Choose to see your value
I attended a Women in Product conference earlier this year and heard one of the speakers say she sees her role as a product manager as more of a facilitator, and she picks up the work the specialists (design, research, data science, engineering) don’t have the time to do.
I can’t entirely agree with that statement. If you are picking up everyone else’s slack, you are not doing anything of value.
As a product manager, you are expected to know everything, as you are the “generalist” in an environment filled with specialists. You are working with multiple stakeholders, right from identifying the problem, to analyzing if the product was a success or a failure. We shouldn’t always be aiming only to help stakeholders. Instead, define your role, which adds value.
How to embrace Imposter Syndrome
Imposter syndrome can be defined as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success. Imposters suffer from chronic self-doubt and a sense of intellectual fraudulence that override any feelings of success or external proof of their competence.
Know you are right for the job
As product management is different in each industry and company, there is no clear definition of what product managers do. It needs a wide range of skills, such as strategy, technical, design mindset, analytical and excellent communication. This vague definition of the role can make us question if we are even right for the position. A lot of these requirements are subjective, without any clear metrics.
Before I was a product manager, I worked as an engineer for a few years. Having done both, I can see the difference in how I feel at the end of a workday. Committing code made me connect a one-to-one relation to what my role required and delivering it. But as a product manager, it’s not very clear to me, and I need to tell myself that what I am doing (even if non-quantifiable) is the role, or I wouldn’t be here.
Choose to see the value you bring as a generalist
If you have ever gone to listen to an orchestra, you would see musicians playing beautiful music. Every one of them is highly skilled and focused on their instrument. And you would see a person standing and waving their hands to all the musicians. The “conductor” is a generalist who doesn’t necessarily know how to play those instruments, but they know how to make them sound perfect together.
Having a bird’s eye view of all domains (engineering, design, research, data science) makes product managers ask the right questions — difficult questions that matter to the final customers.
Take control of your time
I recently read an Alpha survey conducted with 500 product managers, and I learned how product managers spend their day.
A large percentage of time is spent with meetings, email and Slack. I am not an exception to this finding, as we need that time to align stakeholders, Q&A and more. But getting an understanding of where you are required can help you get some time back, as well as be more productive in the meetings you do attend.
Start identifying patterns in your meetings, and create tools/documentation that would help delegate that work.
I believe the only way to know how you are doing at your job is to get feedback from the right people. If you feel like an imposter in your role, ask for informal, constructive feedback from different stakeholders with whom you work regularly. The “right people” includes leadership and peers, as well as your direct reports. Asking for feedback not only makes you learn about how you are doing, but it also gives your colleagues time to think about the value you add as a product manager.
Lastly, if you care enough to research “Imposter Syndrome,” you care enough to do your job well. Be confident in the value you bring to the company, and flush out the noise.