On Forgiveness, Eulogies and More
My chat with Women In Product
Last week, I spoke with Ana Grace from Women in Product. Women in Product was started in 2016 when some women product leaders and I decided we should organize to network and support each other. Women in Product is a place where connections are built, where women PMs can find support, and where we can share our experiences and learn from one another. Today, we have over 30,000 members in our active Facebook Group.
Ana and I had a great conversation about finding direction in your career, building a legacy, overcoming imposter syndrome, and more. Today, I’d like to share some highlights from that conversation with you. I hope these tips will be valuable to you as you grow your career, in product management and beyond.
Take Back Your Power has been at least four years in the making. What made you decide to write the book?
One of the things I've done for the last eight years has been to have an open-door policy, where anyone can come to me for advice. Over the years, I have mentored and supported over 1,000 people—mostly women. So many of the challenges they face had common themes: things like struggling with their managers, not knowing where their careers were headed, or struggling to advocate for themselves. I just realized that I couldn’t continue to scale that. To be able to support more people, I decided to put those common themes in a book. My hope is that this way, the advice I give the most can reach even more people.
Speaking of mentoring, what made you decide to start Women In Product (WIP)?
In 2012, some women product managers and I started having dinners in the Bay Area. At the time 10 percent of the product managers at Facebook were women. I wasn’t used to that since 50 percent of the PMs at PayPal and eBay were women including most of the Directors and VPs. So we started having these dinners and inviting people as a way for women in the field to connect. Over the course of four years, we met hundreds of women. One night, during one of these dinners, we talked about who was going to the Grace Hopper Conference. A bunch of people said yes. Then we were all chatting and said, “You know, there's no conference for women product managers. What is stopping us from starting one?” And suddenly we had started WIP. We created the group and decided we should have a conference.
We put together a conference in a few months and got advice from some event planners, who told us, “You shouldn’t start with a conference because no one will come.” It was too late for that. When we opened the registration, over 3,000 people registered for 300 spots. Suddenly companies wanted to sponsor us, but we hadn’t registered as a non-profit. We had no idea what we were doing. So we just did it.
We have a couple of dozen chapters now nationally. Part of this was a hunger for connection, for women to support each other. We have a super active Facebook group, which Fidji Simo (CEO of Instacart) created. It’s been such a journey.
You have a chapter called “Chart Your Own Course” in your book, where you tell the story of a time you felt some disappointment at work. When we get to those moments in our careers, can you share more about how to process the disappointment? When should you stay? When should you move on?
For me, there was a job that I wanted at Facebook. Not only did I not get it the first time I asked about it, or the second time, but I was told by the CEO that I would never get it. He told me his reasons why, and I understood them.
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