Getting started in product management can be challenging. Fortunately, in this episode of Product Chats, Erin Gray, Director of Product at Doximity, shares her advice on how new product managers can ensure they succeed. We cover everything from getting into product, managing a team, collaborating with other teams, and overcoming imposter syndrome.
Time Stamped Show Notes
Succeeding as a new product leader [02:21]
Getting product experience without the title [03:08]
Leveraging mentorship to develop your product career [04:54]
Managing a product team [06:07]
Being an effective manager [08:07]
Different roles you need to fill as a manager [12:34]
Working collaboratively with other teams [13:56]
Overcoming imposter syndrome [16:00]
Becoming a better product leader [18:46]
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Kayla: Thanks for tuning into Product Chats. On today's episode, I talk with Erin Gray, who is the Director of Product at Doximity and we talk about being a new product leader, also balancing being a product leader that you wanna be and a product leader that your team needs and also imposter syndrome. So hope you enjoy the show and don't forget to leave us a review.
Kayla: Hey Erin. Thanks so much for coming on.
Kayla: So in a minute or less, can you tell us about yourself?
Erin: Definitely. So, again, I am Erin. I currently work at a company called Doximity as a Director of Product, little bit on Doximity first is we are the largest community of healthcare professionals in the United States. Really focus on helping physicians be more productive and provide better care for their patients. So I've actually been at Doximity for the last seven years and have really grown with that organization from a client success manager now into a director product role. So it's been quite many years of ups and downs, but it's been an amazing time.
Kayla: And so let's actually dive in a little bit more about the transition of roles and kind of the skillset that you've had. I'm sure there's like this consistent skillset and how that's really translated into being a strong product leader.
Erin: Definitely. So to start, I mean, I joined Doximity due to my passion in healthcare. My education is actually more in biology and then fell in love with product design at D school at Stanford.
Erin: And I think it really comes down to it is a passion for users and a passion for diving deep into problems. And that's what brought me to Doximity first is being passionate about that problem space. Again, joining initially as a client success manager, which when it comes down to it, that's like fundamentals of understanding your user of really, how do you serve your clients at that case?
Erin: So I think that skillset has really served me as I've transitioned throughout my career. Now, more focused in trying to lead a team.
Kayla: And something you mentioned is that you've been passionate about healthcare. And so I think that's especially interesting is you've been working in a field and then you kind of just like fell into this role because you're passionate about healthcare and then it was, oh, okay. I'm actually also passionate about product.
Erin: Yeah, definitely. I mean, I think one passion leads to another, I guess you could say. And so, it's been a good ride.
Kayla: And so I know you've been with them for seven years and you're a relatively new product leader. So let's talk a little bit about that.
Erin: Yeah, definitely. So, as you mentioned, I am a relatively new product leader. I've been a manager for the last two years or so, but more recently in the last year I moved into a director role and without a doubt this past year and a half has been the most expedited learning that I think I've ever had and really comes down to that is being a good manager and leading a team requires first a ton of introspection of really identifying things for myself within my own skillset of where am I lacking? Where do I need to continue to grow? And how can I best serve? Not only the team that I work with, the people who I manage, but when it comes down to it, our users, as we think about building a successful and awesome product.
Kayla: And something also, I think is that you kind of, what we talked about before on our like pre-interview call is being in the role without having the title. So let's talk a little bit more about that.
Erin: Yeah, definitely. So a main thing, particularly someone being relatively early in my career is I really focus on optimizing for learning. And I think I've always tried to step into roles or say yes to things that would optimize for that learning, whether it's taking on a newer team or taking on a side project.
Erin: And I think for a while, I kind of stepped into a more manager role. Just because I continued to say yes to things and was looking for growth. And I think the title followed but first I have to prove my skill set out first. And I think that really comes down to, I think one piece of advice I had to give my previous self is focus on developing those skills, focus on establishing depth, focus on establishing iterations and the title will come. I'm not saying don't advocate for yourself. But focusing on those skills is going to serve you far longer than a title.
Kayla: What was that point you hit where you thought I'm actually like ready to take on this title or ask for that promotion? Like what did that look like?
Erin: Yeah, I mean, I think it was really natural. And I think that's where I kind of go back to the point of just continuing to look for opportunities to grow and focus on that growth mentality is that if you continue to do that the title and the opportunity will actually become natural.
Erin: Yes, you'll need to ask for it. Sometimes you'll need to push for it, but the pieces will start to fall into place. And I think they definitely did in my case as well, which I think I owe it to people who have really invested in me at Doximity who have helped me kind of grow into that position.
Kayla: And have you looked for mentorship or how have you kind of created those relationships to make sure that you have like those cheerleaders making sure that you get into the role that you wanna get into?
Erin: Definitely. I mean, I think I've had awesome mentors and advocates during my time at Doximity even back to when I was the client success manager and was looking to move into product, is my manager, as well as the product manager I was working for at the time really allowed me to get my hands dirty in things is that were out of scope of my role.
Erin: And I think I've experienced similar things as I've progressed in my career at Doximity as well as starting to look for mentorship outside of Doximity as well given majority of my career has been spent working with individuals at Doximity. Looking outside for mentorship and guidance and exposure to other thought processes particularly in my growth of the last several years.
Kayla: I think a really great point you bring up right, is the ability to just kind of say yes to things and just, kind of fall into a role more than saying, okay, I've done these exact things in my role, and now I should be X it's, no, look at these other things I did to challenge myself to go out of my comfort zone. And now I'm really ready for that next step.
Erin: Yeah, definitely.
Kayla: And so let's kind of transition to talking about managing a team. So do you wanna talk a little bit about that?
Erin: Yes. So I think I'm sure almost everyone who you speak with probably says something quite similar around management is it is not a skill that anyone teaches you, but it is without a doubt, a muscle that you have to build, grow and continue to nourish. And so for me, transitioning to management without a doubt has been a learning curve. And I think I am still learning in a lot of different ways, what it means to be a good manager. I think when it comes down to it it's really about listening for one. And it's about being the manager that the people you work with need I've had several managers through my career.
Erin: And at first I thought I wanted to be the manager that I wanted, the one that would best serve me. And I wish I had maybe several years back, but it's really not that. It's about listening, and adapting to what the folks on your team need so that your time is not only best leveraged, but their time is best leveraged to better serve their teams and the overarching product.
Kayla: Yeah, we'll go back to kind of the adapting and managing to what your team needs. And I think you bring up a great point about listening and that's something that comes up as that parallel, right, of how being a leader and listening is very similar to building a product, because you always have to listen to your customer and what your customer wants and where they wanna get to and it's so similar to leading a team and making sure that your team members have exactly what they need to feel supported and any challenges they're running into, how can you solve those for them?
Kayla: I know, like you're a newer product manager and you probably manage people of like all different ages and different backgrounds and there's people who may have more experience than you. So how do you kind of balance that?
Erin: Yeah. I think when I first moved into management, without a doubt, that was an area that I was very concerned about. And as I mentioned before, moving into management has been a major moment of introspection for me. Cause I think it's forced me to identify the areas that I'm very strong at. And that I can provide value on to the folks that I work with and manage, but it's also forced me to identify the areas where I'm not as strong yet. And I think that's okay. I think there's this idea of fake it to you make it, but I don't think that works for being a good manager. Being a good manager is about recognizing what you do well and what you can support your team members on and what you can't support them on. And how do you identify ways for them to find that support either elsewhere in organization or on their own developing that skill set. And it's really about kind of having that open conversation with those individuals as well.
Kayla: So would you say like around the piece of being the manager you wanna be and balancing the manager that they need, is it like, I know there's a piece of listening, right? What do you need, but how do you also make sure is it, Hey, let's find these resources for you on what you need. If I can't help you, what does that look like?
Erin: Yeah. I mean, definitely a balance within those it's hey, this person would like to increase their acumen around data and they can connect with people within our own data team to better understand that. Or it's connecting them with courses or conferences that can help them flex that skillset as well. So again, I think it comes down to really giving people the time and the space to have those conversations. I think being a good manager is really about being a coach and to adequately coach, you need to have that face time.
Erin: And I think that's one way that I think I show kind of support for my team is giving them that time and the space. We have weekly one on ones and I, for at least, for me, that's really sacred time that we really should be working together about how we can both become better contributors to our team and our organization.
Kayla: I think around that there's two really important pieces. One piece is you listening and you making sure that you give them the resources that they need. But I think also if there's like any aspiring product managers or anyone who kind of wants to grow in product is the ability to really advocate for yourself. And I think that's something, Erin, that you kind of, you didn't mention it, but something that I've noticed is you've really advocated for yourself. And that's why you've gotten to where you wanna get to, and so I think it's that like beautiful combination of making sure that someone is advocating for themself and also creating that safe space to like, listen and say, hey, what do you need? And so that combo, I think, creates like the best working relationships.
Erin: Yeah, definitely. And I'm gonna go on a bit of tangent here, FYI, but maybe this'll end up fitting and I'm not sure, is that, I think one thing that I struggled with kind of earlier on my career as a product manager is feeling like I needed to constantly prove myself and proving myself equal. Doing stuff perhaps out of my scope, spending extra time, writing a complex SQL query where maybe I wasn't the right person to do that. And I think as I've shifted into being a manager, I think I've learned that really does no one a good service. Yes, it shows that you can execute, but as you think about moving into management, it's yes, to some extent about execution, but it's about leveraging the people that you work with to execute at their highest ability. And recognizing that I can no longer execute on everything on my own and that I really need to start trusting the individuals that I work with that are awesome to continue doing that awesome work and being the best person I can do to support them in doing that.
Kayla: And I think that's why we hire also people who are smarter than us, right? Maybe writing an SQL query is not your strength. And so maybe you, that's a part of something you're building in your product. Maybe you say, okay, I need a product manager that can do this really well. Obviously has other skill sets. Right, but I need people to fill these gaps or I need to reach out. And I think this is very similar though to building out a product and when product leaders are like, Hey, let's not always look at building out the product. Maybe we should look at partnerships. Right. And so there's this parallel.
Erin: Oh, definitely
Kayla: Being resourceful in your team as a leader. And then also being resourceful in partnerships and who's in your ecosystem.
Erin: Oh yeah, definitely. It's building a team in a lot of ways is like building a product and takes a lot of pieces to make it work.
Kayla: So speaking of pieces, I kind of wanna talk about the different roles that you kind of have to fit into as a leader, right? Sometimes you're having to be that ICP or that individual contributor, sometimes you're having to talk to different teams and different audiences. Sometimes you're talking to the CEO, like how do you balance those different pieces of your role and make sure that you're like talking to the right audience or that you're making sure that you are building those relationships right.
Erin: For sure. I mean, I think being able to zoom in and out is a skillset that any person working within product needs to have as you zoom in from talking with an engineer to talking to a designer, to talking to your user, to talking to sales. But I think as a growing product leader, that without a doubt is even more important. And the differences between those starts to become much larger. And, I think for me it's really learning how to adapt and making sure that I'm being cognizant of who I'm speaking with and the audience and what is motivating them. So whether it's working with engineering team as an ICPM or as talking with our leadership team or our sales leadership team, it's what is motivating them? What are they bringing to the table? And what do I have to bring to the table to meet them where they are.
Kayla: Yeah. And how do you work with these different teams? Like you mentioned sales, you mentioned engineering, right? There's also the C-suite. There's these different kind of audiences, but I think a lot of times it's like when you're trying to listen to your customers, how are you interfacing with them and making sure you're listening to what your customers want?
Erin: Yeah. So for example, when we are working with our sales partners, it is kinda one, making sure that we share a common, I guess motivation for our goal. And for us at Doximity it's really thinking about how we make the lives of physicians easier and make them more productive. And without a doubt, we share that same motivation with our sales partners. So it allows us to come in with a common language to align on. Of course we don't always align. It would be amazing if that always worked out, but because we share that common goal and motivation it helps us bring things back together.
Kayla: Yeah. And I think building, like having those relationships is so important as a product leader, even like a product manager maybe having an explanation of, Hey, these are the focuses of this quarter, or this is why we're working on these other things, and these are the ways they align with our strategic goals.
Erin: Yeah. And I think my time as a client success manager, I've a hundred percent been in those shoes where I'm like, No, the people I'm working with, my clients need this. Why aren't you building this? I need this yesterday. And I now think being very much so on the other side of things, it's allowed me to have kind of that dual perspective. Any one thing that's continuously worked for me and for us is kind of looping them in to how we build products. So it might be saying, Hey, yes, I hear your idea here. I hear that your client needs this. However, this is what we've committed to building and how does what you're asking for align with those? We could pull something out, but we've already agreed on this. So I think kind of letting people see how the sausage is made is really helpful. And something that I continue to try to kind of open that window when it's needed to kind of help align.
Kayla: So one thing I wanna transition to is imposter syndrome.
Erin: Yeah, so I mean, I think. Almost everyone. I don't wanna say everyone probably experiences imposter syndrome to some extent as they move their through their career or even in situations outside their career. But I think particularly a person without a technical background, a woman in technology, a newer product leader and a newer product, newer manager is I definitely experience imposter syndrome.
Erin: I think things have gotten much easier as I started to come to accept and recognize the areas that I excel in, but it is something that we have to deal with. And I think it's something that one thing that I found to be quite helpful is, honestly, just having some people I can vent to about it. Being able to share that it kind of makes it feel a bit more kind of real, released and let go. But without a doubt, it's something that, that I'm cognizant of and something that I actually think a lot about as being now a manager and being more encouraging. And the reason I say that is like going back to kind of the coach comparison is that sometimes we're not great about giving one thanks or encouragement to the people that we work with or do great work, and a moment of realness is I think I have high expectations of myself and I have high expectations of the people that I work with. And it's your job to do a great job.
Erin: But I am starting to recognize that it's just as important and it's human nature to need that encouragement. It's human nature to feel like you're doing a good job. And I think hopefully I can do my small role in hopefully helping people not feel imposter syndrome by doing those types of things.
Kayla: And I think you bring up a great point. A lot of people I've talked to on the podcast is about like celebrating wins. And I think something that's really important also is to understanding your people, supporting your people, your team members. So really understanding your team and then by understanding that you can say, okay, maybe this person wants like a shout out, or maybe this person just wants me to like Slack them. Right. Like understanding how they feel appreciated. And then you can use that and lean into that.
Erin: Oh, definitely. And this is something that one of my colleagues advised I do as we had some new people joining the team and it seems so obvious looking back, and I don't know why I hadn't done it before is just ask, like, when someone new joins your team, ask them how they wanna be recognized.
Erin: Share how you wanna be recognized, and opening yourself up, creates space with them to open up. Yeah, and again, it seemed going back to the listening piece is it can really help set that framework and groundwork for a really strong working relationship moving forward. So yeah, I think something that seems so small, but just asking these questions can really open up a strong relationship.
Kayla: I wanna know what is one piece of advice you would give to an aspiring product leader?
Erin: Definitely. And if it's all right, I might go back to something I already had said.
Erin: But it's, without a doubt is really focusing on honing and building and expanding your skillset as a product manager, as a teammate, as a collaborator and communicator. I do really think that this depth of skill that is going to serve you not only currently in your career, but as you move forward, regardless of your title and regardless of where you move within your career. So focus on that more so than anything, and that will not only help you become a better product manager, but a better teammate and a better leader.
Kayla: And on the subject of product managers, what roles are you hiring for?
Erin: Definitely. So we are hiring for a couple product manager roles, so definitely check out our job posting, but we're also hiring across the board both engineering and data roles as well. So definitely check it out.
Kayla: Great. And where can people find you?
Erin: The best place is probably gonna be LinkedIn. So give me a search, hit me up. Happy to chat.
Kayla: Awesome. Well, thanks for coming on today.
Kayla: Thanks again to Erin for joining us on today's episode of Product Chats for more product management resources head to Canny.io/blog and we'll see you next time.