do that, you just need to continuously communicate status, and it can seem a little bit repetitive, a little bit excessive at times. Often you're delivering the same messages over and over and over again. But Eric Schmidt of Google always used to say repetition doesn't diminish the prayer, which is a quote that really struck which stuck with me. And and basically, what you're looking to do is make sure that at no point, is anybody in the business asking the question, what's going on? Why is it like this, you should be ahead of them at all times, ahead of them with updates. And that gives them a very clear feeling, you're, you're in control that you're on top of the project. And if projects become more complex as they have a tendency to do, and then you tend to find that projects that may be you are given because they weren't expected to be that complex, develop complexities, which gives you an opportunity to demonstrate that you can handle that when it happens. And so if you can continue to maintain that high velocity of communication through a more challenging phase of an existing project, then you're more likely to be assigned complex projects in the future. So working backwards, that's sort of the framework that I've given people in the past, which is your you're working towards complexity, you do that by building the business's confidence in you. And you do that by communicating well with them. So you

Randy Silver  09:34

need to communicate well at all levels. You know, even if you're a product owner, or a junior Product Manager, you're communicating well with your team and with the adjacent teams. But there's a difference in the kinds of stakeholders and people that you're communicating with as you move up the ladder. what's the what's the difference in how you approach it, what makes you more able to speak the language at the board level as a as a CPO versus within a technology organisation as a more junior?

Thor Mitchell 10:05

That's an interesting question. And I think also that this, I would hope in most modern businesses, that they're not too hierarchical in the sense that it should not be the case that if you're a junior or associate level PM, you never get a chance to speak to someone who's at the VP level, but you have to go up through the layers, and people only talk to people above and below. So I'd hope that isn't the case. And certainly, I wouldn't imagine that's the case in a startup. And it certainly wasn't the case at Google. That having been said, there were a few common mistakes that that I think more junior people would make when they were dealing with people at the VP level. And, you know, these are mistakes that I made when I first made this transition as well. So for example, they might assume that the role of a stakeholder meeting or meeting with someone very senior, particularly if they are themselves a product person, so a VP of product or a CPA or something like that, is they might think that the role of that meeting is to get advice or guidance from that CEO or that VP of product. But the reality is that, in almost all cases, the person best qualified to define the strategy and direction and make the key decisions for a product is the product manager of that product, no matter what level they're at, because they're the person who spends all their day thinking about that product and understanding the challenges and faces. And so no matter how senior, the people you're meeting with, the chances are that the most qualified and most informed person in the room will be you. And this is something I had to explain to younger people or more junior people before, because they might go into a meeting expecting the head of product or CPOE has some perfect judgement, and can be relied upon to give them the right direction. Whereas actually, that person is almost certainly looking to them for guidance. So if they go in without clear guidance, and that person is looking for guidance, you end up in a very difficult situation where the the VP will lose confidence in them because they don't appear to have a clear understanding of what they think should be done. So I think that to me, is something that I've had to reinforce to people who've worked for me in the past is has have confidence in your convictions. And because you've thought about these problems more than anybody else, and essentially, use your time with more senior people as an opportunity to run your ideas past them. And they may be able to provide you with some, some good ideas or or they may be able to flag potential challenges you haven't recognised, or issues that have come up in the past that you were not around for provides some institutional knowledge, but they're not going to rewrite your strategy for you.

Lily Smith  12:36

And when you're looking at the kind of the junior sort of, or entry level product managers, is there a particular skill set that you look at? Are you already looking for the kind of the level of communication so whether they're looking to get into product is that one of the things you you look at when you're hiring.

Thor Mitchell 12:55

So I'm a firm believer that the number one most important skill of a product manager is empathy. I've always said that. And empathy is often referred to in the product management context, with regards to empathising with users, which is clearly extremely important. But it's equally important to be fair fight with the people, you work with the people within the organisation. And so, you know, one of the ways I think that you can really improve your relationships with the people around you and with your stakeholders is to really understand them well understand what pressures are they under? What expectations have been set on them by their management? What incentives do they operate under? What are they trying to achieve? What are their okrs, or their bonus scheme based on because you can do a much, much better job of predicting their behaviour and making sure that they feel like you understand them, which is the key thing to achieve if you want to build a good relationship with them. So what I look for most of all is, is empathy. And, and obviously, the communication skills kind of go along with that if you if you empathise with people, but you cannot make them feel understood, because you can't communicate that empathy, then you're not going to get the value from it. What I don't necessarily do is, obviously Google has a bit of a reputation for only hiring people with a computer science background into product management. And as I understand it, that's changing now has been changing since I left, but it was certainly the case around the time I moved into the role. And I don't necessarily subscribe to that philosophy. I've, I've interviewed and made offers to and hired people from a really diverse range of academic backgrounds, been a people who did architecture or people whose music or people who did English literature, but also people who did mechanical engineering and you know, politics and philosophy. And so I do think that diversity of interests and backgrounds are really valuable and important to building a rounded team.

Lily Smith  14:52

And so when you're going for your kind of your first product role, obviously demonstrating or being able to do Straight, some form empathy would if they were going to work for you, you'd be really important. And is there anything else that that people need to do in order to demonstrate that they're right for a product role? And is there any training that people so I get a lot of questions myself about, you know, what training? should I do? I want to be a product manager. Yeah, have you got any kind of tips on that side?

Thor Mitchell 15:25

Well, I think the first thing I'd say is, if you're someone, particularly if you're kind of at the graduate level, and you're considering a career in product management, then you've sort of crossed the first hurdle already, because you've discovered the role, and you recognise it as appealing and attractive. And, you know, my experience from working with students or graduates in the past is, that's a pretty rare, actually, it's not a well-understood role within the undergraduate population. So the fact that you have got to the point where you're excited about it, is already a good sign. To me, that's already a good start. I think it's an interesting question of how you train up, as individually, when you don't have the support of an organisation already, especially if you're someone who obviously doesn't have, you know, 400 pounds in their pocket to spend on a training course, or, or something more formally structured. So my advice to students who have expressed interest in this The past is really just to engage with the community is to join the appropriate you know, slack communities, attend product tank and other similar meetups. And, and just spend time with other product managers. There's a lot of good, obviously a lot of good written content. There's a world of media articles out there about product management. But I don't think there's any real substitute for spending time face to face with people. Because the reality is that day-to-day product management is not necessarily as elegant and straightforward as medium best practice articles would make you think, right, it's a messy role. There are, there are day-to-day challenges, which people don't necessarily want to talk about in a public forum, but sit them down for a drink, and you're seeing here the reality.

Randy Silver  17:04

So getting into either into a junior role or a more senior role, it's a vast difference, whether you're joining a startup a scale up or an enterprise company, can you tell us a little bit about the difference and join those companies, let's talk about the mid and senior levels, you already have a job, you're working with as a junior Product Manager, Product Manager, you're ready to move up in seniority, what kind of levels of what's the difference in trying to look at those different types of firms.

Thor Mitchell 17:38

So I mean, my my perspective, obviously, is coloured my by my own experience, and I've sort of experienced this, that the opposite extremes of the spectrum. So you know, you've got one company that is very well established, has a extremely mature product management organisation and a set of processes for for hiring, onboarding, and training product managers. And you're essentially surrounded by some of the best product managers in the world. That's very kind of you to say. But it's. But you know, the other extreme is one where, you know, essentially, it's a startup, so you're just sort of trying to get the organisation off the ground, you're trying to introduce the function to the business. And then you're trying to build a culture of product management within the company, and also build a good culture within the team of best practices and an expertise. So I think a couple things I think worth mentioning. One is that there is a, in my opinion, pretty significant difference between the experience of being promoted from, say, pm to senior pm within a business, versus leaving a business where you're a pm to join a new business where you're a senior PM, joining a new business carries a certain number of advantages. Some of them appear to be blunt, purely financial, you know, moving between roles is a good opportunity to kind of recalibrate your compensation to be aligned with market rates. But also you have kind of the the sort of the, the conventional honeymoon period, you have a period of time in the new business where everybody understands that you are building context, you're trying to understand the shape of the problems that you're facing. And consequently, you have an opportunity there to ask any question you want, no matter how simplistic you might seem to be, to question any decisions that have been made, to re evaluate the strategy to understand things like is the direction the product was going in, still, it aligned with the overall direction of the business. So arriving at a new company, you have the sort of people talk about the first 90 days you have this opportunity to to really shake things up. And you've you've got effectively some leeway to do that without necessarily causing too much disruption to existing relationships. So you know, my advice to someone making that transition is essentially make the most of that opportunity. Don't be afraid to, you know, to to look under the bed for skeletons. And don't be afraid to, you know, to ask difficult questions. Because it will get harder, once you start building very strong relationships with people and you start to understand the things that they're sensitive to, and they perhaps have less patience for that sort of thing.

Randy Silver  20:25

So, as you start moving up, it's pretty well understood, you're a product manager, your junior midweight, you're working directly with one or more Scrum teams, and interacting with them vary day to day you understand how you interact with the rest of the business, you go up in the ladder, now you're managing other product managers, you're managing at the portfolio level, what do you actually do all day? product managers doing all the work? They know the strategy, as you said,

Thor Mitchell  20:55

That's completely correct. They are doing all the work. And and I think that's as it should be, frankly, I don't I would be, I'd be quite concerned, to be honest, if someone who was the head of or CPO level was spending a lot of their time on what you might consider day to day product management. It's a really good question. And to me, it was a really interesting transition. Because when I left Google, I was managing a small team, I had a couple of people, but I was spending most of my time still on directly managing products. And crowdcube, I was hired quite explicitly to build the team from scratch. And, and create a high functioning product organisation. And I was really very surprised at how different the role is, in my, in my talk, on this topic, product tank, you know, I sort of talked about this as sort of like a castle that you have to cross at some point or this, you may choose to cross at some point. But don't be surprised if it's quite different role. Because once you get to the head of level, or, or in a larger organisation, perhaps it's more around sort of group level, where you have a team of product managers you're managing the the team is your product, for the most part, your essential role at that point is to set a clear vision, and then build a high functioning and support high functioning team. And that tends to involve a sort of a cycle if you like. And there's there's a couple of key things, there's the vision setting piece, which hopefully, is extremely important, but hopefully not something that you're doing often. And the vision shouldn't be changing that often. It needs to be revisited, you know, every so often just to make sure that it's still aligned with the overall mission of the business, but it should be relatively stable, then you've got the hiring piece. So hiring is extraordinarily time consuming to do well. It will, it will consume your life, but it is so worth doing well. It might seem obvious thing to say. But you know, when I've been sort of speaking to other heads of product in the past, my advice is always don't take shortcuts on hiring because hiring well avoids everything you hate the most about your job, right. So if you hire badly, you're going to have to deal with performance management, you're going to have to have awkward conversations with people that you know work for you, you're going to potentially have to let people go if their performance doesn't improve, the reputation of the team will be impacted by their performance, you know, that you're gonna have to work hard on managing those relationships with people in other parts of the business. And, you know, obviously, you can end up with with if you have a cultural mismatch within the team, and that could undermine the team's performance as a whole. So essentially, hiring badly is one of the most toxic things that you can possibly do. But the, the upshot of that is that when you are in a hiring exercise, you just have to pour your heart and soul into it. And you have to be extremely selective. And, you know, that means you're going to be reviewing a lot of CVS and resumes, you're going to be having a lot of phone conversations. And, you know, it's going to take time. So that's one another piece of it. And I found that, you know, especially if you're an organisation that's growing relatively quickly, it's essentially continuous, you never really stop hiring per se. And then the last thing is, is the sort of quarterly goal setting process or whatever goal setting process you use. So if you're using okrs, it's probably going to be quarterly. And that also feels sometimes like it's endless, because particularly at the more senior levels, you're not just looking at this quarter, you're looking at next quarter, you're trying to project forward. And so having those planning conversations, and making sure that the business is reacting to changes in the overall competitive and economic environment. You know, it's something that you cannot afford to leave until it's too late.

Lily Smith  25:00

Just one other thing that you one of the the other points that you made during your talk was kind of around the personal development side. And you talked a lot about coaching and mentoring. And I know that you do that a lot yourself, where have you found coaches or mentors from for yourself? And what's the kind of what's your sort of tips for like getting the best out of a coach or a mentor and knowing that you're working with the right sort of person?

Thor Mitchell  25:32

Yeah, that's a really interesting question. So one of the challenges I face, personally, is that, as I mentioned, we're not based in London, and nor are we based in Bristol, nor we based anywhere where there's a really significant product management community. And that has placed sort of a higher burden, I think, on me to really proactively engage with the community online and in person, I spent a lot of time on trains from Exeter to London. But it is, in a sense, kind of a lonely role if you like. I mean, I think once you're at the, at the, on the sort of executive team, these roles do become a little bit lonelier. And that's why there are so many good support networks in London, for example, for startup founders and suchlike. And so you know, I think the first couple of years I was at Crown cube, I was just facing so many new challenges on a day to day basis, as a kind of, as I adapted to this new role, that I couldn't help but learn. But after a couple of years, I began to realise that I needed to practice what I preach and, and get some coaching of my own. And I actually spoke to the CEO. And he put me in touch with an executive coach who I worked with regularly as the last six or nine months that I was there. And that was extraordinarily valuable. And I think, so much of the value of a coach. So I don't know whether you've heard of the trash. Remember, it's the six leadership styles. It was a Harvard Business Review article that was written by, I can't remember his name. Now, that's terrible. The guy who did who wrote the books on emotional intelligence. And it talks about the various leadership styles and the fact that strong leaders are those who know which style to apply at a particular time. And he talks a lot about coaching as a style. And what it basically says is that coaching is not about telling people what they should do. It's about asking them the questions, they should be asking themselves, and getting them to really think through the problem in the right way. And so that is exactly what the coach I had it for me was just asked me the questions that I needed to think about, and help me understand what I was looking for and what I needed, and where I wanted to go with my career and so forth. So, you know, I've done as you say, quite a bit of coaching and mentoring myself. And what I always say to people, who I mentoring is, is try and set that expectation is we're going to have a conversation, and we'll keep having conversations, and I will try and tease out of you the the things that you should be thinking about, but I'm not here to tell you what to do.

Randy Silver  28:13

We've got just a few more minutes or so one more question from me, which can be we've we've made an assumption with this, that as you progress in your product management career that you naturally want to go up the ladder and go into those senior management roles. Do you find that to be the case? How do you how do you Is there a progression in becoming more of an expert practitioner of craft rather than moving up towards the CPO role?

Thor Mitchell  28:39

That's an interesting question. My experience so far and this may change or be changing, and I'm not aware is that the sort of the individual contributor track as a long term track is less common in product management. They didn't say engineering so so Google, they have, you have a point in your career as a software engineer, where you can choose to go up the engineering manager track or you can continue all the way up to a Distinguished Engineer and fellow of which there were only a handful in the entire company. But within product management, certainly there comes a point where you cannot realistically progress further unless you start to manage teams. And I resisted that To be honest, for quite a while, I was concerned that I enjoyed managing products, I loved managing products, I loved shipping stuff, and seeing it used and I was worried that I would lose touch with that. And what happened which was quite interesting was that they reached a point if we talked earlier about complexity. And they reached a point where the complexity of the kinds of projects that I wanted to work on the essentially the complexity of my ambition exceeded my ability to execute on that vision on my own. And I realised that the only way I was going to achieve what I felt was the right thing for a particular product set was to was to start building a team who could help me do that. And so it was a gradual shift in mindset towards this. I idea that actually coordinating a group of people to really deliver on a compelling vision is actually an extreme and equally fulfilling approach to product management. So, you know, I do think that, that it is something of an inevitability and a lot of companies that will happen. But I don't think it's necessary to be scared, or I think it's something that is worth embracing, because you might just enjoy it.

Lily Smith  30:27

So that was really useful. Thank you so much. And I just want to double-check his Thor, or though it is to say so yes, so thank you very much. That was very, very insightful. And thanks, again, for coming to product tech in Bristol. And we look forward to seeing you talk again that if you've got plans for more talks, or is it just kicking back for the whole of the summer?

Thor Mitchell  30:53

Actually, my, the rest of the day today is likely to be spent working on a South by Southwest proposal for next year. So I'm trying to keep my hand in a little bit, stay somewhere else.

Randy Silver  31:04

Do you want to talk at all about product careers before we sign off?

Thor Mitchell  31:09

Sure, yeah, that'd be great. So I alluded to this sort of somewhat obliquely earlier, but a few years ago, when I was looking to build the team at crowdcube, I made a decision or based on the experiences I had at Google to try and hire both someone with some experience, but also someone at  at the entry level. As you may know, Google has a fairly well-known and well-respected Associate Product Management scheme, by which they hire people straight out of university and train them into product management roles. And I worked with some of those ATMs and they were phenomenal, just amazing, amazingly effective. And however, you know, the reality is there isn't much of a, an established process or pipeline for bringing people into product management straight out of university, most people fall into Product Management at some point in their career or stumble over it by working with someone in the role already. And this proved to be hugely frustrating in that hiring process, we, we really, really struggled not to find, well basically, we really struggled to reach students who had an understand enough of an understanding of the role that they were willing to consider it, and were excited by it. And the number of people I lost along the way to management consultancy, or, you know, other roles in organisations where I thought, well, they you know, they're, they're a good company to work for, but you're not going to have the same impact you're going to have here, I don't think either enjoy it as much as you're going to enjoy product management, if only I could get that across to you. And so I decided I remember it. Well, it was the evening before the minor product London conference in 2015. That, that I shouldn't just complain about this, I should try and do something about it. And so I started a side project called product careers, which essentially aims to raise the profile of product management as a career option amongst undergraduates, graduates at universities in the UK. And it consists of presentation that I deliver to student groups, a website with supporting material, some some testimonials from existing product managers about why they love the role. And you know, in all honesty, it's something that for various reasons, I haven't been able to put as much time into it as I wanted to over the last a year. But now that I'm not working again, it's something that I'm getting back into and quite care quite quite passionately about. So if that's something that resonates with you, if you perhaps have context at university that might be interested, or would like to be involved in some way, I'd love to hear from you. There's a contact form on the website, which is literally just product careers. That's the URL. Well done. Thank you.