Our mission at Colorado Product Foundation is to establish Colorado as the epicenter of exceptional product management practice and thought leadership. Our mentorship program supports that mission by connecting people together to foster development and growth by leveraging one another’s skills, connections, and experience.
We started the program in 2017 as an experiment based on requests from several constituents. The results were overwhelmingly positive and have led us to run the program annually. We support upwards of 50 pairings of mentors and mentees in an annual cohort to learn and grow together. We’ve found that both the mentors and mentees have learned and grown through the experience and the program has helped further connect the community.
Colorado Product will recruit participants starting in the fall who will provide an explanation of why they want to participate, a brief summary (or link to LinkedIn) about their background, and if they desire to be a mentor or mentee. The recruiting takes place through our Slack Channel, Meetup email list, and word of mouth.
Colorado Product hosts a speed dating night where mentors and mentees meet and decide if they want to team up. If they are paired, the mentor/mentee team will then determine how/when they communicate and what they want to focus on together.
In addition to making introductions, individuals in the program are given problems to work through, prompts, and social events to encourage continued growth and engagement. The cohort ends up supporting each other as well as sharing their learnings and encouragement with the wider Colorado Product community; this builds a culture of service in the foundation of Colorado Product through encouraging a commitment to personal growth and peer support.
- Commitment to learning and growing as a Product professional
- Once in the program continued communication and engagement with your Match
- Will make a small time investment to be successful
- Establish and respect time limits and boundaries
As the program has developed and we head towards our next year, several questions continue to come up. We’ve documented those here.
Q: What should I expect?
A: After speed dating, you are paired with a Mentor/ee, and it is up to the two of you how you want to meet. Once you have had a meeting or two (coffee, phone, etc.) you’ll know if there is chemistry and what/how you want to focus. It is really up to you what you get out of the program based on how much effort you want to contribute. Some Mentees have one or two meetings with their Mentor to get specific questions addressed and then they move on. Their goals were met. Some Mentees and Mentors go on to be longer-term professional colleagues. It is really up to the team.
Q: Should I expect to get job connections out of the Mentor/EE relationship?
A: Industry connections are often a natural manifestation, but if that is your only expectation for the program then you will be disappointed and the program is likely not right for you.
Q: What is Speed Dating?
A: Speed Dating is a way for a lot of Mentors/EEs to meet each other quickly. It’s popular with tech accelerators and is where the idea comes from. Mentors will be at a table and the Mentees get 3 minutes with each Mentor to see if there is any connection. Normally, during that time the Mentor/EE will share their name, where they work, where they are from and their goal for the program. The “bell will ring” every 3 minutes and the Mentee will rotate in one direction of the other to the next Mentor. It’s the most effective way we’ve found to connect a lot of people fast. Bring business cards with your picture so you can leave them behind and collect them you will meet a lot of people.
Q: How much time should I expect to contribute?
A: Most teams meet once a month for 1 hour, Speed Dating happens in January and is about 2-4 hours long, and we have a quarterly happy hour or round table that is about 2 hours.
Q: How should the team meet (Mentor/ee)?
A: It’s really up to the team to decide what is best. Some of the teams have met via Hangout, other conference tool or phone, and some prefer to meet in person while others utilize some combination of the two.
Q: How involved will Colorado Product be after Speed Dating?
A: Once you are paired with a Mentor/ee, Colorado Product will check in a few times a year and it is really up to the team to decide what they hope to achieve. The Round Tables and Happy Hours are a place to “formally” plugin. Colorado Product’s goal is to connect people to help them grow and beyond that, it’s largely up to the Mentor/EE to drive the outcomes they desire.
Q: What if the connection lacks chemistry or I just don’t like the person I am paired with?
A: Let Colorado Product know and we will make every effort to find a new pair for you (assuming there are available people).
Q: My Mentor or Mentee and I have stopped communicating what should I do?
A: It is really up to the team to manage any communications if you are the Mentor or the Mentee and you have not talked in a while – reach out. Most often the Mentee will need to be the driver of the communications and meetings and should take the lead in reaching out if things have stalled. Most successful teams agree to a communication schedule at the beginning of the program – Monthly, Weekly etc. We’ve heard from several Mentees who think they are bothering the Mentor if they reach out to much. The Mentor has agreed to participate and will let you know if you are asking for too much time.
Resources for Effective Mentorship
I joined the Mentorship Program as a mentee and had such a great experience I became a Mentor. The relationship quality I’ve been able to develop with both mentor/ee’s has helped me broaden my career perspective.
I’ve been a mentor in the program since the first year and the value for me has been great. To see the growth and successes of the people I’ve worked with has been amazing, and I have learned a lot in the process. Colorado Product has, and continues to be, a healthy home for me as a product manager.