Michael Youmans, Senior Product Manager at Mimecast joined us recently at the PLA Fest to talk about looking inwards and building your personal brand.

Michael drilled down on how we operate as people, overcome our weakest emotions and learn to fuel our personal brand regardless of the scenario. Many product managers may not realise that their personal brand is everything, and that the first step starts with attitude and drive.

This talk really resonated with the PLA Community, who were eager to ask some key questions at the end of the session. We've highlighted some of the best ones right here!

If you missed Michael’s talk, grab yourself a membership plan to catch up on it and all the other festival presentations you can handle. Plus, you can still join the discussion on our Slack community to continue the conversation.

Now, let’s get to those Q&As…

Q: As a group product manager, how can I encourage more junior team members to find their own personal brands? Especially when they’re lacking confidence to carve their own path.

A: I haven't actually haven't seen a group PM in a long time either. So just talking about my own experience, I would send them on a knowledge path. So go out there onto the internet, there are so many great articles, and so much out there about your personal brand.

A lot of people perceive it as education, which to me is key. So yeah give them homework to go out there and read about what personal brand is, what your personal brand means and product management, that's something that they're gonna have to go out and they're gonna have to find themselves, honestly.

But build confidence and give them tasks. For me, I think what was probably the best thing was, my line manager, he gave me tasks based on something that we were going to be starting in the future. And so I was able to go out there and do the homework for myself. And think about what I would want in that product and share it around with designers and developers. So by the time they got to roadmap conversations or when we were going to start, I was pretty confident on what I was going to be building, and that's when I was an Associate Product Manager.

So when I was an Associate, for me, that was a really big confidence booster. And then giving me more speaking opportunities, whether it's speaking up or taking point in meetings, things like that. Those things help build confidence. So you’ve got to give them opportunities to help themselves grow.

Q: How can I know my strengths, weaknesses and skills in a scientific way?

A: For me, I'm a very emotional person, and I've had to do a lot of growing up until this point. And so I think what would help me, would be talking to the people that are closest to me. Sometimes when we're missing opportunities, or we kind of start to figure out that people don't want to approach us or are not including us in some group projects, you start to think maybe I'm doing something wrong.

When you start to have one on one conversations with the people that are close to you, especially in product management, you start to realize what your weaknesses are. And sometimes you have to fail to realize that you have to take a deeper look at things. There's a lot of faults that we have as human beings, we make mistakes, but the best thing you can do is try to recognize those and try to learn and grow from that.

Q: Do you have any tips or techniques you use for confidence building? When you get asked a difficult question in front of seniors that knocks you back, how do you recover?

A: I went through an experience recently, where I had done a profit loss statement for a new product that we were putting out in a couple of months. We have a pricing committee, which is made up of our CEO and CFO, and all these sort of individuals. So I decided, through my own market research, the pricing for this new product.

So I did get asked some very frank questions on that. And once again, it goes back to data. If you have the data, and you're prepared enough, there shouldn't be any gaps. And I lack confidence sometimes too, don't get me wrong, I've been up there and completely dropped the ball. But when you need to have those frank conversations with senior leadership, you just have to remember that you're prepared for this, and you know the numbers, and just talk them through it. Talk them through how you arrived at this, and talk about why you made this decision.

Hopefully, there'll be somebody there to back you up. I know that's not always the case. But most of the time, if we're talking about a specific kind of meeting, you will have backup, hopefully. But if not, just remember that confidence comes from within, and that's based off of preparation. So preparation really is what's going to help boost your confidence level when you're having key executive type conversations.

Q: How do you pursue new opportunities, like podcasts, etc, without spreading yourself too thin?

A: So when it comes to multitasking, I have that problem a lot of the time. I like to do things like twitch streaming, and photography, and I like to do all these different things. So, if I'm putting myself in another opportunity, like the blog I started, called the product corner. And I've only produced two articles in the last four or five months. And so that's a perfect example of spreading myself too thin, because I'd always wanted to get back to it.

I met an individual not too long ago, who does five things before 10 o'clock every day. And then doesn't eat food after 7pm. And that really kind of made me look at how I balance my day out because when I'm at work, I like to think that I balance myself out pretty well. But I had to kind of take a look at that again, especially when dedicating myself to a new opportunity. It does take discipline. So that's something you’ve got to commit to.

There's a guy out there, he did a motivational talk, I think he's like an ex Navy SEAL or something. He wakes up at 4AM every morning no matter what. And of course, that takes discipline. But I think if you want to explore a new opportunity, like a podcast or a blog, you kind of have to make that time for yourself. Which I know sound obvious, but you really do have to make that time.

You have to discipline yourself to put the time in for it. You have to make sure leading into it that you're going to make the time you need, especially if you have a family. I've got an eight month old dog with me who takes up a lot of my time, day to day even when I'm trying to work. 😄

How have you developed your personal brand as a PM? What success have you had? Let us know!