Introvert in Product (Talk Summary)
A couple months back, Product School reached out and asked if I was interested in giving a sharing talk of any topic of my choice, as a guest speaker. I took it up. After some brainstorming I decided to talk about something quite unique - "Introvert in Product". I wasn't sure how many would be interested, and how much this would resonate with or help people. Gladly as it turns out, it attracted good number of audiences on the live webcast event, and it did resonate well with quite a few of them, as they reached out afterward to express how much it inspired them. So in this post, I'm going to write a summary of the key points I attempted to drive across, and hope that it'll reach more people who might benefit from it.
Here's my through line from my "Introvert in Product" talk:
You can be successful in your own way, regardless of your personality and background. (introvert in product or not!)
Be self aware
Harness your superpower
And let me break them down for you.
Be Self Aware
In the presentation, I shared my childhood story that I was very different from my 2-year-older sister who was always a rock star, and how much I struggled by not really knowing who I really was. Compare that to where I am, I vividly see how important self awareness is, for our self betterment and for our happiness.
Self awareness is about knowing and describing who you really are, your personality, what you like and dislike, what you're good at and not so good at. It's a very important foundation on which you build your improvements, success, and a happier life, because without knowing these, it's like fumbling in the dark and leave your fate completely by chance. You don't know why you succeed or fail, how you get better, or where to put your energy and investment.
My tips to get better at self awareness:
Compare Less: Compare less with others. Because when you do, you focus much more on other people's quality, and much less on your own quality.
Reflect More: Self reflection is a powerful tool, similar to looking into the mirror for how you look. Make it a habit to reflect at the end of your day, week, month, and year. What you're thankful for, what you did well and not so well, what can you do to be better.
Get Feedback: Similar to reflection, you look into the mirror through the lens of others. There are things about you other people see more clearly than yourself. Welcome feedback people want to give to you, and proactively seek feedback as well. Be open minded, be ready to learn and grow, be reflective. Don't seek validation, don't get defensive. Generate insights from all the feedback from different people.
My story continued from childhood into youth school life, when I started knowing myself better and doing better overall academically and with friends. I went to one of the best high schools in Taiwan with all male students. Lots of my peers were outstanding, in a very different way from who I was. I found myself wanting to be like them, but it was challenging no matter how hard I tried. I still wasn't very happy even though I was actually doing fine.
Indeed, trying to be someone else who's fundamentally different from your true self is hard, and often makes you unhappy. Very successful people have the confidence to be themselves, and continue to improve themselves in their own ways, unique to their personality. There isn't a single path toward success, and there isn't a single profile of a successful person. There are many, many, many. So why don't you be yourself more and be proud?
My tips to be yourself more:
Reflect on a unanticipated success: Times when people didn't expect you to win or succeed, but you did anyway just be who you were. This boosts your confidence that you'll be fine being yourself.
Look broader for role models: Look up to successful people (in your own definition) who resemble your personality and background more. Role models don't have to be famous or iconic. Most importantly they have to help you be better versions of yourself.
Be unapologetic about your values: even when they're different from others. If you firmly believe in something, or you fundamentally like or dislike something, stay with it, whether people agree or disagree. Because most likely there's nothing right or wrong, they're just you.
Harness Your Superpower
I went to college in Taiwan and came to the US for graduate school, both in Computer Science. My career began with being a software engineer, and I worked my way into product management, the role I learned about much earlier and made my mind to be in. It has been both a bumpy and rewarding ride, as I failed learned and grew, failed learned and grew, and repeat. What carried me through all the obstacles and challenges, besides passion and hard works, is to leverage my unique strength. Or my superpower if you will.
Finding your superpower and doubling down, I believe is a secret sauce to developing your own unique brand and be on your successful journey more effortlessly. It's not that you don't invest in your weaknesses. You should. But invest relatively more in building around your strengths is where the higher ROI is, as it helps you standout in your own way.
How to find and harness your strengths more? Here's my tips:
1. List your strengths: and your weakness built on yourself awareness, to develop a complete profile of yourself, and see what you're relatively better at.
2. Think about your passion: what do you enjoy doing, what makes you tick, what excites you even if it gets tough.
3. Overlay strengths + passions: and identify your superpower at the intersection of what you are good at, and what you love. That's often what you're able to do more effortlessly than anyone else, hence your superpower.
4. Write them down: nothing is tangible enough until you write it down. So do that, look at it often, especially when going gets tough. Weave that into your next self introduction story, work your way out of challenges with it, and start defining your own personal vision and strategy in building the brand and success around it.
You can watch the full "introvert in product" talk here. I look forward to hearing your unique stories! (again, introvert in product or not!)
(You may find more product management posts by me here)