In this #mtpcon Digital 2020 keynote, Gibson Biddle, Former VP Product, Netflix, lays out a methodology to hack your product career through self-positioning, experimentation, data-assessment, and feedback.
Watch the video to see his talk in full. Or read on for an overview of his key points:
- Understand your product and leadership skills
- Form hypotheses and experiment with side projects
- Establish your own board of directors and utilise feedback
Gibson begins by introducing what he describes as the most important product he knows – “that the product is you”, he says. Using a basic positioning model, he shows how we can understand our own value, asking product questions like:
- What is the product?
- What are the benefits?
- What’s your personality?
Using the answers to these questions, he explains, you can define your career hypotheses or the direction you plan towards product leadership, by further asking how you might engage in experiments to figure out what’s good or bad or right or wrong for you. What data you might need to seek to reach your goals and, based on the results, what you should be doing to move your plan forward.
The Skills of a Product Leader
At the job interview stage, Gibson explains how prospective employers want to know two things: where you’re great and where you’re weak.
To identify your strengths, he recommends looking at both your product and leadership skills and noting down two or three strengths in each area:
- Consumer science
- Strategic thinking
- Business maturity
- Domain expertise
Your areas of strength, he tells us, are the superpowers people will want to hire you for – focus on them.
Of course, Gibson stresses, skill attainment is acquired with time, you won’t, nor do you have to, learn everything overnight. Progress is incremental and can be condensed into stages. For example, you might develop key skills as you:
- Build a product (basic design and management)>
- Build a hit product (Marketing and consumer insight)
- Build an org (leadership, strategy; team development and culture)
- Build a company (cross-functional leadership, company strategy)
- Build an industry (long-term strategy and partnerships)
Identify which product you’re building and, from that point, where your career might progress to next.
An Experimental Approach
Gibson describes how, even with clear progression goals, careers are long and winding roads and how of often, CVs play host to whitewashed sections as “consultants” which, he says in his case, signal the “years of failure […] experiments, and stuff that works and stuff that doesn’t”.
These experiments, he says, provide important evidence which informs career decisions. These choices or “forks in the road” can be used as a way to evaluate your career hypothesis – the role you seek, the business you want to work in and the leader you want to become. What’s important, is to always think long-term.
The Metrics of Hacking
Gibson lists three metrics he has used to understand his own career success:
- Job satisfaction
- Good for the world
Rating each out of 10, Gibson’s been able to track the highs and lows and stresses the importance of finding a career with an 8-10 satisfaction level. If you try this system and find this metric is low, then consider doing some of those previously mentioned experiments.
“You’re going find yourself taking some risks, and then think of these ideas as hypotheses experiments just the way you would with a product”, Gibson says, introducing the “2am test”. It’s what keeps you engaged late at night – a project or activity – if in the morning you’re still thinking about it “that’s usually a sign or a signal that that’s a potential career hypothesis”.
Establish Your Own Board of Directors
Finally, Gibson imparts a requirement, the need to “find a personal board of directors”, made up of peers and mentors. Building this community can help provide critical feedback based on their own experience, breadth of skill and networks. “You need them to help you articulate […] and navigate this career path which is twisted and dirty”.
The key to hacking your career is to be bold, reposition yourself, access and experiment wherever possible, track your results and optimise for success. “At the end of the day”, Gibson says, “I’d love everybody in the room to have a career set of eight or more”.
For a more detailed look at Gibson’s speech read his article here.