Taking care of yourself – Nicholas Jemetta on The Product Experience "Product people - Product managers, product designers, UX designers, UX researchers, Business analysts, developers, makers & entrepreneurs December 12 2021 False Podcasts, The Product Experience, Mind the Product Mind the Product Ltd 7463 Product Management 29.852

Taking care of yourself – Nicholas Jemetta on The Product Experience

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Product people have a tendency to solutions—we’re enlightened enough to know better, but we always need to resist the urge to try and fix every problem we come across. That’s an especially hard challenge when the problems are internal. Keeping on top of your mental wellbeing in product is critical, so we talked with Nicholas Jemetta about how to take of yourself (as well as the rest of your team).

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Featured Links: Follow Nicholas on LinkedInTwitter and Instagram | ‘Fancy Dress Dad’ – Nicholas’s lockdown story on the BBC | Donate to Nicholas’s ‘Fancy Dress Dad’ Mental Health UK JustGiving page | Joe Wicks’ The Body Coach


Episode transcript

Randy Silver: 0:00
Whenever a group of product people get together, we seem to use the opportunity to blow off steam about how hard a job it is. Really, is that what happens at your product? Thanks.

Lily Smith: 0:09
Yes, that is so true. I absolutely love hanging out with my fellow product people. And I always feel so great afterwards. Like I’m just with people who get me and like, really understand.

Randy Silver: 0:22
So you know, if you’re having a really hard time, you might not have it in you to make it out to an event like product tank. And not actually seeing many people during the last couple years has really taken its toll on a lot of us.

Lily Smith: 0:35
So in our episode today, we chat with Nick Jemmeta, product leader and consultant about mental health and what that really means.

Randy Silver: 0:44
And you know, at this time of year when it gets dark out so early in the northern hemisphere, it’s really important to look after yourself and those around you. This was a really great chat about how you can do exactly that.

Lily Smith: 1:01
The product experience is brought to you by mind the product.

Randy Silver: 1:05
Every week, we talk to the best product people from around the globe about how we can improve our practice, and build products that people love.

Lily Smith: 1:12
Because it mind the product.com to catch up on past episodes and to discover an extensive library of great content and videos,

Randy Silver: 1:20
browse for free, or become a mind the product member to unlock premium articles, unseen videos, AMA’s roundtables. This comes to our conferences around the world training opportunities.

Lily Smith: 1:33
mining product also offers free product tank meetups in more than 200 cities, and less probably one.

Randy Silver: 1:43
Nick, thank you so much for joining us on the podcast this

Nicholas Jemetta: 1:45
week. It’s great to be here. And in it. It’s a real pleasure.

Randy Silver: 1:49
For anyone who hasn’t already had the pleasure of working with you just give us a little bit of history. What are you doing these days? And how did you get into product in the first place?

Nicholas Jemetta: 1:59
So yeah, I’m Nicholas Jemetta, otherwise known as fancy dress that but we’ll come on to that a little bit later on. I’m married two amazing children. I live in a small vibrant market town in the East of England. I’ve been doing product for about 10 years now. But in products across retail grocery and telco. Like many other people stumbled into products a little bit to be honest, I started in marketing, but I always knew I was a nerd. And I had a real interest in technology. And my first foray into product was really when I got pretty interested in conversion, optimization and experimentation. And I started to realise that, hey, if I tweak this with a bit of user experience, and some some technology, I can start building some pretty cool things. And it really has just evolved, evolved from there. And I’ve really grown grown to love it in those 10 years. So

Randy Silver: 2:49
aside from from product management, you have a special interest in mental health and mental well being. Tell us a little bit about that. How did you? How did this become such a topic of interest for you?

Nicholas Jemetta: 3:01
Sure, yes. So I live in I thrive with anxiety, and I have done for all of my life really. But for a lot of my life, I hit that anxiety, especially in the workplace, I was brought up in a generation where it was deemed wrong to bring too much of yourself to work and that you had to where you have two different aspects of your life where a mask, one was the work, Nick, one was the personal Nick. But three years ago, I got an opportunity to open up a bit more about my mental health and I realised that I could leave a massive mark on the planet and leave a legacy by speaking often by talking about my mental health struggles and how you can actually thrive with poor mental health and that our mental health just does not define us. And I’ve been on a journey ever since. And as part of that journey, I’ve won awards for my mental health work, I’ve taken my war, my mental health work into my product teams and into the organisations that I work with. And I’ve done quite a lot of campaigning alongside that as well, which has kind of led me here here today really.

Randy Silver: 4:13
So before we get into everything else, we talk a lot about imposter syndrome and other things in we all talk about having anxiety at times. But what does it mean for you? What is was it mean that you say you struggle with anxiety? Yeah,

Nicholas Jemetta: 4:28
I think I think it’s there’s there’s an important distinction to make that I think having a little bit of natural anxiety in products is normal. I think I think products can be a little bit of anxiety inducing career path. And you know, anxiety and stress can can be great motivators, and can be keys to unlock potential and to unlock some incredible energy and momentum in the inner product space. But for me living with anxieties has been a struggle when anxiety is taken over my life. When anxious thoughts can very quickly turned into a catastrophe when anxious thoughts can manifest themselves physically. So my anxiety manifests itself as panic attacks, which renders me pretty ineffectual in my product work if I’m honest, my anxiety is sign me off work with severe stress, my anxiety has manifested itself in physical symptoms. So things like having symptoms of a heart attack, or be able to sleep for days on end is, to me, that’s what trying to live and thrive with more severe anxiety feels like. So you’re really it’s about where the anxiety becomes slightly more debilitating. And it’s something that you’re living with day in day out, rather than something that comes sort of in and out of your life momentarily.

Lily Smith: 5:47
And I think it’s a very difficult topic, because when you talk about anxiety, like some people just never experience those symptoms, and they just think that you are just worrying about something, and they don’t quite understand what it means to have a panic attack, or to really kind of feel anxiety and a much more sort of physical way. So, but I’m interested to know, like, when you started to kind of open up about your experiences, what kind of reactions did you get from people? How was that received by the people that you were talking to?

Nicholas Jemetta: 6:28
So forgive me, a lot of people were shocked, because I’ve learned over the years how to cope my anxiety into extent, how to hide it. So taking the mask off, for me was a big leap into being pretty vulnerable. So a lot of people were very surprised, my parents included, given I hadn’t told them about any of this for 20 years. You know, work colleagues, once they move past the shock, actually, then there was a lot of people calling me brave and inspiring. And these are words I’ve never associated with, with this kind of part myself, mainly because I didn’t open up. For that reason I opened up to try and help them to try and reduce some of that stigma. But then what I found when I when I started opening up was that I would have other people opening up to me. And it really meant that I was able to use that experience to build empathy and to build relationships. And we all know that in the world of product building relationships is the single most important part of my job, it’s about communication, it’s about building those human connections. And by sharing a little bit more of myself, I was able to move past, you know, self imposed barriers that I put up in some of those relationships, because all of a sudden, they knew me a bit better, I need them a bit a bit better in it. It turns out that we all have mental health, you know, mental health is health, you’ve got physical health, you’ve got mental health, we’re all going to have good days, and we’re going to have bad days. So I think when you talk about a topic like mental health, the reality is even if you don’t have a direct experience, or someone’s talking about, you know how it feels to have a bad day? Yeah.

Randy Silver: 8:03
Is this one of those things that is affected by the workplace environment? Is it? If you have a particularly crappy boss or something going on? Is it? Is it rational like that? Or is it something that just kind of happens? Or there can be 1000? Little things? I’m not 100% sure what I’m asking in this, but just trying to understand for for someone who may not have experienced it the way you have, is this something with a definitive trigger? Or is it just something that comes up and happens?

Nicholas Jemetta: 8:33
I love the question rally because I think it’s all of those and none of those depending on your your own experience, you know, it can be triggered by obviously, significant trauma, which for me, trauma was not a factor. For me, I think a lot of it has been born out of societal pressures. And frankly, it’s in my DNA. As much as you know, my mother may or may not want to hear it, you know, an element of this does come from home when I want to talk to her about it. There are things in her personality that reflected in mine and I’ve just taken it to a slightly different level that maybe she has but death by 1000 cuts is the other thing that is talked about, you know, a lot of a lot of little pressures, a lot of little things that are happening in daily life can be triggers, unexpected life events, as I said, can be triggers. workplaces are a massive trigger, you only got to look at the last 18 months today. The pandemic has been wonderfully kind to many people from a work point of view it’s enabled them to work differently it’s enabled them to forge new careers it’s enabled them to make a lot of money frankly, but there are also many people in the in the pandemic where the workplace has probably a directly negative consequence on their mental health whether that’s been losing jobs losing income, whether that’s been you know, from a product lens, having worked in the grocery industry, for example, and in plenty people’s mental health that overnight went from good to bad because they you know, they were all of a sudden working 24/7 365 days a year to try and respond to this growing giant unknown that had to be dealt with, you know, in a kind of very rapid fashion.

Lily Smith: 10:15
So, would you say that product development is kind of a particularly challenging career or area when it comes to maintaining good mental health?

Nicholas Jemetta: 10:29
I’ve worked Yeah, you know, I think maintaining good mental health is difficult for anyone, no matter what their profession. And I see this in a lot of the speaking work I do outside of the product domain, but the putting on the hat, I love the most the product, hat and user might experience but also the work I’ve done within the wider product communities that I talked to, is saying well as a product manager is difficult. And I think we are drivers of change. And to drive that change, were often managing tensions to deliver results. And that can be stressful. You hear a lot of things that a product manager is like a CEO, and whether or not I like that, quite personally, I think it can feel quite lonely, like those two roles, I think have a lot of similarities as they feel very lonely. As a product manager, I know that I felt lonely at times, you can feel like the weight of the product team is on your shoulders, you’re saying no, pretty much all the time to pretty much everybody except the customer, hopefully, you don’t have a crystal ball yet you’re somehow expected to try and foresee the future. You’re trying to make hard and pretty impactful decisions. Sometimes it pays sometimes without as much data as you might like. And I think the final point that makes product management difficult is that I certainly found as a product manager that I felt responsible not only for my well being but for the well being of my team. And that can be that can be a big responsibility, especially if that team is large, diverse in different locations with different cultures going on that, you know, that’s a lot of responsibility for one person to take on, as well as all the other things that I’ve just mentioned. Before we

Randy Silver: 12:11
talk about teams, let’s talk about about ourselves first. Because if you can’t take care of yourself, then it’s impossible to take responsibility and contribute well to the rest of the team. So what are the kinds of signs that something might be going wrong? What are the things that people should be watching out for?

Nicholas Jemetta: 12:29
So another great question. I was I was pondering this one. And, you know, I think some of these signs are subtle, and some are less subtle, you know, some you could expect some you might not. And I think that’s the that’s the tricky thing about this topic. It there is no one size fits all. There’s no one size fits all on the signs, there’s no one size fits all in the potential solutions, but there’s some of the things I would look to look out for. So some of the less subtle, more obvious signs, difficulty sleeping, a loss of appetite or lack of motivation and feeling disengaged, not being able to switch off feeling hopeless, or helpless. And as early as some of those kind of physical pains and uncomfortable sensations. It’s important to point out though, that if you have a difficulty sleeping for a night, it’s probably not something to get overly worried about, it’s when these patterns start to repeat. And when they become very difficult to break, that’s when you want to start, you know, questioning if there’s something a bit deeper going on. But you know, there are there are more subtle things that might change that could contribute to you struggling with your mental health, and you might not realise it. So, you know, are you enjoying things less? Does work mean less to you? Are you struggling to enjoy time with your family to be struggling for lack of energy for hobbies that used to love you being more irritable or less patient? And that’s a really tricky one to kind of figure out or is this? Am I just having a bad day? Or am I having a series of bad days, and the very slight changes in your mood, your behaviour, your reactions, and it’s it’s those less subtle things, I think that are the most difficult by definition to pick up, which is why one of the things that I talk about is being really in tune every day with how we’re feeling because the more we can understand how we’re feeling, the more we can start to pick up when those behaviours and those reactions start to change.

Lily Smith: 14:17
So if we do notice any of this and our own behaviour, or if we you know, if we recognise that we’re heading in the wrong direction, what would you you know, we talk a lot about ways in which to improve our mental health. But are there rules which you live by which are your go to fixes for like picking yourself up a bit and and heading back in the right direction?

Nicholas Jemetta: 14:46
Yeah, that’s a really great question. I think, you know, as I said, our mental health is our own and therefore the way we manage our mental health is you need to so I talk about this concept of a playbook or a tool Box and you’re like a good product manager. It’s full of experimentation and iteration. And I’ve built that toolbox over time. And it’s only going to with my anxiety that I’ve worked out the things that really worked for me the things that don’t. And none of this should be taken as medical advice, obviously. But it’s some of the things that I think works for me, as I say, being in tune with how I’m feeling. So one of the ways I do that is I journal, and it’s not for everyone, but it just allows me every day to just decompress a little bit and just figure out how the days gone. And then over time, I can start to spot patterns. And I can start to address early if I can see things heading in the wrong direction. Exercise for me is as close to a magic wand as I’m going to get. If I’m having a good day or a bad day, to be honest, at lunchtime, I tried to do a workout because I always felt better. Regardless, as soon as I finished that 30 minute hit session or whatever it is. Now I feel better. I feel energised, I feel more motivated for ready to take on the rest of the day. And for most people, I think that’s true. But it’s really about figuring out you know, what, what lights the fire for you? Is it music? Is it DJing? Is it Lego, you know, set here, I’ve got a 1300 piece Lego Millennium Falcon that I’ve absolutely loved building. And one of the reasons I’ve loved building out of them, if that’s a complete Star Wars nerd is that you’re that kind of physical act of piecing the Lego together and following those instructions means that I come out of my own head. I’m not thinking about all the worries of the day, all I’m thinking about is I’ve got a phone to back his head, I’ve got to stick it on his body. And that is all buried inside.

Randy Silver: 16:39
So that’s great. But let’s talk about the team around us as well, as you said, we often feel responsible for for lots of other people. You know, there’s some endemic things that we’ve got around, we often focused on strategic and tactical things we never celebrate wins often enough. We’re looking to the future, all that. So how do we create a good environment for teams around us? And how do we recognise warning signs in in others potentially?

Nicholas Jemetta: 17:09
Yeah, so it’s a great question, Randy. And I think you creating team cultures, product managers have a massive responsibility verse, But equally, so does product leadership. So I’ve already product leaders listening, I think they play a massive role in shaping the culture that they want to see in power product teams, evolving and maturing. And I think some of the ways we do that by role modelling, so probably will come as no surprise that the cultures that I foster are very open, they’re very transparent. I like to get to know people personally where I can, although I don’t want to ever overstep the mark on that one. But I think it always helps to understand people personally. So you can start to have a few more of those more open and honest conversations, you can ask how people are feeling you can get a general view of it. Or you asked about how we spot signs for people, I think hybrid workings probably made that more difficult realistically, because your screens can can mask a lot of what’s going on. There, I think it’s about again, it’s a subtle, and then and then the less they sort of stuff. So is someone that would ordinarily be, you know, bubbly and joking and wanting to get involved in conversations suddenly off camera, not saying very much well for saying that for if that happens for, say, a day or one meeting, then fine. But if if over a few days, you’re seeing that change, reach out. One of the things that we talk a lot about in the mental health space is it’s important to talk when you don’t feel well. And I know from experience that it sounds right, and it does help people but talking can be the last thing you want today. So actually what we need to do as product managers and as people as human beings just to reach out and reaching out sounds grandiose, but it’s just saying how you did and you know, can I kind of grab your virtual coffee? Can we just see how things are going? I think we’ve lost a bit of that humanity because I think so many of our interactions now can feel quite robotic. So none of this stuff is rocket science. But it’s the sort of things that I think we’re leaving behind a little bit in the need to move faster to do more to do it. You know, cheaper to find the next big, big thing faster than someone else we’re forgetting the new the the the important stuff. We’re working with other human beings. So let’s start by treating each other as human beings.

Lily Smith: 19:32
And I guess that’s exacerbated even more by like you say, by remote working you like everyone’s in the same boat and you’re all kind of missing that being in the same physical space. But then with hybrid working, there’s an element of like when you’re not together in the office with the other people who are in the office. There’s a bit of FOMO or whatever or, you know, being worried But you’re missing out on conversations or stuff that’s going on? Or maybe you can’t go because you’re having to self isolate? Or, yeah, there’s just like so much complexity now in the workplace and and how we’re all interacting. I mean, unless you’re, luckily, a business who has been doing it for years, and you’re kind of really used to it. But I guess, a lot of that changing in the way that we’re working and adapting to this new mode, there’s a lot of kind of mental toll on, on trying to figure out like, how to navigate all of that as well.

Nicholas Jemetta: 20:36
Yeah, I think it hybrid working for so many years is probably had a lot of upside for some, like me, as a parent of young children is, it’s actually been really great that I can spend a bit more quality time at home and other than jumping in on calls. And it was also other mayhem. But for many others, it hasn’t, it’s been very difficult. And it takes adjustment. You know, I think as product managers, one of the things that were drilled into us is that you were agents of change. But that doesn’t mean that that change is going to be easy. And I think, you know, it’s important to recognise when you are struggling with that change. And sometimes you just to go with that. And just to go with that feeling of being bit uncomfortable stepping out of the comfort zone and knowing that, you know, it’s any good product manager does. Hybrid working may start as an experiment, gather the fit the the insight, use rapid feedback loops, and make changes. And I think the best empower teams that I’ve worked with, have a lot of open dialogue, the best way that you can figure this stuff out, in my view is to keep having those conversations, whether it’s with your teams, your designers, your if your peers, your leadership, the best cultures, to me foster that open dialogue to figure out how do we make hybrid working work, you know, not only for me as an individual, but for us as a team.

Lily Smith: 21:56
And when you say open dialogue is that just to kind of constant or like a, an iterative reflection on how you’re working as a team together on a frequent basis.

Nicholas Jemetta: 22:08
I think it’s probably both of those things I I’ve kind of favoured as we’ve moved to hybrid, working slightly more constant, and frequent, but maybe less intense conversations to get the feedback loop loop circling as fast as possible. So one of the things that I’ve quite enjoyed is usually three times a week, at the end of the day, just having a 15 minute check in. And it’s kind of optional, but you tend to find that at the end of the day, people like to come along and just decompress from the day and share what’s gone. Well share what what hasn’t it so amazing, some of the little nuggets that you pick up in these slightly more informal conversations, because the last thing people want is more meetings in the diary. But when it’s at the end of the day, with a cup of coffee or a beer on a Friday, those informal conversations, you know, where you really start to form some of those social bonds or where I think the kind of best insight tends to come from.

Randy Silver: 23:02
That’s been one of the challenges I’ve found is you’re only in meetings that are scheduled now and which so there’s very little serendipity. And I know we’ve all worked to try and create it where we can. But yeah, there’s just not that much of it. So and then you spend all your time in meetings, to have those conversations with people. What do you think that’s doing to people?

Nicholas Jemetta: 23:27
Because it’s driving a Lhasa fee for a wrap around the bend, I would have thought I think I think most people were more meetings now than they ever were before. And I think, again, as, as product managers, it can be tempting to feel as though we have to be in every meeting, because we’ve got to understand the product, understand the context, talk to x, y, and Zed. I’m a bit more intentional with my diary. And I block time out at certain parts of the day where I will not accept meetings. And I’ve, at first I was pretty worried about doing it because I thought well what happens if x, y and Zed know the big boss or someone in the senior team wants to talk to me, it’s like, you know, unless unless there’s a fire this time for me. And it’s time to me whether it’s for reflection, whether it’s for going into exercise, whether it’s for whatever that thing is, but it is meeting free time. And you know, that sounds really simple. But in a lot of the conversations I have with product managers, they they don’t feel empowered enough to be able to manage their own diary. And to me, there’s something very wrong with that in terms of the team culture if we’re not empowering people to take back control of their time.

Lily Smith: 24:35
And actually, that leads really nicely on to another sort of topic area that I would love to get your view on, which is how business leaders can kind of really create an honour, that culture of taking care of mental health. I think there are a lot of business leaders out there who are aware that it’s something that they need to be supportive of button, you know, unless you’ve really kind of experienced the levels of poor mental health that some people have, you don’t really like fully understand or appreciate what people might be going through. And so I do feel like, it can be a little bit like paying lip service to it just so that they look like a good business. But is there a way for, you know, if there are people listening to this who are kind of team leaders or execs in a team, how can they sort of properly understand the situation and genuinely create that the right environment for people with who are struggling with mental health to thrive?

Nicholas Jemetta: 25:48
First of all, let’s hope that some of the some of those leaders are listening to this episode, this is resonating, then they get in touch with us. And then we can talk about this topic even more, which is what I’m passionate about doing. But I think that the most obvious way I can describe why this is important is that happy people, healthy people are productive. And who doesn’t want productive people that love their job and want to go over and above the product that they’re trying to build and the customers that they’re that they’re trying to build these these incredible experiences for? I think a lot is said in the mental health space that we shouldn’t talk about, you know, return on investment. And I agree with that to a point but equally with my product manager. And I’m thinking well, let’s talk directly about the value that this brings. And if we have to talk in pounds and pence, to get the buy in that then helps people human beings, and that’s great. But the ultimate output that we’re looking for here is happier, healthy, healthier people and the way in which we get to that, that part of in my mind is kind of less important. But there’s plenty of evidence about the organisations that invest in the mental health of their people see significant returns. And I mean that in terms of the financial returns, but also in terms of productivity, retention, recruitment brand, you know, it, it helps all of those things, but at the fundamental level, you’re just making people happier. And that has got to be a good thing. If for any of us that have worked in organisations that don’t prioritise and honour cultures of, you know, being supportive about good, good mental health, you know, I would have really challenged those people to reflect on, you know, how does it feel in that business? How long are people staying in that business? Do people want to join that business? Are people productive? You know, you’ve only got to start asking some of those questions and the answers I think, will soon reveal themselves. And you also asked me how business leaders can really live and breathe a culture in it. For me, it’s not necessarily about a senior leader always opening up about the mental health, although I think that does help. But I think it’s about giving permission. It’s about creating psychological safety. And it’s about letting people express who they are, what they’re about and what they believe in, you know, outside of just what they’re there to do as a product manager, if we can bring our whole selves to work. Because that’s the point is made, we’re going to be happier, we’re gonna be able to have more energy that we’re gonna be bringing to that organisation, we’re gonna be much more motivated. It’s just win win win, whether it’s for the team individual or the organisation, in my opinion.

Randy Silver: 28:30
So the place I’m working now has a mental health first aid direction, a couple of them. I’m curious if you’ve seen this in other places, and just generally, what else are good characteristics of a good or supportive workplace? What kinds of things can we put in place aside from trying to create a culture at the top where the some of the other actionable things we can do?

Nicholas Jemetta: 28:52
Great question so I’m, I’m actually a mental health first aid as well. Randy, I’m not sure if you knew that or if it’s just strange coincidence, but so yeah, Mental Health First Aid is is one of many, you know, actionable steps that organisations can take. It’s not for every organisation. But the principle behind them into our first aid, I suppose is that we have physical and First Aiders that can take care of colleagues if they hurt themselves, physically, it’s the same kind of principle. It’s someone that has had specific training, it’s not medical training, but it’s training that allows somebody to you know, listen to you in confidence, non judgmentally. And then to signpost, you, if that’s the most important part of having a conversation about mental health is to remove your own perspectives and opinions to listen on the judgmental end to help that person towards the next step. You know, whether that’s signposting to a charity to the doctor to a counsellor. Your larger organisations have things like Employee Assistance programmes, so I’ve worked in organisations where you have access 20 472 trained counsellors and trained individuals that 24/7 You can talk to and you can talk to about things in the workplace that might be affecting your mental health. Again, they can provide support, they can provide you with, with content with signposting with those kinds of things. But it doesn’t need big grandiose actions, you know, it can, it can be arranging 10 Talk, I’ve arranged I’ve arranged in 10 talk before and it’s literally an hour the diary, unfortunately, or 35 minutes, but you walk out of the cafeteria biscuit and have a chat. And it is the best half an hour that you spend in your day, honestly, it’s just a brilliant way to just be a bit more human, as I’ve kind of already said, obviously, organisations can be thinking about benefits that can help not just the the mental aspect of well being but the physical, you can you offer an hour to go out and run around the park, can you offer subsidised gym membership, for example. And you’ve also got financial well being, which is one often that isn’t considered and I think talking about money has got more of a stigma attached to it than talking about how we’re feeling, if I’m honest, I think there are organisations that are starting to work out that maybe we need to do a little bit more to help people better manage their money. So when those three things come together, that can be a really powerful kind of holistic well being offering.

Lily Smith: 31:24
And this is often a really speaking of money, because I’ve spent most of mine, this is a really tricky dive review. You know, for, for for stress, and anxiety. What is it about this time of year? That kind of brings that on more than than the rest of the year? And, you know, is there anything that we should be looking out for as individuals, you know, within ourselves and with our teams?

Nicholas Jemetta: 31:56
Yeah, I think I, you know, I touched on it a little bit earlier on, but everyone’s circumstances are different. But I think that still within society, we can all feel pressure to conform. And I think Christmas is one of those times when there are certain cultural norms that are quite hard to break, you know, the cultural norms of having the Christmas party COVID together this year, I’m guessing, of overextending ourselves to provide the Christmas we want to provide for the family and for the children. You know, for getting ourselves into a great place of our New Year’s Day, we can have 10, New Year’s resolutions that are gonna, you know, transform us into the next gen x or you know, the next Barack Obama or the next great statesman. And then I think all of these things can can make us feel a bit inadequate. Frankly, I think it’s first important to recognise that we’re all on our own journey. And I very much tried to live my life like a racehorse might I try to live a quite blinkered, and it’s not so I’m not, you know, looking around me at appropriate points to seek feedback. But I think if we if we take in too much stimulus, sometimes we can lose our way a little bit. We talked about the financial side, we should try to live within our means the only reason that we’re going out and spending all this money, I suppose is a little bit due to people like us if we’re honest. Because if we’re feeling great, then maybe with a part of the problem rather than the solution.

Randy Silver: 33:28
Now I want you to buy my stuff all your

Nicholas Jemetta: 33:32
everyday see my angel. See, I think you know that there was a little bit about just trying to focus on ourselves what’s important to us and trying to reduce some of those societal pressures. I think in terms of what we need to do to keep an eye on people, you know, we never know whether someone might have lost a loved one at Christmas, whether they’re spending Christmas alone. So it goes back a little bit to what I said earlier, we could try and just be a bit more human and actually get to know our colleagues as individuals. And we can start to a recognise if things are changing that look out of the ordinary, or we can actually just have a conversation as a decent human being and understand that maybe this is a difficult time of year for them and we can give them a wide berth so we can be a bit more compassionate, we can go out and buy them that beer because we know that you know, over Christmas, it might be a little bit of a tougher time for them than it might be for ourselves.

Lily Smith: 34:23
Nick, we’ve really, really running out of time, but this has been a really great conversation. I just have one more question for you. And you hinted at something earlier and I just need to find out more about the story. So you have the nickname of the fancy dress, dad. So what’s that all about?

Nicholas Jemetta: 34:46
So in lockdown, yeah, obviously, it’s pretty obvious that I’m always in tune with what was going on in the mental health space in my own workplace and with myself. I was juggling homeschool with work like Mary and Joe wick, save the day. He like a knight in shining armour. And he gave me and my family a lot of structure, Franklin something to do together. And one Friday, he wore fancy dress to one of his workouts. And I did that workout in fancy dress. And then I was curious what me taking fancy dress into the workplace might do. So I wore costume on to all my video calls that day. And the reaction from colleague was just a little bit of surprise a little bit of what the actual heck is this guy doing, but just loads of laughter and they just smiling alleges conversations that I didn’t expect about mental health and about what I was doing while I was doing it. And that one costume ended with me wearing 100 different costumes, across hundreds of video calls. Throughout the year. I raised 10,000 pounds for a number of mental health charities. And my story ended up getting national. And the fancy dress that Monika was given to me by just giving. They were sort of supporting the initiative, and I was interviewed live twice in the space of six months on BBC Breakfast, which I still have to sort of pinch myself for. And then started to take all of these costumes onto the school run. So I was walking up dropping my kids to school and during the school run, seeing all the teachers and the pupils dresses, Mr. blobby and Batman and Hulk Hogan and all sorts of other weird and wonderful characters. So that name will forever stick with me now and I’ve got about 40 of the costumes up in my loft. Really,

Randy Silver: 36:30
before we let you go though, we do have to provide a bit of translation for anybody who doesn’t speak British English. If you speak American English, fancy dress is a costume. It’s not dressing up in a top hat and tails or anything like that. It is as you say, it’s whole Cogan and Batman and everything else.

Lily Smith: 36:49
And they hope your kids were young enough to be impressed by it rather than embarrassed.

Nicholas Jemetta: 36:56
You would think so at age five, but my daughter still cringed every day. In the end. I think we just accepted that. I said to her until a costume number 100. This is happening. So you’re gonna have to just accept it. Oh.

Randy Silver: 37:10
I do have to follow up with the question of we’re recording this in December. What did you do for Halloween?

Nicholas Jemetta: 37:17
Halloween? What was I think I wore skeleton skeleton onesie it was it was a pretty hot, hot one that day from what I see.

Lily Smith: 37:27
Nick, thank you so much for joining us. It’s been really great talking to you today.

Nicholas Jemetta: 37:31
Thanks for having me appreciate it.

Randy Silver: 37:43
So I feel like I need to explain one thing for everybody who’s not from the UK. And that is exactly who Joe wicks is. Do you want to give it a try? Billy?

Lily Smith: 37:54
Yeah, so he was a phenomena. I think that’s what you would call him when everyone was in lockdown. And he was getting everyone up off their sofas and jumping around doing exercises in the morning, British show he had a YouTube channel. And I actually didn’t get involved. I was too busy doing other things.

Randy Silver: 38:19
We could try it a couple of times in our house. But you know if you’re an American of a certain age like I am, you probably grew up with Richard Simmons. Just picture him but not quite so camp and was shorts that weren’t quite as tight.

Lily Smith: 38:38
But what a great episode and a good way to nearly end the air. We’ve got a couple more episodes to go. So tune in for the rest of December and see what else we’ve got coming up.

Randy Silver: 38:50
And if you’re really interested in any of the stuff we talked about today, there’s a bunch of links in the show notes about mental health first aid and things like that.

Lily Smith: 39:06
Haste, me, Lily Smith and me Randy silver. Emily Tate is our producer. And Luke Smith is our editor.

Randy Silver: 39:15
Our theme music is from humbard baseband power that’s pa you thanks to Ana killer who runs product tank and MTP engage in Hamburg and please based in the band for willingness to use their music, connect with your local product community via product tag or regular free meetups in over 200 cities worldwide.

Lily Smith: 39:34
If there’s no one near you, you can consider starting one yourself. To find out more go to mind the product.com forward slash product tank.

Randy Silver: 39:43
Product Tech is a global community of meetups during buying for product people. We offer expert talks group discussion and a safe environment for product people to come together and share burnings and tips

 

Product people have a tendency to solutions—we're enlightened enough to know better, but we always need to resist the urge to try and fix every problem we come across. That's an especially hard challenge when the problems are internal. Keeping on top of your mental wellbeing in product is critical, so we talked with Nicholas Jemetta about how to take of yourself (as well as the rest of your team). More episodes
Featured Links: Follow Nicholas on LinkedInTwitter and Instagram | 'Fancy Dress Dad' - Nicholas's lockdown story on the BBC | Donate to Nicholas's 'Fancy Dress Dad' Mental Health UK JustGiving page | Joe Wicks' The Body Coach

Episode transcript

Randy Silver: 0:00 Whenever a group of product people get together, we seem to use the opportunity to blow off steam about how hard a job it is. Really, is that what happens at your product? Thanks. Lily Smith: 0:09 Yes, that is so true. I absolutely love hanging out with my fellow product people. And I always feel so great afterwards. Like I'm just with people who get me and like, really understand. Randy Silver: 0:22 So you know, if you're having a really hard time, you might not have it in you to make it out to an event like product tank. And not actually seeing many people during the last couple years has really taken its toll on a lot of us. Lily Smith: 0:35 So in our episode today, we chat with Nick Jemmeta, product leader and consultant about mental health and what that really means. Randy Silver: 0:44 And you know, at this time of year when it gets dark out so early in the northern hemisphere, it's really important to look after yourself and those around you. This was a really great chat about how you can do exactly that. Lily Smith: 1:01 The product experience is brought to you by mind the product. Randy Silver: 1:05 Every week, we talk to the best product people from around the globe about how we can improve our practice, and build products that people love. Lily Smith: 1:12 Because it mind the product.com to catch up on past episodes and to discover an extensive library of great content and videos, Randy Silver: 1:20 browse for free, or become a mind the product member to unlock premium articles, unseen videos, AMA's roundtables. This comes to our conferences around the world training opportunities. Lily Smith: 1:33 mining product also offers free product tank meetups in more than 200 cities, and less probably one. Randy Silver: 1:43 Nick, thank you so much for joining us on the podcast this Nicholas Jemetta: 1:45 week. It's great to be here. And in it. It's a real pleasure. Randy Silver: 1:49 For anyone who hasn't already had the pleasure of working with you just give us a little bit of history. What are you doing these days? And how did you get into product in the first place? Nicholas Jemetta: 1:59 So yeah, I'm Nicholas Jemetta, otherwise known as fancy dress that but we'll come on to that a little bit later on. I'm married two amazing children. I live in a small vibrant market town in the East of England. I've been doing product for about 10 years now. But in products across retail grocery and telco. Like many other people stumbled into products a little bit to be honest, I started in marketing, but I always knew I was a nerd. And I had a real interest in technology. And my first foray into product was really when I got pretty interested in conversion, optimization and experimentation. And I started to realise that, hey, if I tweak this with a bit of user experience, and some some technology, I can start building some pretty cool things. And it really has just evolved, evolved from there. And I've really grown grown to love it in those 10 years. So Randy Silver: 2:49 aside from from product management, you have a special interest in mental health and mental well being. Tell us a little bit about that. How did you? How did this become such a topic of interest for you? Nicholas Jemetta: 3:01 Sure, yes. So I live in I thrive with anxiety, and I have done for all of my life really. But for a lot of my life, I hit that anxiety, especially in the workplace, I was brought up in a generation where it was deemed wrong to bring too much of yourself to work and that you had to where you have two different aspects of your life where a mask, one was the work, Nick, one was the personal Nick. But three years ago, I got an opportunity to open up a bit more about my mental health and I realised that I could leave a massive mark on the planet and leave a legacy by speaking often by talking about my mental health struggles and how you can actually thrive with poor mental health and that our mental health just does not define us. And I've been on a journey ever since. And as part of that journey, I've won awards for my mental health work, I've taken my war, my mental health work into my product teams and into the organisations that I work with. And I've done quite a lot of campaigning alongside that as well, which has kind of led me here here today really. Randy Silver: 4:13 So before we get into everything else, we talk a lot about imposter syndrome and other things in we all talk about having anxiety at times. But what does it mean for you? What is was it mean that you say you struggle with anxiety? Yeah, Nicholas Jemetta: 4:28 I think I think it's there's there's an important distinction to make that I think having a little bit of natural anxiety in products is normal. I think I think products can be a little bit of anxiety inducing career path. And you know, anxiety and stress can can be great motivators, and can be keys to unlock potential and to unlock some incredible energy and momentum in the inner product space. But for me living with anxieties has been a struggle when anxiety is taken over my life. When anxious thoughts can very quickly turned into a catastrophe when anxious thoughts can manifest themselves physically. So my anxiety manifests itself as panic attacks, which renders me pretty ineffectual in my product work if I'm honest, my anxiety is sign me off work with severe stress, my anxiety has manifested itself in physical symptoms. So things like having symptoms of a heart attack, or be able to sleep for days on end is, to me, that's what trying to live and thrive with more severe anxiety feels like. So you're really it's about where the anxiety becomes slightly more debilitating. And it's something that you're living with day in day out, rather than something that comes sort of in and out of your life momentarily. Lily Smith: 5:47 And I think it's a very difficult topic, because when you talk about anxiety, like some people just never experience those symptoms, and they just think that you are just worrying about something, and they don't quite understand what it means to have a panic attack, or to really kind of feel anxiety and a much more sort of physical way. So, but I'm interested to know, like, when you started to kind of open up about your experiences, what kind of reactions did you get from people? How was that received by the people that you were talking to? Nicholas Jemetta: 6:28 So forgive me, a lot of people were shocked, because I've learned over the years how to cope my anxiety into extent, how to hide it. So taking the mask off, for me was a big leap into being pretty vulnerable. So a lot of people were very surprised, my parents included, given I hadn't told them about any of this for 20 years. You know, work colleagues, once they move past the shock, actually, then there was a lot of people calling me brave and inspiring. And these are words I've never associated with, with this kind of part myself, mainly because I didn't open up. For that reason I opened up to try and help them to try and reduce some of that stigma. But then what I found when I when I started opening up was that I would have other people opening up to me. And it really meant that I was able to use that experience to build empathy and to build relationships. And we all know that in the world of product building relationships is the single most important part of my job, it's about communication, it's about building those human connections. And by sharing a little bit more of myself, I was able to move past, you know, self imposed barriers that I put up in some of those relationships, because all of a sudden, they knew me a bit better, I need them a bit a bit better in it. It turns out that we all have mental health, you know, mental health is health, you've got physical health, you've got mental health, we're all going to have good days, and we're going to have bad days. So I think when you talk about a topic like mental health, the reality is even if you don't have a direct experience, or someone's talking about, you know how it feels to have a bad day? Yeah. Randy Silver: 8:03 Is this one of those things that is affected by the workplace environment? Is it? If you have a particularly crappy boss or something going on? Is it? Is it rational like that? Or is it something that just kind of happens? Or there can be 1000? Little things? I'm not 100% sure what I'm asking in this, but just trying to understand for for someone who may not have experienced it the way you have, is this something with a definitive trigger? Or is it just something that comes up and happens? Nicholas Jemetta: 8:33 I love the question rally because I think it's all of those and none of those depending on your your own experience, you know, it can be triggered by obviously, significant trauma, which for me, trauma was not a factor. For me, I think a lot of it has been born out of societal pressures. And frankly, it's in my DNA. As much as you know, my mother may or may not want to hear it, you know, an element of this does come from home when I want to talk to her about it. There are things in her personality that reflected in mine and I've just taken it to a slightly different level that maybe she has but death by 1000 cuts is the other thing that is talked about, you know, a lot of a lot of little pressures, a lot of little things that are happening in daily life can be triggers, unexpected life events, as I said, can be triggers. workplaces are a massive trigger, you only got to look at the last 18 months today. The pandemic has been wonderfully kind to many people from a work point of view it's enabled them to work differently it's enabled them to forge new careers it's enabled them to make a lot of money frankly, but there are also many people in the in the pandemic where the workplace has probably a directly negative consequence on their mental health whether that's been losing jobs losing income, whether that's been you know, from a product lens, having worked in the grocery industry, for example, and in plenty people's mental health that overnight went from good to bad because they you know, they were all of a sudden working 24/7 365 days a year to try and respond to this growing giant unknown that had to be dealt with, you know, in a kind of very rapid fashion. Lily Smith: 10:15 So, would you say that product development is kind of a particularly challenging career or area when it comes to maintaining good mental health? Nicholas Jemetta: 10:29 I've worked Yeah, you know, I think maintaining good mental health is difficult for anyone, no matter what their profession. And I see this in a lot of the speaking work I do outside of the product domain, but the putting on the hat, I love the most the product, hat and user might experience but also the work I've done within the wider product communities that I talked to, is saying well as a product manager is difficult. And I think we are drivers of change. And to drive that change, were often managing tensions to deliver results. And that can be stressful. You hear a lot of things that a product manager is like a CEO, and whether or not I like that, quite personally, I think it can feel quite lonely, like those two roles, I think have a lot of similarities as they feel very lonely. As a product manager, I know that I felt lonely at times, you can feel like the weight of the product team is on your shoulders, you're saying no, pretty much all the time to pretty much everybody except the customer, hopefully, you don't have a crystal ball yet you're somehow expected to try and foresee the future. You're trying to make hard and pretty impactful decisions. Sometimes it pays sometimes without as much data as you might like. And I think the final point that makes product management difficult is that I certainly found as a product manager that I felt responsible not only for my well being but for the well being of my team. And that can be that can be a big responsibility, especially if that team is large, diverse in different locations with different cultures going on that, you know, that's a lot of responsibility for one person to take on, as well as all the other things that I've just mentioned. Before we Randy Silver: 12:11 talk about teams, let's talk about about ourselves first. Because if you can't take care of yourself, then it's impossible to take responsibility and contribute well to the rest of the team. So what are the kinds of signs that something might be going wrong? What are the things that people should be watching out for? Nicholas Jemetta: 12:29 So another great question. I was I was pondering this one. And, you know, I think some of these signs are subtle, and some are less subtle, you know, some you could expect some you might not. And I think that's the that's the tricky thing about this topic. It there is no one size fits all. There's no one size fits all on the signs, there's no one size fits all in the potential solutions, but there's some of the things I would look to look out for. So some of the less subtle, more obvious signs, difficulty sleeping, a loss of appetite or lack of motivation and feeling disengaged, not being able to switch off feeling hopeless, or helpless. And as early as some of those kind of physical pains and uncomfortable sensations. It's important to point out though, that if you have a difficulty sleeping for a night, it's probably not something to get overly worried about, it's when these patterns start to repeat. And when they become very difficult to break, that's when you want to start, you know, questioning if there's something a bit deeper going on. But you know, there are there are more subtle things that might change that could contribute to you struggling with your mental health, and you might not realise it. So, you know, are you enjoying things less? Does work mean less to you? Are you struggling to enjoy time with your family to be struggling for lack of energy for hobbies that used to love you being more irritable or less patient? And that's a really tricky one to kind of figure out or is this? Am I just having a bad day? Or am I having a series of bad days, and the very slight changes in your mood, your behaviour, your reactions, and it's it's those less subtle things, I think that are the most difficult by definition to pick up, which is why one of the things that I talk about is being really in tune every day with how we're feeling because the more we can understand how we're feeling, the more we can start to pick up when those behaviours and those reactions start to change. Lily Smith: 14:17 So if we do notice any of this and our own behaviour, or if we you know, if we recognise that we're heading in the wrong direction, what would you you know, we talk a lot about ways in which to improve our mental health. But are there rules which you live by which are your go to fixes for like picking yourself up a bit and and heading back in the right direction? Nicholas Jemetta: 14:46 Yeah, that's a really great question. I think, you know, as I said, our mental health is our own and therefore the way we manage our mental health is you need to so I talk about this concept of a playbook or a tool Box and you're like a good product manager. It's full of experimentation and iteration. And I've built that toolbox over time. And it's only going to with my anxiety that I've worked out the things that really worked for me the things that don't. And none of this should be taken as medical advice, obviously. But it's some of the things that I think works for me, as I say, being in tune with how I'm feeling. So one of the ways I do that is I journal, and it's not for everyone, but it just allows me every day to just decompress a little bit and just figure out how the days gone. And then over time, I can start to spot patterns. And I can start to address early if I can see things heading in the wrong direction. Exercise for me is as close to a magic wand as I'm going to get. If I'm having a good day or a bad day, to be honest, at lunchtime, I tried to do a workout because I always felt better. Regardless, as soon as I finished that 30 minute hit session or whatever it is. Now I feel better. I feel energised, I feel more motivated for ready to take on the rest of the day. And for most people, I think that's true. But it's really about figuring out you know, what, what lights the fire for you? Is it music? Is it DJing? Is it Lego, you know, set here, I've got a 1300 piece Lego Millennium Falcon that I've absolutely loved building. And one of the reasons I've loved building out of them, if that's a complete Star Wars nerd is that you're that kind of physical act of piecing the Lego together and following those instructions means that I come out of my own head. I'm not thinking about all the worries of the day, all I'm thinking about is I've got a phone to back his head, I've got to stick it on his body. And that is all buried inside. Randy Silver: 16:39 So that's great. But let's talk about the team around us as well, as you said, we often feel responsible for for lots of other people. You know, there's some endemic things that we've got around, we often focused on strategic and tactical things we never celebrate wins often enough. We're looking to the future, all that. So how do we create a good environment for teams around us? And how do we recognise warning signs in in others potentially? Nicholas Jemetta: 17:09 Yeah, so it's a great question, Randy. And I think you creating team cultures, product managers have a massive responsibility verse, But equally, so does product leadership. So I've already product leaders listening, I think they play a massive role in shaping the culture that they want to see in power product teams, evolving and maturing. And I think some of the ways we do that by role modelling, so probably will come as no surprise that the cultures that I foster are very open, they're very transparent. I like to get to know people personally where I can, although I don't want to ever overstep the mark on that one. But I think it always helps to understand people personally. So you can start to have a few more of those more open and honest conversations, you can ask how people are feeling you can get a general view of it. Or you asked about how we spot signs for people, I think hybrid workings probably made that more difficult realistically, because your screens can can mask a lot of what's going on. There, I think it's about again, it's a subtle, and then and then the less they sort of stuff. So is someone that would ordinarily be, you know, bubbly and joking and wanting to get involved in conversations suddenly off camera, not saying very much well for saying that for if that happens for, say, a day or one meeting, then fine. But if if over a few days, you're seeing that change, reach out. One of the things that we talk a lot about in the mental health space is it's important to talk when you don't feel well. And I know from experience that it sounds right, and it does help people but talking can be the last thing you want today. So actually what we need to do as product managers and as people as human beings just to reach out and reaching out sounds grandiose, but it's just saying how you did and you know, can I kind of grab your virtual coffee? Can we just see how things are going? I think we've lost a bit of that humanity because I think so many of our interactions now can feel quite robotic. So none of this stuff is rocket science. But it's the sort of things that I think we're leaving behind a little bit in the need to move faster to do more to do it. You know, cheaper to find the next big, big thing faster than someone else we're forgetting the new the the the important stuff. We're working with other human beings. So let's start by treating each other as human beings. Lily Smith: 19:32 And I guess that's exacerbated even more by like you say, by remote working you like everyone's in the same boat and you're all kind of missing that being in the same physical space. But then with hybrid working, there's an element of like when you're not together in the office with the other people who are in the office. There's a bit of FOMO or whatever or, you know, being worried But you're missing out on conversations or stuff that's going on? Or maybe you can't go because you're having to self isolate? Or, yeah, there's just like so much complexity now in the workplace and and how we're all interacting. I mean, unless you're, luckily, a business who has been doing it for years, and you're kind of really used to it. But I guess, a lot of that changing in the way that we're working and adapting to this new mode, there's a lot of kind of mental toll on, on trying to figure out like, how to navigate all of that as well. Nicholas Jemetta: 20:36 Yeah, I think it hybrid working for so many years is probably had a lot of upside for some, like me, as a parent of young children is, it's actually been really great that I can spend a bit more quality time at home and other than jumping in on calls. And it was also other mayhem. But for many others, it hasn't, it's been very difficult. And it takes adjustment. You know, I think as product managers, one of the things that were drilled into us is that you were agents of change. But that doesn't mean that that change is going to be easy. And I think, you know, it's important to recognise when you are struggling with that change. And sometimes you just to go with that. And just to go with that feeling of being bit uncomfortable stepping out of the comfort zone and knowing that, you know, it's any good product manager does. Hybrid working may start as an experiment, gather the fit the the insight, use rapid feedback loops, and make changes. And I think the best empower teams that I've worked with, have a lot of open dialogue, the best way that you can figure this stuff out, in my view is to keep having those conversations, whether it's with your teams, your designers, your if your peers, your leadership, the best cultures, to me foster that open dialogue to figure out how do we make hybrid working work, you know, not only for me as an individual, but for us as a team. Lily Smith: 21:56 And when you say open dialogue is that just to kind of constant or like a, an iterative reflection on how you're working as a team together on a frequent basis. Nicholas Jemetta: 22:08 I think it's probably both of those things I I've kind of favoured as we've moved to hybrid, working slightly more constant, and frequent, but maybe less intense conversations to get the feedback loop loop circling as fast as possible. So one of the things that I've quite enjoyed is usually three times a week, at the end of the day, just having a 15 minute check in. And it's kind of optional, but you tend to find that at the end of the day, people like to come along and just decompress from the day and share what's gone. Well share what what hasn't it so amazing, some of the little nuggets that you pick up in these slightly more informal conversations, because the last thing people want is more meetings in the diary. But when it's at the end of the day, with a cup of coffee or a beer on a Friday, those informal conversations, you know, where you really start to form some of those social bonds or where I think the kind of best insight tends to come from. Randy Silver: 23:02 That's been one of the challenges I've found is you're only in meetings that are scheduled now and which so there's very little serendipity. And I know we've all worked to try and create it where we can. But yeah, there's just not that much of it. So and then you spend all your time in meetings, to have those conversations with people. What do you think that's doing to people? Nicholas Jemetta: 23:27 Because it's driving a Lhasa fee for a wrap around the bend, I would have thought I think I think most people were more meetings now than they ever were before. And I think, again, as, as product managers, it can be tempting to feel as though we have to be in every meeting, because we've got to understand the product, understand the context, talk to x, y, and Zed. I'm a bit more intentional with my diary. And I block time out at certain parts of the day where I will not accept meetings. And I've, at first I was pretty worried about doing it because I thought well what happens if x, y and Zed know the big boss or someone in the senior team wants to talk to me, it's like, you know, unless unless there's a fire this time for me. And it's time to me whether it's for reflection, whether it's for going into exercise, whether it's for whatever that thing is, but it is meeting free time. And you know, that sounds really simple. But in a lot of the conversations I have with product managers, they they don't feel empowered enough to be able to manage their own diary. And to me, there's something very wrong with that in terms of the team culture if we're not empowering people to take back control of their time. Lily Smith: 24:35 And actually, that leads really nicely on to another sort of topic area that I would love to get your view on, which is how business leaders can kind of really create an honour, that culture of taking care of mental health. I think there are a lot of business leaders out there who are aware that it's something that they need to be supportive of button, you know, unless you've really kind of experienced the levels of poor mental health that some people have, you don't really like fully understand or appreciate what people might be going through. And so I do feel like, it can be a little bit like paying lip service to it just so that they look like a good business. But is there a way for, you know, if there are people listening to this who are kind of team leaders or execs in a team, how can they sort of properly understand the situation and genuinely create that the right environment for people with who are struggling with mental health to thrive? Nicholas Jemetta: 25:48 First of all, let's hope that some of the some of those leaders are listening to this episode, this is resonating, then they get in touch with us. And then we can talk about this topic even more, which is what I'm passionate about doing. But I think that the most obvious way I can describe why this is important is that happy people, healthy people are productive. And who doesn't want productive people that love their job and want to go over and above the product that they're trying to build and the customers that they're that they're trying to build these these incredible experiences for? I think a lot is said in the mental health space that we shouldn't talk about, you know, return on investment. And I agree with that to a point but equally with my product manager. And I'm thinking well, let's talk directly about the value that this brings. And if we have to talk in pounds and pence, to get the buy in that then helps people human beings, and that's great. But the ultimate output that we're looking for here is happier, healthy, healthier people and the way in which we get to that, that part of in my mind is kind of less important. But there's plenty of evidence about the organisations that invest in the mental health of their people see significant returns. And I mean that in terms of the financial returns, but also in terms of productivity, retention, recruitment brand, you know, it, it helps all of those things, but at the fundamental level, you're just making people happier. And that has got to be a good thing. If for any of us that have worked in organisations that don't prioritise and honour cultures of, you know, being supportive about good, good mental health, you know, I would have really challenged those people to reflect on, you know, how does it feel in that business? How long are people staying in that business? Do people want to join that business? Are people productive? You know, you've only got to start asking some of those questions and the answers I think, will soon reveal themselves. And you also asked me how business leaders can really live and breathe a culture in it. For me, it's not necessarily about a senior leader always opening up about the mental health, although I think that does help. But I think it's about giving permission. It's about creating psychological safety. And it's about letting people express who they are, what they're about and what they believe in, you know, outside of just what they're there to do as a product manager, if we can bring our whole selves to work. Because that's the point is made, we're going to be happier, we're gonna be able to have more energy that we're gonna be bringing to that organisation, we're gonna be much more motivated. It's just win win win, whether it's for the team individual or the organisation, in my opinion. Randy Silver: 28:30 So the place I'm working now has a mental health first aid direction, a couple of them. I'm curious if you've seen this in other places, and just generally, what else are good characteristics of a good or supportive workplace? What kinds of things can we put in place aside from trying to create a culture at the top where the some of the other actionable things we can do? Nicholas Jemetta: 28:52 Great question so I'm, I'm actually a mental health first aid as well. Randy, I'm not sure if you knew that or if it's just strange coincidence, but so yeah, Mental Health First Aid is is one of many, you know, actionable steps that organisations can take. It's not for every organisation. But the principle behind them into our first aid, I suppose is that we have physical and First Aiders that can take care of colleagues if they hurt themselves, physically, it's the same kind of principle. It's someone that has had specific training, it's not medical training, but it's training that allows somebody to you know, listen to you in confidence, non judgmentally. And then to signpost, you, if that's the most important part of having a conversation about mental health is to remove your own perspectives and opinions to listen on the judgmental end to help that person towards the next step. You know, whether that's signposting to a charity to the doctor to a counsellor. Your larger organisations have things like Employee Assistance programmes, so I've worked in organisations where you have access 20 472 trained counsellors and trained individuals that 24/7 You can talk to and you can talk to about things in the workplace that might be affecting your mental health. Again, they can provide support, they can provide you with, with content with signposting with those kinds of things. But it doesn't need big grandiose actions, you know, it can, it can be arranging 10 Talk, I've arranged I've arranged in 10 talk before and it's literally an hour the diary, unfortunately, or 35 minutes, but you walk out of the cafeteria biscuit and have a chat. And it is the best half an hour that you spend in your day, honestly, it's just a brilliant way to just be a bit more human, as I've kind of already said, obviously, organisations can be thinking about benefits that can help not just the the mental aspect of well being but the physical, you can you offer an hour to go out and run around the park, can you offer subsidised gym membership, for example. And you've also got financial well being, which is one often that isn't considered and I think talking about money has got more of a stigma attached to it than talking about how we're feeling, if I'm honest, I think there are organisations that are starting to work out that maybe we need to do a little bit more to help people better manage their money. So when those three things come together, that can be a really powerful kind of holistic well being offering. Lily Smith: 31:24 And this is often a really speaking of money, because I've spent most of mine, this is a really tricky dive review. You know, for, for for stress, and anxiety. What is it about this time of year? That kind of brings that on more than than the rest of the year? And, you know, is there anything that we should be looking out for as individuals, you know, within ourselves and with our teams? Nicholas Jemetta: 31:56 Yeah, I think I, you know, I touched on it a little bit earlier on, but everyone's circumstances are different. But I think that still within society, we can all feel pressure to conform. And I think Christmas is one of those times when there are certain cultural norms that are quite hard to break, you know, the cultural norms of having the Christmas party COVID together this year, I'm guessing, of overextending ourselves to provide the Christmas we want to provide for the family and for the children. You know, for getting ourselves into a great place of our New Year's Day, we can have 10, New Year's resolutions that are gonna, you know, transform us into the next gen x or you know, the next Barack Obama or the next great statesman. And then I think all of these things can can make us feel a bit inadequate. Frankly, I think it's first important to recognise that we're all on our own journey. And I very much tried to live my life like a racehorse might I try to live a quite blinkered, and it's not so I'm not, you know, looking around me at appropriate points to seek feedback. But I think if we if we take in too much stimulus, sometimes we can lose our way a little bit. We talked about the financial side, we should try to live within our means the only reason that we're going out and spending all this money, I suppose is a little bit due to people like us if we're honest. Because if we're feeling great, then maybe with a part of the problem rather than the solution. Randy Silver: 33:28 Now I want you to buy my stuff all your Nicholas Jemetta: 33:32 everyday see my angel. See, I think you know that there was a little bit about just trying to focus on ourselves what's important to us and trying to reduce some of those societal pressures. I think in terms of what we need to do to keep an eye on people, you know, we never know whether someone might have lost a loved one at Christmas, whether they're spending Christmas alone. So it goes back a little bit to what I said earlier, we could try and just be a bit more human and actually get to know our colleagues as individuals. And we can start to a recognise if things are changing that look out of the ordinary, or we can actually just have a conversation as a decent human being and understand that maybe this is a difficult time of year for them and we can give them a wide berth so we can be a bit more compassionate, we can go out and buy them that beer because we know that you know, over Christmas, it might be a little bit of a tougher time for them than it might be for ourselves. Lily Smith: 34:23 Nick, we've really, really running out of time, but this has been a really great conversation. I just have one more question for you. And you hinted at something earlier and I just need to find out more about the story. So you have the nickname of the fancy dress, dad. So what's that all about? Nicholas Jemetta: 34:46 So in lockdown, yeah, obviously, it's pretty obvious that I'm always in tune with what was going on in the mental health space in my own workplace and with myself. I was juggling homeschool with work like Mary and Joe wick, save the day. He like a knight in shining armour. And he gave me and my family a lot of structure, Franklin something to do together. And one Friday, he wore fancy dress to one of his workouts. And I did that workout in fancy dress. And then I was curious what me taking fancy dress into the workplace might do. So I wore costume on to all my video calls that day. And the reaction from colleague was just a little bit of surprise a little bit of what the actual heck is this guy doing, but just loads of laughter and they just smiling alleges conversations that I didn't expect about mental health and about what I was doing while I was doing it. And that one costume ended with me wearing 100 different costumes, across hundreds of video calls. Throughout the year. I raised 10,000 pounds for a number of mental health charities. And my story ended up getting national. And the fancy dress that Monika was given to me by just giving. They were sort of supporting the initiative, and I was interviewed live twice in the space of six months on BBC Breakfast, which I still have to sort of pinch myself for. And then started to take all of these costumes onto the school run. So I was walking up dropping my kids to school and during the school run, seeing all the teachers and the pupils dresses, Mr. blobby and Batman and Hulk Hogan and all sorts of other weird and wonderful characters. So that name will forever stick with me now and I've got about 40 of the costumes up in my loft. Really, Randy Silver: 36:30 before we let you go though, we do have to provide a bit of translation for anybody who doesn't speak British English. If you speak American English, fancy dress is a costume. It's not dressing up in a top hat and tails or anything like that. It is as you say, it's whole Cogan and Batman and everything else. Lily Smith: 36:49 And they hope your kids were young enough to be impressed by it rather than embarrassed. Nicholas Jemetta: 36:56 You would think so at age five, but my daughter still cringed every day. In the end. I think we just accepted that. I said to her until a costume number 100. This is happening. So you're gonna have to just accept it. Oh. Randy Silver: 37:10 I do have to follow up with the question of we're recording this in December. What did you do for Halloween? Nicholas Jemetta: 37:17 Halloween? What was I think I wore skeleton skeleton onesie it was it was a pretty hot, hot one that day from what I see. Lily Smith: 37:27 Nick, thank you so much for joining us. It's been really great talking to you today. Nicholas Jemetta: 37:31 Thanks for having me appreciate it. Randy Silver: 37:43 So I feel like I need to explain one thing for everybody who's not from the UK. And that is exactly who Joe wicks is. Do you want to give it a try? Billy? Lily Smith: 37:54 Yeah, so he was a phenomena. I think that's what you would call him when everyone was in lockdown. And he was getting everyone up off their sofas and jumping around doing exercises in the morning, British show he had a YouTube channel. And I actually didn't get involved. I was too busy doing other things. Randy Silver: 38:19 We could try it a couple of times in our house. But you know if you're an American of a certain age like I am, you probably grew up with Richard Simmons. Just picture him but not quite so camp and was shorts that weren't quite as tight. Lily Smith: 38:38 But what a great episode and a good way to nearly end the air. We've got a couple more episodes to go. So tune in for the rest of December and see what else we've got coming up. Randy Silver: 38:50 And if you're really interested in any of the stuff we talked about today, there's a bunch of links in the show notes about mental health first aid and things like that. Lily Smith: 39:06 Haste, me, Lily Smith and me Randy silver. Emily Tate is our producer. And Luke Smith is our editor. Randy Silver: 39:15 Our theme music is from humbard baseband power that's pa you thanks to Ana killer who runs product tank and MTP engage in Hamburg and please based in the band for willingness to use their music, connect with your local product community via product tag or regular free meetups in over 200 cities worldwide. Lily Smith: 39:34 If there's no one near you, you can consider starting one yourself. To find out more go to mind the product.com forward slash product tank. Randy Silver: 39:43 Product Tech is a global community of meetups during buying for product people. We offer expert talks group discussion and a safe environment for product people to come together and share burnings and tips