Learning Experience Leader

74 // Building Your Career Using Product Management Tools with Aaron Airmet and Ash Roberts

November 30, 2021 Greg Williams
Learning Experience Leader
74 // Building Your Career Using Product Management Tools with Aaron Airmet and Ash Roberts
Show Notes Transcript

Aaron Airmet and Ash Roberts join me again, but this time to talk about career development using PM tools and mindsets. Together they host Path into Product, a podcast for college students or professionals considering a career as a product manager but don't know where to start. Both Aaron and Ash are currently working as Product Managers at Weave Communications and have previous experience working with and in learning design environments. 


Today we discuss: 

  • Building your career through curiosity, experimentation, and data collection 
  • Examples and stories of using product management tools for personal development
  • The importance of reflection and giving yourself space to be wrong
  • Using product management prioritization principles in career decisions

Resources

Join the conversation on the LX Leader LinkedIn page: https://www.linkedin.com/company/learning-experience-leader-podcast 

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Ash Roberts:

We do experiments to find out what we were wrong about, so that we can do the right thing. We come up with hypotheses. We test those hypotheses, so that we can figure out what in that hypothesis was wrong and what was right. And so I think the same thing can be said for your own life is that run, you know, as you run these experiments, as you reflect, it's okay to be wrong.

Greg Williams:

From the beautiful state of Utah in the United States Hello, and welcome. I'm Greg Williams, and you're listening to the learning experience leader podcast, a project devoted to design leadership and the psychology of learning. This podcast helps you expand your perspective of learning design through conversations with innovative professionals, and scholars across the world. Today's guests are Aaron air meet and ash Roberts. Together, they host path into products, a podcast for college students, or professionals considering a career as a product manager, but don't know where to start. Both Erin and I are currently working as product managers at weave communications, and have previous experience working with and in learning design environments. Today, we discuss building your career through curiosity, experimentation and data collection, examples and stories of using product management tools for personal development, the importance of reflection and giving yourself space to be wrong. And using product management prioritization principles in your career decisions. There's a lot of great resources from this episode. So be sure to check out the show notes with the associated links. And of course, you can join me on the learning experience leader LinkedIn page, which is also linked in the show notes. With that, let's get started. Aaron and ash, I'm really excited to have you back again, on the show. Thank you. It's great to be back. So last time, we talked a little bit about some of the mindsets and frameworks that product managers use to build products and to measure products and lots of different pieces. Great conversation for listeners, if you didn't hear that conversation. our episode today will still be valuable and make sense. But you may want to go back and check that other one out as well. Because this in many ways we'll build upon that. Today, we're going to shift the conversation from building products specifically to thinking about your own career development, almost like a product, and how can you use some of these product management tools and mindsets that we discussed last time as you reflect on your own career and personal growth? So we didn't talk a lot about it last time, I made a couple mentions of your podcasts that you're doing. But I'm wondering if you could talk a little bit about the genesis of the idea of path path into products and how it might relate to some of these ideas of treating your own career like a product.

Aaron Airmet:

Yeah, absolutely. So the idea of path and product came to us as ash and I had several MBA students reaching out to us on LinkedIn and other channels, you know, from from our alma mater, BYU, Brigham Young University, and they were reaching out to us saying, you know, we're interested in product management, how do we get into this thing? How do we do that? And ash and I, you know, we had a few years of experience and product, we'd kind of self made our, you know, brush ourselves up by our bootstraps, so to speak, in a product management, and we kind of looked at each other. Neither of us have MBAs. Neither of us even have graduate school experience. You know, we're both Ash has a psychology degree, I have an English degree, right? So like, it's about as far away from a technology thing you can think of, and we just kind of looked at each other. And we were like, Why are these MBAs coming to us and asking us how we got into product. Like, we just we just couldn't wrap our minds around that. And we had so many reaching out to us that we thought, you know, maybe maybe we need to scale our responses here. Maybe we could help more people understand how to get into product in a more scalable way. And and at the time, I was experimenting with this brand new technology, right called podcasting. And so I thought can we can I can we put these two things together? Could we create a podcast that helps people understand how to get into product management, and the really cool flavor of it the that we came up with was, Let's interview actual people about how they got into product management. Right? Because there's all sorts of podcasts about this is what product management is and they cover all the general topics right? What is discovery? How do you do problem, what's an outcome etc, etc, right? And we didn't want to take that track. So we we just started interviewing people and and sharing their stories. And what we found was these conversations people were having were very reflective for them about their career journey. And it became like a very emotional thing. Sometimes, we had one particular interview that when when it was over, the only word I could use to describe it was transcendent. Right? People were were looking back at their careers telling their own stories, their own personal journeys, and it was like, like you were watching it an adventure movie, you know, where the hero overcomes these great challenges, and you know, in the end wins the treasure or whatever it is. And they just applied that in a career context and sharing the stories of how they got on the product. And it's, it's been a real blast just to listen to people, and their real stories and the advice that they give to help others, MBA students, young professionals, whoever it is, to transition and walk along that path in a product as well.

Greg Williams:

Yeah, it's, it's really interesting that you kind of discovered a whole new piece of value in doing that podcast, maybe originally started in an effort to help folks looking to get into products, but you're also finding that there's a lot of value for whether its product experienced product managers, or just professionals in general, to reflect on their own growth and their own kind of journey can be remarkable. I don't know about you, but I don't often just sit back and reflect on that unless it's prompted by something. So it's pretty great that you've given people that opportunity.

Ash Roberts:

Yeah, you know, and what's what's been fascinating about it, as well as, as we've published some of these, we have people who have been in product management for quite a while, who have reached out to us and said, Oh, love the podcast. And it's, it's kind of funny for erinite To get that, just because our target audience wasn't people that were already in product. And so these stories are connecting with them as well. And that's the beauty of stories is that it's all relatable, and we can consistently learn something different from from everybody's story.

Greg Williams:

It's always fascinating to hear from from listeners, because unlike other types of content, podcasting, I've found is tremendously difficult to actually get a sense of what listeners are thinking and feeling and who they are actually, compared to, you know, maybe YouTube or other content sharing platforms. But that's pretty cool. As you've been interviewing product managers or hearing from them, I'd love to get into how have you seen in this kind of gets a little meta, but how have you seen them using product management mindset and frameworks and tools to build their own career to getting into product in the first place? So unnecessarily building products, but treating their own growth as a product, if that makes sense?

Ash Roberts:

Yeah, and this is something that we've we found really interesting is that you can kind of productize your life. And so I mean, you know, just as a simple example, we had some people that literally iterated on their life, right? As they are coming into product management and trying to figure out what they need to do. They experiment and they try something new. And did that work? Did that not work? And if it did work, okay, great, keep going down this road and do another iteration and try something else new. And it's just been fascinating to hear all the different people, even if they may not have been deliberately productizing their life, because they have that mindset of curiosity. They are constantly trying new things, trying to learn things from other people, networking, getting, getting data from different sources, it's just been a fun, fun thing for us to hear that, even though they didn't know they were productizing their life has come out that way. Just because of the mindset,

Greg Williams:

yeah, I'm wondering if you are there any examples of some of those you've interviewed or, or from yourselves as you think about applying some of those mindsets? You mentioned curiosity, right, a little bit of measurement, and data collection? Any examples that come to mind of how to actually go about applying some of these principles into one's professional development or career trajectory?

Aaron Airmet:

Yeah, I remember one individual that we interviewed, a little bit of go and he was very passionate about solving social problems in the world. And you know, after he graduated college with his undergrad, he went and worked for the UN and, and was in a couple, you know, international places, you know, working on poverty initiatives and things like that. And he realized that he was so passionate about solving these problems, but he recognized a gap in that He didn't, he didn't have like the skill set or, or the mindset to be organized enough to say, hey, let's let's set this goal, let's Let's rally resources around this, let's organize to that. And, and, and, and make something happen, right actually solve a problem and measure it know that we've actually solved that problem. So as he kind of looked around at his skill set, he realized, I need I need to fill that gap. And the path that he found was, while he's was to go get an MBA, right to go get an MBA, but then he realized even as he was struggling the NBA, he realized, no, what I actually need is a skill set to discover and validate problems, iterate on on solutions, measure those solutions. And and, you know, know if I'm actually solving a problem, so where can I get that skill set. So even after his MBA, he continued this journey, he started talking with other product managers learning about product management, realize that was the skill set that he needed. And so now he's now in his first product role. He's only been there for a couple of months, but he's starting to learn that that skill set of problem validation and, and rapid iteration and all sorts of things, measurement and outcomes, etc. But for him, it's it's the next step in in a longer path, right? His goal is not to be a VP of Product somewhere, right? His goal is to come back and start working on some of these large worldwide social issues using that skill set from product management. So it's sort of that step by step thinking of, on the one side, what is the outcome overall that I want to achieve with my life? Let me break that down into okay, what is the next step that I need to take now? What is the gap that I need to fill now? And what's the best way for me to do that? And then what's the next step? What's the next step? What's the next step to to take little steps to that overall outcome?

Greg Williams:

Yeah, what you're saying reminds me of something that you both were talking about last time, in product management in general is, sometimes we can overthink what it means to test or experiment something. In terms of like, the simplest way to test an iterate can even just be talking to another person, right? So that might be a stakeholder or whatnot, but in career development, or considering getting into product management, or instructional design, or whatever it is, we sometimes I know I can get stuck just kind of in Google analysis paralysis, right? You can google salaries and career questions and directions and schools and programs. And after like an hour of that, I just leave feeling I don't know. And overwhelmed, dejected. On the flip side, talking to somebody who's doing it or wants to do it is energizing, and I leave with lots of ideas and new worlds are open to me, I don't know is that something that you've seen, as well, or other ways that you can test out ideas that don't have to be big and overwhelming, and, you know, a big, hairy, audacious type of thing?

Ash Roberts:

Absolutely. In, in many, many of the interviews that we've done, and also in some people that we haven't done interviews with, a lot of, I mean, I hate to call it networking, because it's networking, kind of sometimes has this yucky feeling about it of I'm reaching out to people that I don't know, so they can help me. But in many of the interviews that we have done, you have people reaching out and just asked about the career finding out what does the day in the life of a product manager look like? What does it look like to do discovery? What does it look like to do? validation? And how, how does that all work? How does it work working with an engineer and with a designer and and so we've, we've, we've run into a lot of people that that have done this, where, you know, they, they may might take somebody to lunch, or they might just do a zoom call or a Google meet with them, and and just asked them about their, their experiences and asked them about what their day to day life is. And it does two things, it gives the person a real good understanding of what the role looks like, and if they would fit in, but what it also does is it gives them the language that that person uses to communicate about their job. And that's a really important piece that we've found in trying to get into product management is if you can't speak the language, it's actually really difficult to get in because you might know your stuff, but the people struggle to kind of place you into a product role if you can't speak like a product manager. And so there's a book called design your life and in there it talks about these discovery interviews, where where you're reaching out and and You're kind of asking for a person's time. But really, you're asking for their story, you're trying to get to know what they do. But you're also listening out for those those things that could give you clues on how to speak to other people about the position or the role that you're trying to get into.

Greg Williams:

I'm really glad you mentioned that book, because we did a book review episode almost a year ago now on a follow up to that book called Design your work life. And there was a little bit more on that, but um, it's, it's so powerful to be able to just learn the language. And I know, some people might see that as Oh, you're just kind of trying to find the hacks to get into a career field or something, or, you know, fake it till you make it sort of thing. But in my mind, I connected a lot to the work of either whether you're a learning designer, or a product manager, you're, you're learning the language of your stakeholders, right? Like, when you talk to the CEO about what's happening with your products. And you're gonna want to know, what's the CEOs language and mindset around measurement and what matters, right? So you can put your product in the context of, of that language. But then if you're flipping around to talk to your engineers, I bet you're going to tweak a few things, I would assume an instructional designer is going to talk to a subject matter expert a little bit differently than, you know, the director of training or you know, a stakeholder from a different department. And it sounds like that's what you're advocating for ashes. As you're doing these interviews, you're essentially learning the language of the given field that you're interested in. So that way, you can more confidently speak to your skills in a way that will make sense to them.

Ash Roberts:

Absolutely.

Aaron Airmet:

Yeah. Along these lines, I once wrote an article about, you know, if you want to be a product manager in tech, you need to study the humanities, because you do learn how humans think and communicate in a lot of different ways. And just learning that language, you know, you will talk to your CEO, very different than you'll talk with your developers. Right. And and, Greg, I think you also mentioned the idea of, you know, fake it till you make it. Which it's kind of funny, because in the product management industry, almost everyone in the product manager minute product management industry, feels like they're making it up as they go. Because in reality, they kind of are we all are, right. And whether you have two months of experience, or 20 years of experience, the imposter syndrome is real, like people still feel that even after years and years of, of working in product management, they feel like, how do I get paid for doing what I do, and it's really, it's kind of a really awesome thing. And the idea of, you know, networking, there's a fantastic book called The proximity principle by Ken Coleman. I'm big fan, big fan of his, but he's kind of got this motto or the saying of, you know, you got to go talk to the people who are doing the work that you want to do in the place where it's happening, right. And so just this idea of go be as close as possible you can to the work that that and see if it actually is a fit for you and see where your your, your gaps are, as you can start filling those sorts of things. That was one of the things that I did when I was trying to become a product manager was I was lucky enough to have a friend who had started his own little startup. And he was he had a lot of product management experience. And I just reached out to him and said, hey, you know, we've been friends for a long time. Would you mind if I just job shadow you for a couple of hours every week, he's sort of like an unpaid, unofficial internship, right? Where I just come and learn how to do product with you and just rub shoulders with you and and do some discovery calls with you and see what it's like when you talk with your dev teams. And how do you do, you know, strategy and planning and those sorts of things. And, and that that couple of hours that I spent shadowing my friend for over a couple of weeks was immensely helpful, right? Way more helpful than reading any book or or trying to consume any information, but actually being there. And, and doing it and being involved? was immensely helpful.

Greg Williams:

Yeah, I love this. So we've talked a little bit about experimentation by talking to people, and also some connections to important skill set for product managers. And I'd say instructional designers of communication and being able to, you know, adjust your message in their mode of messaging based on your audience. Along the lines of experimentation, I remember reading one of your recent articles, and talking about how you can experiment on anything even like getting your kids ready for school or out the door. Can you talk a little bit about some methods maybe that you've both used in your own career development or personal lives that are related to these principles of Product Management?

Aaron Airmet:

Yeah, yeah, sure. And, and this is, I'm gonna reveal how big of a nerd I am. Right. So I have four kids, and you know, anybody with any kids realizes, trying to get small kids, you know, in the car to go somewhere. It is. It's a thing. It's it's a challenge. And and so one day, I think he was trying to get my kids in the car, take him to school, very young kids, right. You know, zero to eight years old. And so I think I just timed it one day. I said, from the time that I first say, Kay, let's get in the car to now we're actually in the car and I'm backing out of the garage out of the driveway. How long does it actually take us? I think one day I timed it, like 17 minutes or something, which is outrageous, right? When you're an adult, and you're just like, I'm just going to get in my car and go, right. But when you have kids, right, and they have to go to the bathroom and get their shoes on and wear their coats and wear the keys and all this stuff. Right. And so then I just started brainstorming. Okay, what are what are the major time delays? Where does the time get eaten up? So the next day again, okay, let's get in the car. I start the timer and then I just stood back and watched. What what happens, okay, well, this kid didn't hear me. He's doing this thing over there. That kid is looking for her shoes, and one of them's upstairs, and one of them's in the backyard. And this kid over there is trying to get as cold but it's too high for him to get off the hook. Right? So you can immediately start to see if you just detach, right? Oh, detach. That's a great principle by Jocko willing, if you read any leadership stuff by Jocko Willink, he always talks about detaching. So you just take a step back, detach and observe the situation. And you realize, oh my gosh, this is where all of our time is going. And then it becomes really easy to experiment with solutions. Okay, what if we put a basket next to the door that we go out of where this is where everybody shoes go on. And we just make it a habit where when you come in the house, your shoes go in the basket, when you leave the house? You put your shoes on? Okay? What if we put the hooks lower so the kids can can grab their coats, or maybe we put a bench there so they can climb up and grab their code. So we don't have to move the hooks? Right? And you and you start to experiment with all of these solutions, right? And then, and then you time it every single day is a different iteration, right? You have all these experiments. And I think at one point, I cut it down by like, 50%, right? Where, you know, hey, when I say let's get the car were six or seven minutes later, we're backing out of the garage. And I was I was happy with that result. And we let that project be but But yeah, that's that's just kind of a really nerdy example.

Greg Williams:

I love the specificity of it, though, I think that's helpful. Seems like, as a product manager to have that kind of mindset, whether it's your kids or your work, there's a sort of a doggedness for improvement that's required. And I don't know if there's another way of putting that, and we, we talked a little bit about that last time, but it's a desire always for improvement.

Ash Roberts:

I've recently read this book, and I've absolutely loved the content. And it's called Borrowing Brilliance. And it's this idea that, that so much of what we do in our lives is borrowed and added to, from from many other generations and other people and other the innovations that are out there. And I think that works really well as a parent or at home or in your career is, is borrowing ideas and thoughts from other people. adding them to your own, and creating a new thought or new idea based on those borrowed ideas. And I think we're, we're so scared of sometimes with the word borrow or copy. But when you go back, and you look at the art of a long time ago, people actually never used to sign their art quite a long time ago. And it was because it was okay for others to copy them. It was flattering for them. But it was this realization that as you copy or borrow ideas from other people, and add to it, you can you can get better and better and better. This is another book that I that I love. I'll think of the name in a minute. But it's by John Seely Brown. And he talks about the the change that has happened in surfing over years surfing kind of flatlined in terms of how people did it and the tricks that they were doing. And what was interesting is that everything changed when YouTube came out. Because you had surfers in Hawaii, recording themselves doing a trick. And surfers in Australia picked up on that and thought hmm, we can do that. And we can probably do something else. And so, you know, they did that and recorded themselves put it back up on YouTube and there's this back and forth. And Surfing has kind of exploded in terms of its tricks and abilities that people can do on a surfboard. And it's just from that same concept of being able to borrow from what other people have done and own that and then add to it or add on top of it and make it your own.

Greg Williams:

I love that and I think that connects to some of what Aaron was talking about. I think you Recall that the principle of Did you say detachment? And?

Aaron Airmet:

Detachment? Yeah, yeah, like,

Greg Williams:

and I'm going back to thinking about treating your career or yourself or as like a product is, that might be related to the principle of just reflection, which is a really important principle for learning. In general, if we don't take the time to reflect, it's, it's really difficult to really learn anything. But in order to reflect and actually make sense of what's going on, I think there's a degree of detachment and awareness, and observation of the world around you. So like those surfers are taking the time to look at what others are doing. They're not so full of ego or self absorbed that they only watch their own videos and do their own thing. But they're willing to consider that there's other things out there and detach enough from their own to do that. And then to actually go forward and experiment on that, I think is how I've seen folks I've, I've done in, in interviews with people to learn about their career story or growth. I've seen that kind of pattern where they get curious, they detached, they observe, they ask questions, and then they start to apply some of those things to their own career, as they try to develop and learn and grow. Anyway, I'm just trying to synthesize and make sense of a lot of these pieces as they come together in that context of cognitive development.

Aaron Airmet:

Yeah, I think, you know, reflection is a huge principle, being able to take a step back and observe. I mean, there are many things that separate humans from animals, I believe, and this is one of them, right? This is this ability to think of meta Lee and that's not a word, but yeah. Yeah, exactly. And, and, you know, observe your own life and observe your own thoughts and observe your own decisions. And, and reflect on those, I think is a big one. There's, there's another book that sort of talks about this, which is, by the late Clay Christensen, one of the greatest thinkers, I think of our time, our modern time, he wrote down a book called, how will you measure your life a few years ago, and he just kind of gives, what he essentially does is he takes the theories of innovation that he taught in his business school at Harvard, he takes those and applies them to your life, right? So if if, if these theories helped businesses be successful, then how will they help an individual be successful in their life? Right, talking about borrowing billions, he, he applies those into the context of life. And one of those principles is the idea of having a strategy and plan. But knowing when to change that strategy and plan, right? And just because somebody has a plan to say, Oh, well, you know, in five years, I'm going to be a senior instructional designer, or I'm going to be a VP of product or, you know, yes, it's good to have those goals and have those plans and and to put that strategy in place, but at the same time, you need to evaluate, maybe the strategy needs to change, maybe the goal needs to change and, and taking that reflective time to detach and think about that. And not just you know, willy nilly saying, Oh, well, yesterday, I was I was going to be a fireman. And today I'm going to be a policeman. Right? No, it's not like just willy nilly. But it's, it's taking a step back and really thinking strategically and reflecting and saying, what is my goal? What is the next step? Is this still the right goal for me? is still the right next step for me? And if not, then how do I know that it's not? And what would be the next thing? So that's a that's a really good book, and really good idea from clickers.

Ash Roberts:

Can I add to that just just for a minute, and that is this reflection, and this looking back takes an awful amount of focus. But it also takes a realization that being wrong, is not disastrous. It's not fatal. It is an opportunity to learn and grow. And I think that, that, that idea sometimes that we have, that if we're wrong, things are just awful, or are gonna collapse, or every the world's gonna fall apart, or my world's gonna fall apart or whatever it is. We need to kind of kind of push that idea out of our minds. And it's the same in product management, right? I, we do experiments to find out what we were wrong about, so that we can do the right thing. We come up with hypotheses. We test those hypotheses, so that we can figure out what in that hypothesis was wrong and what was right. And so I think the same thing can be said for your own life is that run you know, as you run these experiments, as you reflect It's okay to be wrong.

Aaron Airmet:

Yeah, actually, I really love what you're saying here. And I think, you know, so many of us are like, you know, have to make the right decision or it's going to be wrong. But But no, it's not, I think, in a lot of ways you can boil product management down to what is the fastest way to sift through all of the bad ideas to so that we can implement and scale all the good ideas, right. And, you know, I'm going to make up a stat right here, but it's probably pretty true that 90% of the ideas that you come up with for your product for your instructional product for your life, 90% of them aren't going to work. And so how do you end you don't know from the beginning, which ideas are going to work and which ones aren't? Right? And so how do you figure that out as fast as possible? Well, you do some small rapid iterations, some small rapid experiments, measure and learn and grow from there. Right? If if you think you want to be an instructional designer, great, go talk to some and and go talk to 10 of them. And if you're still pretty excited about their career, then awesome, take the next step. If you're not excited, if you talk with 10 of them, then that's probably not the career for you. And good thing, you learned that in doing 10 interviews and you know, spending 100 bucks buying 10 People lunch, rather than, you know, spending 1000s of dollars to go to get a degree when you didn't know, right? So rapid iteration, making sifting out the bad ideas as quickly and as cheaply as possible so that you can get to the good ideas.

Greg Williams:

Wonderful. I love this. And I think it connects back to what you were first talking about Aaron with, you know, how will you measure your life and reflection is and also just it's okay to be wrong, like you're saying ashes, sometimes, both in the my professional life, and in personal life, we can get stuck on these sort of launch goals. And by that, I mean, from the other book, measure what matters, the John Dewar, John Doerr book all about OKRs, right. And there's one goal to launch something, but it's a very different mindset to think about the impact of the outcomes that you're looking for, right? There's outputs and outcomes. And that's a whole separate thing. When you think about that, for your career development in your life, there's, I want to be a fill in the blank, senior instructional designer, I want to be a product manager, I want to title my mind, that's kind of like a launch goal, you know, it's not bad. But in the spirit of how will you measure your life? What's the outcome from that that's going to be fulfilling like is that the actual outcome that you want in your life is that the impact that you want to have? And a good way to discover that is through this rapid experimentation, talking to people observing what outcomes they're having, what kind of impact and, and that might be a better test to see if it's actually a direction you want to go, rather than just like a salary bumper, or a title that you're going to get, which, you know, gets old pretty fast.

Aaron Airmet:

Yeah, I love I love what you're saying there, Greg. And it makes me reflect on on my own career a little bit. Several years ago, in my early 20s, my very first full time job, I think I wrote down a whole page of this is my professional mission statement. And it was like a full page of stuff, bullet points, and a purpose statement, and all all of this, you know, and is great. And, you know, I put a lot of work into that. But as the years progressed, and I've kind of reflected more and more of my job is, I only remember one line from that whole page that I wrote several years ago, about my professional purpose, and that is to help people be successful, what really matters. And and there's a lot of different contexts for that there's a lot of different titles or roles that I could do. There's a lot of different companies I could do. And a lot of companies where I couldn't do that. And in fact, I had to learn, I went to one particular company that didn't have a mission that I found a novel or and didn't really align with my personal mission. And that was very clarifying. For me, that was a fun experiment for 18 months, before I can move on to the next thing. But but that one line is stood out for me. And that's one reason why I've chosen product management is because if I can work on a product at the right company that has a mission that I find noble, then I can touch millions of people's lives by the decisions that I make, and the small, you know, experiments that we do to really help them learn and grow, you know, take we've, for example, a company that that we all work for right now we're helping small business owners run their businesses, and that that is something that really matters. That's there's livelihood there, there's purpose for them. There's economy stakes for our nation. And so helping them be successful in that endeavor, at a scale that I can never do by myself is really a noble thing for me, but it took some it took me some time and some experiments and a lot of wrong roads, to boil that down into helping people be successful, what really matters, and it's not necessarily a title, right? Titles are helpful, great, that's awesome salary comes with titles, and that's fantastic. And we all we all need that and will grow in that way. But it is certainly that outcome that I'm looking for helping people be successful at what really matters.

Ash Roberts:

I was in a class recently. And the the person leading the class asked a fascinating question that I don't know why this it never occurred to me, but he asked What is a lot of money? And I thought about that as I looked around the room. And I could see everyone starting to really think about this deeply. And it's a class about, you know, running or building your own business. And, and he asked the question again, what so so what is a lot of money. And we started to realize that a lot of money is very different for different people. And I think the same thing can be said about titles or salaries or goals, is, you know, goals are different for everybody. And a title at one company might mean something completely different at another company with exactly the same title. And so chasing titles and chasing salaries is one thing. But I think we've got to come up with that, what is enough of a title, right? What is enough of a salary. And we've got to come to that that realization of what is the level of happiness, and is that tied to the title or a salary, or money or whatever it is that we that we're trying to go off to?

Greg Williams:

Definitely, it reminds me again, of that design your work life or design your life book, they have a two by two grid, you know, traditional sort of business stuff. Related to impact. And this was so clarifying, for me when I first read it is, you know, often when I think that impact, I think of global and millions kind of like what you're talking about Erin, but they also talked about how it's okay, and actually important that we have people who look for individual impact. So you think of like a really amazing counselor, who's working one on one with someone, right, or a parent, or a teacher who's who's working with, you know, a small group of people, they can have a significant impact, but it's on a very small, intimate, individual level. That's a very different kind of approach to your work, right? Like I'm having an intimate individual impact. But it's no less important than someone who says I want to launch products that touch millions of people, it's just a different thing. Then there's also the other part of that grid was, you know, newness or innovation, compared to maintenance and upkeep, right? Or, you know, improvement to process. And I think that's something else. So we glamorize the Steve Jobs sort of persona of Silicon Valley and innovation. It's exciting. It's new. And there's kind of a fascination with the new in general, I'd say, right now in the world. But when you look at infrastructure and falling apart things and processes that are never established after this new thing blazes by there's a big need for those things, like there's there's so many different types of needs. And sometimes I know I get stuck in thinking about all the value is really here on this grid, when in reality, there's it's all over the place, and it takes that reflection, to consider where you want to be on that. But um, anyway, I think these are fascinating ideas. And as we're, as we're wrapping up, there's one principle we haven't talked about that I'm wondering if any other ideas come to your mind how people could apply this to their careers, which is what we talked about last time ruthless prioritization. Right? So what if we have a listener who's who's listening to this and thinks, Well, yeah, I'm interested in instructional design, or I'm doing it right now. Or product management, or maybe you x or there's, there's so much in the world to be interested in, you can take a Coursera course unlike anything, right? There's so much what, what do I want to be when I grow up? Right? What am I going to do? What's the right job for me? What's my passion? You know, all of that kind of stuff? Do you have any suggestions or insights on how could we use some of the product management perspective of prioritization, to help sort of sift all of these options that any one of us could have for careers just because there's so many directions you could go? How do you how do you go, and how do you start?

Ash Roberts:

So this might be a roundabout way of answering that question. There is a book that I've loved called linchpin by Seth Godin. And I've actually, while you were talking, I've pulled up the quote that I love, and hopefully it's okay to read this, Greg. But yeah, no, I'll just read this. It's, it's wonderful. And then I'll bring it back to the question you answered. The job is what you do when you are told what to do. The job is showing up at the factory, following instructions, meeting spec and being managed. Someone can always do your job a little better or faster or cheaper than you can. The job might be difficult. It might require a skill, but it's a job. Your art is what you do when no one can tell you exactly how To do it, your art is the act of taking personal responsibility, challenging the status quo, and changing people. I call the process of doing your art, the work, it's possible to have a job and do the work to. In fact, that's how you become a lynchpin. The job is not the work. And I've, I've always loved that, since I read this book. And so kind of bringing it back to your, your question about ruthless prioritization is, I would say, prioritize learning the skills. But right behind that is prioritize your art, or what you will do, when no one can tell you exactly how to do it. There's a lot of people in the world right now that are working. And they are doing exactly what other people are telling them to do. But the world needs people who can do stuff when no one's telling them what to do, and how exactly how to do it.

Aaron Airmet:

I love I love what you're saying here, Ash. And if anybody needs an example of of that, I would recommend go and watch the first season of Ted lasso on Apple TV. Plus, if you can take the language, I would highly recommend that because that is a great example, over the course of a season of how somebody can become a linchpin and actually do artistic work in that sense. And along the lines of ruthless prioritization, I'm reminded of a story I once read, I think it was a maybe a Forbes article or a Business Insider article, one of those. But they recounted this, this story between Warren Buffett and one of his pilots, where his pilot asked Warren for for some life advice. And Warren said, Okay, well write down your 30 year, the 30 goals that you want to accomplish, right? And so the pilot goes and writes this list of, you know, 20 or 30 things. And then Warren says, Okay, you go circle, the top three things. And the pilot says, Okay, great. So then he circles, these three things that are, these are the most important, biggest goals that he has right now. And Warren says, Okay, you need to focus on those three things. That's all you need to focus on. And the Bible says, Okay, I can do that. And these other, you know, 27, things, I'll probably just kind of do in my spare time, or just kind of in between. And Warren said, No, those 27 things are the things that you must avoid at all costs. You cannot put any energy, any thought any time into those 27 things. Because those are now distractions to the top three things, right. And this is hard, it's hard for individuals, it's hard for organizations, especially big organizations that have a lot of resources, it is hard to boil everything down into what is the single most important next thing, it's hard to do that, right. So if anybody's struggling with that, if you think well, there's all these careers out there, that's, that's awesome. Write them all down, circle three that you think are the most fantastic. And then go talk to five people who are doing each of those three things. And let's see if those, let's see if that's actually the career for you. And once you find that, it's not scratch it off. And once you find that it is then dedicate all of your energy to the next step on that thing, right? You just have to learn to cut back all of the rest and focus on what is the single most important next step.

Greg Williams:

This has been fantastic. And I'm excited as I go through and re listen to this to make sure I capture all the resources that we've been talking through. Because there's a lot which is great. And I'll put those in the show notes. But is there anything else that I haven't asked you either review about someone listening who's trying to think about their career development and kind of what, what's next for them, or even if it's more of a long term plan, anything else that you would recommend for them? When it comes to utilizing some of the product management mindsets and frameworks that we've been talking about? You would recommend?

Aaron Airmet:

Yeah, I would say, I'm so big on curiosity and self driven learning, so many people that are in product management are there because they essentially taught themselves, right from a lot of different angles. And so never stop learning, just continuously asking questions and learning new things. And I can't even I've lost count of how many books we've recommended in the last, you know, 45 minutes or so. But always go learn, always ask questions and experiment and, and you it's weird. You have to care enough about something that you're going to experiment and do stuff with. But you also have to not care so that you can cut it and move on to the next thing. It's so it's it's kind of a weird dichotomy that you that you have to balance but always learn, always ask questions. Go be curious.

Ash Roberts:

Yeah, maybe just not to bring in another resource. But I read a book a long time ago, and I've actually read it three times since then. kind of a different book, it's called The Way of the Peaceful Warrior. And in the book, there is this one quote that I really love. And it's this, this older gentleman that this college student calls him, Socrates. And Socrates says to him, Dan, there is never nothing going on. And I've always loved that. There's always something happening, there's always something going on. And if you are observant, and, and, and careful with how you look at the world, you'll always see that there's something going on something to be done a problem to be solved. And, and just that, that skill of observing the world, realizing that there is never nothing going on is a really helpful skill to have.

Greg Williams:

I love it. I appreciate both of you taking some time to share your perspective from what you're learning what you're reflecting on both as you host the podcast path into product and, of course in your own development and career growth. So again, thank you, Aaron, and ash for being on the show. I've really enjoyed this.

Ash Roberts:

This has been so fun. Thanks, Craig.

Aaron Airmet:

Thanks. It's been a blast.

Greg Williams:

For links and resources discussed in this conversation, check out the show notes listed in the description in your podcast player. You can support this one man show by going to patreon.com/lx leader, your contributions help cover ad free podcast hosting, and transcription. The best way to support the show is to tell another learning leader or designer about it. If you heard something today that stirred your curiosity or was valuable to you. I hope you'll share it with a friend. And last of all, never stop learning