My Survival Bible as a Product Manager in the Workplace

2022 has been treating me well so far, despite being inundated with endless overtime work, which turned the work life balance into a stranger to me. More importantly, the drastic shift to a fast work pace made me feel that finally I was moved into the professional workplace in the world of business and started to understand the “hard truths” of the industry and area I am working in. I am fortunate enough to pick up the project I want to work on and the team members that I would like to work with. In other words, I would always prefer staying in my comfort zone to only doing something I am always familiar with. Though being challenged by clients or faced with issues in product management, I don’t really need to rack my brain to work out the solution as these little bits and bobs are still manageable.

My exodus (the departure from my comfort zone) didn’t start until my role was shifted from a product manager to a programme manager. In order to fully integrate myself (also my team) into the client’s workspace and workplace culture, I will need to adopt a new approach quickly to keep pace with them. That’s where my survival bible coming from. There is no one size fits all solution here as everyone will have his or her own golden principles to fit for purpose. Therefore, below are just a few key procedures that I found helpful for me to survive in a workplace where women are underrepresented and the business-operation processes are less streamlined or standardised.

1. Get prepared for whatever you are going to encounter and stay strong

Even though we have seen a steady increase of females entering the male-dominated STEM fields in the past few decades, we are still faced with numerous challenges in the workplace. For example, the pay gap, lack of support and mistreatment. All of these will put you into a difficult situation and make you self-doubt if you are competent enough to do your job. A good way to keep me from falling into such adversity is to get prepared for every little thing I need to do in my day-to-day work, always anticipate the worst situation and be confident about myself. Don’t be afraid of being challenged by male colleagues as sometimes, the way they talk, and their attitudes can be “exaggerating” or “overwhelming”. Don’t take it too personally. Stay focused on the work itself and use your expertise and experience to make the judgement call. As long as you get prepared for all possible queries, challenges, doubts, arguments, and debates (the worst scenario) you can think of, you come strong and confident to present yourself.

2. Be a person of value in your area

No matter what job we do in whatever industry we are in, being a “T” type person would help build personal influence and reputation in the workplace. In other words, having strong expertise or a particular skillset in a vertical whereas demonstrating significant abilities to collaborate across disciplines with experts in other areas and applying knowledge in areas of expertise would give us an edge over other colleagues by staying extremely competent in the workplace. As more experience accumulates, our uniqueness of ourselves becomes so obvious that it’s harder for us to be replaced. Even if there is always something that we are not capable of doing or skillsets we are unable to master in the workplace, we can still shine out by making every effort to become an authority in our job field.

3. Be optimistic, speak for yourself and always ask for feedback

We definitely need to be equipped with a thick skin when working in a male-dominated environment. My rule of thumb is never to take others’ comments too seriously but always appreciate the honest feedback given by everyone you have worked with. It’s inevitable that the way we talk and the way we work might be judged by others and chances are people may take advantage of it. Being professional with a positive attitude would keep you from exposing your vulnerabilities to your surroundings. Instead of confrontation or engaging in a conflict, take some time to calm down, communicate forward by stating the facts and sharing your observation, thoughts and ideas. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback (mainly) from your boss, your sponsor (if you are lucky enough to find one in your company) and your co-workers at any time. Make your requests clear by asking for honest feedback on your work and state in concise terms why you need it as well as the action you plan to take. In return, you should also share your honest feedback and suggestions on others’ work when being asked.

Originally published at http://chrissylovesmarketing.com on April 6, 2022.

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