On Mentorship and Product Management Challenges in European Tech
In June 2022, I started offering 2 hours per week of my free time to folks interested in breaking into product management or further developing in their current roles.
Since then, I’ve spent a little under 1,000 minutes talking with 12 mentees in 10+ countries over 20 separate sessions, mainly via ADPList.org, but also other networks like 2hearts, and my buddy Nicole Daines’s Product Mentoring Program.
Each and every one of these has been an absolute thrill & motivated me to continue mentoring others and seeking mentorship for myself.
But a lot of my mentees are based in Europe, and I’m starting to notice a distinct set of challenges, some that I’ve observed firsthand working in European tech for the past 10 years. These may very well exist elsewhere, too, but my impression is they are prevalent in Europe:
It’s harder to break into product in European tech companies. There are very few APM or internship programs, and the few that exist are extremely competitive.
A lot of companies don’t differentiate between “product managers” and “product owners,” which creates additional issues for folks looking to move from one role to the other, usually from PO to PM.
Product managers don’t receive on-the-job coaching & unless they themselves are very proactive about L&D budgets and further education, they mostly learn product management on the job, by themselves. This ends up creating some bad habits.
The product management career ladder is a hellscape of random titles with little uniformity and confusing progression. It is often unclear which positions are ranked higher in a company hierarchy.
Product management is not understood as a business function, but as a “software delivery” job, both by companies and some product managers themselves. This is connected to the PO problem referenced above, but also extends onto understanding the role of product in generating desired outcomes and value.
We have an underdeveloped culture of measuring success and working with metrics. This may come as a shock to some, but I’ve both myself seen & regularly heard through mentees that a lot of product teams in European tech companies don’t measure the impact of their work or monitor for success in any way other than — “it got shipped.”
With this in mind, I’d like to start a conversation about what it would take to improve this!
Have you observed any of these challenges yourself?
What other challenges have you identified particularly in a European tech context?
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