Guest

53

“Management is like a well that you need to replenish. And a lot of times, managers are a lot more focused on what they are giving. The well will only get replenished when you do have that time to focus and reflect.”

In this episode

In episode #53, Hareem Mannan shares how to build a portfolio of influence that can impact an entire organization and how to pay attention to potential rather than requirements.

Hareem is the Director of Product Design and Group Product Manager at Segment.

In this episode, Hareem shares her journey from being an individual contributor to becoming a manager and how that process was not a career upgrade, but instead a whole new role! 

You will also hear Hareem’s insights on how she embraces experimentation as a manager and switching her hiring approach led her to experience a game-changing unblocker!

Tune in to hear all about Hareem’s leadership journey and the lessons learned along the way!


Like this episode? Be sure to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review and share the podcast with your colleagues.


04:21

Matching strengths to opportunity

07:13

Allergic to micromanaging

10:07

Every direct report is different

13:10

Building your portfolio of influence

17:00

Not a career upgrade

20:00

Maslow’s hierarchy for managers

26:34

People before product and process

32:38

Pairing iteration with process

37:34

Managers supporting managers


Resources


Transcript

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  01:04

Hareem, welcome to the show!

Hareem Mannan (Segment)  02:24

Hey, super excited to be here. 

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  02:26

You know, Hareem, there’s a lot that we’re going to talk about today, you’ve had an impressive career at segments where you’ve led the product design team as a senior manager, and now you’re the Director of Product Design, and group Product Manager. So before we dive in and start to ask you a little bit about your experiences, I wanted to just kick things off and ask you who has been your favorite manager in your career? so far?

Hareem Mannan (Segment)  02:53

That is a really good question. And one that I think a lot about mostly because I feel like there is this really famous management trope that is like when you as a manager have had bad managers that makes you like a better manager is like a really common thing that you hear. And I just, I think about that a lot. Because I got really lucky in my career, I’ve had just like a stream of very good managers, I think throughout my career, and I don’t know what that says about me as a manager per se. But one one that stands out is probably my last manager who’s the chief product officer at segment. And he had actually a lot of very similar qualities, my other favorite managers, my first manager, and that they were really able to see something in me that I could not see in myself. And my friend Kevin has this really interesting article about this in particular around just like the superpower of being able to see the future versions of people. And what that allows you to unlock as a manager. And I would say like, he’s probably my favorite manager for that specific reason that he’s really able to index on that skill set to help grow people and like, it’s just, it’s such a fun thing to be able to see him do that and other people as well. And to try to do that myself too. So that’s probably that one.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  04:06

Yeah, that’s super interesting. And I love that phrasing the they have this unique ability to see future iterations or future versions of themselves. How do they do that? I mean, that sounds like a skill I would like to acquire.

Hareem Mannan (Segment)  04:21

So what I actually think comes down to really paying attention to somebody’s strengths in particular and being like, and trying to map that to like a business opportunity. And really just closely mapping the two as much as possible where if you know, somebody is just like really good at vision, and there is this gap in an organization around that area, regardless of leveling, almost like ignoring that piece of it and really pairing a person with an opportunity and not really paying too much attention to like, necessarily the formality of it all, I think actually helps a lot quite a bit and really helps people stretch into certain opportunities as well, which I think He was exceptionally good at.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  05:01

Interesting. So it’s almost like an opportunity to match versus experience. Opportunity match.

Hareem Mannan (Segment)  05:09

Yeah, yeah. And I actually like it, I think that’s a really great articulation of it. And I think that’s really where he shines in particular. You’ll see like, a lot of the people in his team and the people who he’s like promoted on paper don’t have the type of experience, you would expect somebody a different board to have around that, but are just performing exceptionally well. So kind of like the act of taking bets on people, versus looking at a hard resume. And I think like, for me, as somebody who’s like learning from him with what that’s done is just like, even in hiring and growing, my team is paying a lot more attention to the potential of people. And even just a hard list of requirements that I think we’re used to thinking about, like checking off before you prepare someone for an opportunity has been really enlightening.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  05:59

We were just chatting right before this. And one of the questions that we often like to ask is, you know, when you started your management career, you know, when was it and what were some of the early mistakes or learnings that you had from the experience?

Hareem Mannan (Segment)  06:17

Yeah, I started about two years ago. So still very new in my management journey overall. I would say, one of the big things when I first became a manager was it was what you call a battlefield promotion. That wasn’t one of those things that happened, because they were like, oh, like absolutely amazing was, a lot of times I think things that we don’t really talk about are often management opportunities are born out of necessity, someone leaves, there’s a gap, like someone has to step in and fill it. And that was really like the position I found myself in about two years ago at a segment. And I think I was like, Okay, how do I prepare for this. So I just started reading everything I could get my hands on. And that was management related to the media of articles and books, and anything that anyone would set my way. And I would talk to all my friends about things like, what makes a really good manager and I just kept seeing all of this stuff around, like Don’t be a micromanager and just like leave people alone kind of thing. And so when I made my first hire, I was so allergic to the idea of micromanaging that she was a more junior designer, I almost feel like I under-managed in some ways where it was just this fear of being too in her face when like, people just need different touches. And I think that wasn’t something that I recognized at the time. I was managing two people when it was a little bit more senior designer, and one was a more junior designer. And I was really just like handling them the same way. I was like, do your own thing. I’m here if you need me, and we’ll check in every week, I’m here to support you. But that’s not what everyone needs. And I think the mistake that I made early on was one like being so afraid of micromanaging that I let it really deter me from being involved the way I should have been for especially a junior candidate or like a new person joining their first company. And then also just like getting a little too caught up in doing the same. Like, if I do this for this person, this is how it should be for the other person. And that’s not necessarily how good management works. I think at the end of the day, you’re dealing with people, right? We’re deeply complex and have different needs from you. And I think that was something that I kind of had to learn the hard way where I was, like, I had this just realization, when they were she just like admitted to me that she was having a hard time. And I was like I have really been trained to treat people the exact same way to be equitable, but almost at the cost of someone’s growth. And just like true inclusivity in an organization, like they don’t need the same things for me, they need different things. And that’s okay,

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  08:47

That’s super interesting. And, you know, I’ve heard that a lot as well, and, and maybe in different ways, shapes or forms. Just this notion of, you know, I mean, you talked about it in terms of, you know, trying not to micromanage other people, I’ve heard, say different versions of this, which was almost like, give the power away is like, Hey, I’m a manager, but trust me, nothing has changed. You know, I may go to a few more meetings than you but largely everything is is the same what you’re saying about actually individualizing the approach, I think is very correct. So how did you figure out that you needed to change things?

Hareem Mannan (Segment)  09:26

My trajectory is a little interesting, like I’ve had a lot of different stepping stones in terms of man fit, so it was like starting there. Then I hit this other role where I was managing our whole team and stepped into a management role where I was managing people who were my peers yesterday and now I’m our manager the next day and and that was really like the point where I started to realize like there’s you know, varying levels of people who this is their first job to this is their fifth and then there are people who like they I was the one who hired them to I was appeared to them yesterday and and now I’m not There’s just no way that you can treat each person the same way when you start to think about what each person needs. And I think when you switch the lens to be from their perspective, instead of yours, like, what am I giving versus what do they need? I think that framing is actually wildly helpful when it comes to thinking about how each person prefers to be managed. Like right now with all my direct reports, like each of them, each one on one is completely different. Some people come with like a doc and like a list of questions and like, the way that they want to, you know, structure that conversation, some of them prefer it to be a really casual check in some of them, like they expect me to bring things sometimes I expect them to bring things and I think just like letting it really just be a space for them to access, like what they need, instead of me focusing on like, here, I’m giving you all with the same piece of this pie, even though some people are not hungry, or some people don’t like pie. And I think there’s just like a framing there. That’s really important, too.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  10:57

Yeah. And I really like the phrase that you use, which is just to, you know, try and see it from their lens, as opposed to from yours. And like figuring out how you can help each person? Yeah, depending on what it is that they require to be most effective. Totally agree. So there’s this other concept that we’ve also talked about, or you’ve also talked about in the past in your writing, which is that management is not a career upgrade. Do you still believe that?

Hareem Mannan (Segment)  11:29

Yeah, I don’t know, if our industry is entirely caught up to that in tech, for what it’s worth, like, I still think there’s a lot of work to do, to really solidify a compelling, icy leadership path, in general. But when I first became manager, that was one of the first things my manager told me, which was to not see this as a career upgrade, and instead see it as just like an entirely new role that I would be taking on with a whole new set of responsibilities. And I think what that allowed me to do honestly, is be able to really separate out the responsibility of it from like, all the privilege that comes with it, like when you really approach it as, as a brand new role as opposed to a graduation into something new, you’re not chasing it for the wrong reasons anymore, it really becomes a lot more about like, burning a whole new set of responsibilities than it does about like exercising power, or influence or authority, which is a very real symptom a lot of managers face,

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  12:31

I definitely would agree. And I like that, once you take that framing, you’re not pursuing it, like you’re pursuing it for different reasons. And I think that’s one of the keys to kind of unlocking getting really good at the role is you have to understand that you just have to have different motivations, okay, you become a manager. And I think this is a problem that a lot of people experience, and you have some writing on this as well, which is all of a sudden, your output is different. And it’s hard to know when to feel accomplished, or like how you measure your own accomplishments, your output almost becomes invisible. Tell us about that.

Hareem Mannan (Segment)  13:10

Yeah, oh, my God, I remember like, my first month as a manager, I was just like, Where is my time going. And that was largely because as an individual contributor, I’ll call this like, I think there’s just really clear signals of excellence, like you get really technical signals on when things are going well, in design, it was like, people are saying, This design is good. It is testing Well, with customers, I wrote this Doc, if people understand what I am saying, we were able to launch this product successfully. And you’re operating in that mindset of getting feedback in that way for so long. And then when you switch to management, you just have very different signals of excellence. And I think for me, the two things that became abundantly clear, we’re one, sometimes the signals are more blurry. So they’re tangled and other things. So something going well isn’t purely because of you. It’s just something that is like a combination of circumstance and the right people in the right process and your right input into all of those things. And the second is starting to get really comfortable with delayed signals. Because a lot of times as a manager, like the the output of what the work that you put in actually comes way later, like somebody hitting a moment of realization, somebody actually like, you know, accepting feedback that you’ve given them and putting it into practice a product that was better because of your influence over it. things along those lines. And so when I talk to a lot of people on my team in particular who are interested in growing into management, the way that I frame it to them because it’s a it’s a really special time when you’re at an IC and then transitioning into management, it’s a cool time to be able to start to build what I’ll call like your portfolio of influence, and start to really pay attention to what are the different places where you Providing that kind of input across the board and being able to look back and be like this project or process or product, or a person is better because I was on it, or I was working with it, or I was involved in it somehow. And I think that’s really what it comes down to, is really being able to build this portfolio of influence. And it’s rarely tactical, it’s rarely like a doc or a design or something that you can point it, it’s usually a conversation, or an idea, or you convincing somebody to do something, and I think starting to get more and more comfortable with the less tactical signals of excellence, I think goes a really long way.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  15:37

Yeah, that’s super interesting. And I love this phrase, a portfolio of influence. And, it kind of just points out that you don’t have to wait to be a manager in order to figure out what your portfolio of influences is.

Hareem Mannan (Segment)  15:49

Totally Yeah. And I think there’s actually that really special time. When you’re an icy thinking about management, where a lot of times people think that it has to just be like, I see, I see I see boom, switch to a different track of management. But there’s really this, I’m picture like the ice cream color that’s like vanilla chocolate, like that blend of time, or you could be an IC that is really exercising a portfolio of inputs and starting to think about how you might begin to build that portfolio. It’s a great way to practice and figure out what you like and what you don’t like and what you’re good at and what you’re not, especially because we just talked about how it’s a career transition, right? It’s a separate set of skills. And to get better at that being an IC thinking about building that portfolio influence actually a great way to start to think about if this transition is right for you or not,

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  16:36

I have to ask you, shall we? So you know, so far, we’ve talked about, you know, you realizing this is a career change? You know, it’s not a career upgrade. We’ve talked about learning not to micromanage and learning how to feel, I guess, accomplished in different ways and using different signals. What is the timeline of you realizing all these things and figuring out how to navigate it? Was it you know, in the first month, or how did that work

Hareem Mannan (Segment)  17:03

over time? For sure, I think when I first hit the like, Where is my time going was probably like a month or two? And I was just like, what am I? What am I truly doing? Like, what the heck am I doing? And I remember I would talk to my mentor like, I just don’t feel like I’m actually doing work because I can’t point at things that I can point at it and be like, I’m working on this. And I remember the advice he gave me, he was like, hey, pull up your calendar, and I pull up my calendar, and we looked at it, he was like, this is your work, like, and it was a moment of realization for me or I was like, Okay, so my tactical output as a manager is really like these meetings that I have that feel like as an Icee, your your meetings are just like ways to unblock the tactical work that you’re doing. As a manager, the tactical work you’re doing is repeating itself. And I think that unblocking me is a really long way. So that was probably like, within the first couple months, just being able to like paying more attention to my calendar was cool. The rest of it really happened over time where I’ve started to realize like, because I think as a manager of interesting is like that portfolio or sphere of influence shouldn’t necessarily only live within your team, as a good manager, you are really thinking about how your sphere of influence expands to make a whole organization better. And that’s something that you graduate to overtime, once you feel like your direct reports are in a good spot. And your team is in a good spot, then how’s the product doing? Or how’s the organization doing? And how are you just making it a better place to work wherever you are just by virtue of you being there. And just like slowly, slowly expanding your influence so that you become just like a key leader in whatever org that you’re in as well.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  18:42

[AD BREAK BEGINS] Hey there before moving to the next part of the interview, quick introduction to tell you about one of the internet’s best kept secrets, the manager TLDR newsletter. So every two weeks, we read the best content out there, the greatest articles, the advice, the case studies, whatever the latest and greatest is, we summarize it, and we send it to your inbox, we know you don’t have the time to read everything. But because we’re doing the work, we’ll summarize it and send it to your inbox once every two weeks. And the best news is completely free. So go on over to fellow dot app slash newsletter and sign up today. And with that said, let’s go back to the interview. [AD BREAK ENDS] There’s so many interesting things to unpack there. One of the questions I guess I have is I mean, you just indicated You know, a lot of different ways that you can have influence and have impact and then gradually I like the expression of just increasing your sphere of influence in that way. How do you not get caught up in the you know, like the in, you know, your day to day and your calendar and your projects and like, how do you remember to make time for all those different, I guess important questions or topics that that you think you should basically, I guess impacted. So leader,

Hareem Mannan (Segment)  20:00

I really like to think about it as close to like a Maslow’s hierarchy of needs perspective where it’s like, you don’t want to start by thinking about the org, if your team is broken, you know, like, you really just want to start from like, top down, like just looking at where exactly your team is that and, and how your people are doing. And I think even they’re starting out with really foundational questions like, Are people safe? Are they burned out? Are they likely to successfully meet the business objectives that they set out to meet? When you get to that point, then you can start to ask yourself, like, are they happy? Are they enjoying the work that they’re doing? And how can I make it more enjoyable and more collaborative and more fun for them to be able to spend that time there? And I think like, starting to anchor your questions that you’re asking yourself in terms of what to focus on from, like, what does my team need first? And then what does my team want? And then what would help us be even more successful in this board almost as a tertiary question, I think is a good way to look at it mostly. Because if you approach it the other way around, really just ignoring the neat, very real needs of a team that might actually just not need you to expand that fear of influence right now, right? Like there’s more important things to focus on maybe. But it’s kind of why I talked about it in terms of like, you’re graduating to those default, different levels of influence and thinking and an organization that will help further unblock your team. But that only really works if your team is fundamentally healthy and doing well to begin with.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  21:29

Yeah, I mean, that’s very well put, and I love the analogy to the hierarchy of needs and Maslow. I think that’s awesome. Amongst the other things that managers do, obviously, hiring is an important one. And you use this phrase of authenticity goes a long way. When it comes to hiring, I’d love for you to explain how authenticity fits into hiring?

Hareem Mannan  21:56

Yeah, I feel like when I first became a hiring manager, I didn’t know how to approach the hiring manager call. And I think I had this sense of what a hiring manager is supposed to look like, instead of what they actually look like, which was me at the time. And instead, I was so focused on what they were supposed to look like that I had this set of questions. And even when it didn’t feel natural, or right, I was just like, going through this checklist of like, Okay, did they have this check? Do they have this check? Am I asking her to answer this question, check, and then move on. And what I found was like, I just was not one I was constantly biting my tongue, because I wanted to, like make a joke or ask about their dog barking in the background, or anything that just felt more like human. And I wasn’t doing those things. And I really had this unlock with my recruiting partner at the time, who was excellent. And she really like she shadowed me at a con, she’s the cream like, this doesn’t even sound like you dude, like, try to have the next conversation after like, you’re not having a hiring manager call at all. And what I found is that it was just like a 100x lock in terms of what I was able to do for my team, which doubled in size, like over the next six months, as soon as I hit that lock, honestly. And that was largely because people join companies to work with people, right, just as much as they do to join products. And so we’re then able to just like, truly connect with somebody on a human level. And that’s why I see it as more of an art than a science, right? Where it’s not really about that checklist anymore. It’s about like, how are you doing? You told me you were moving? Like, did you end up closing that house? Or like, you know, how’s your mom You said you were visiting her you know, kind of thing, which is just like, including all the humaneness to it all and being really vulnerable as well, where I kind of thought that you should have this really buttoned up approach to what even someone is asking you like, what’s top of mind for you right now? Or what are you struggling with? And I think over time, I’ve just gotten more and more open with that. And what I found is like, that kind of stuff actually really excites people joining a company like they want to join to solve those kinds of problems. They want to be a part of a culture where you don’t act like everything is okay if some things are not okay. And you’re bringing people along for that whole ride and I think like since then there’s just been like, you know, I remember there’s a there’s a candidate was like a tough close who I’m so glad he joined segment, but I wrote him this like log email convincing this day and he was like here, but like, I’ll send you my favorite tic toks, my favorite recipes, like whatever it takes to have you like join and I look back at that email and I was like, I would not have sent that email like a year and a half ago and I kicked off being a hiring manager mostly because I didn’t think you were allowed to talk like yourself, like in these conversations and, and I’ve just found that it’s gone such a long way being able to just be your whole self and encourage your team to do the same to Yeah, that’s

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  24:47

Amazing. What a great kind of like behind the scenes. I guess, the description of of how that transition was arrived at brings up such a good point because at the End of the day, you know, it is the work that people are interested in. But also it’s the person because literally, you are the hiring manager and you’re saying, Let’s team up. So you and I will be on the same team, and we’re gonna work together all the time, you’re gonna spend a lot of time with me. And so yeah, I totally understand and see why you would say authenticity is such a big deal.

Hareem Mannan (Segment) 25:23

My favorite hiring story is one where we hired a design manager last year, who had no intention of leaving the company that he was in at all. And I just, I was like, just get on a phone call with me. And like, let me just talk to you about like segments, just a little bit. And I remember I sold so hard, and I was like, This is why we believe in you and all of this stuff, to the point where he was like, Okay, I’ll, I’ll think about it. And then the next day about me, he’s like, Hey, I had a dream that I quit my job and like, join segments. And like, it was just like, this hilarious Inception process where his roommate was in a segment. And like, even though he wasn’t looking, it was really that human connection of just his roommate, and myself, really just selling him on this idea of what his potential could be, and how fun it would have been for him to join. And who we are as people, we didn’t even really talk about the work at all up until like, he started interviewing, but it was just this like, Courtship of like human connection, all the way up until when he started really interviewing was able to be like parent, the company and the process with the people and really, truly then be able to understand that it’s a combination of all of those things. And I think a lot of hiring managers put the company and the process and the product upfront, and kind of shove the people behind it. But I don’t know, every time I have like, been more upfront about the people and the team that you’re joining, and what it’s like and how we have fun together or how we collaborate, that’s always been, I would say the path to like, really closing somebody I was really excited about or showing somebody what it could be to work here, which I think is ultimately what people are looking for, you know,

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  27:04

It’s interesting, just hearing you tell these stories, and just, you know, getting a glimpse of actually how much hard work it is, you know, recruiting and finding the right talent. And, but the other part of it is that you’re leading with, you know, the relationship, right. And and I would imagine that, if, if it wasn’t like that, and the hires were largely transactional, you know, here’s the comp, here’s the work, you know, check this box, you probably wouldn’t have worked as well, you know, as well together if if it wasn’t the other way of like really spending the time and sharing recipes. And if you like this, this is not just the hiring, if it bleeds into, once a person joins, that’ll just be a better working relationship.

Hareem Mannan (Segment)  27:51

Yeah. And I strongly believe that, like, all of those things are really intentionally designed like good managers, I think they don’t just hire good people and stop there, they, they really intentionally design a culture that promotes and creates that kind of environment. So that it becomes in turn really easy to talk about, right, it’s really hard to talk about something that you’re not really doing, you know, and so I think like, you are attracting those people that want to be a part of that culture, who in turn build that culture that you can talk about. So it is this amazing cycle, I think of just like, a really people and human driven process. And a lot of it really also comes down to remembering that you’re hiring some human being who happens to work here, not an employee only right. And when you think about that full picture and understand people’s motivations and hesitations and, and family, like what all the things that come with someone joining, I think that just creates like an even more, not just like, inclusive environment, but you’re just more likely to retain and engage your employees in that way, too.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  28:57

So there’s also I mean, in tech, in general, we’re very comfortable with experimentation and iteration. How do you apply it or iterating, or iteration to your team or the culture? How does it go beyond just you know, product iteration?

Hareem Mannan (Segment)  29:14

Yeah. And you know, what, what is wild about this question, in particular is like, I think, before I became a manager, I really believed that iteration and experimentation was a concept. It’s a really hot phrase in tech, but I thought it was really just reserved for ice. Like, what do you mean managers are experimenting or iterating on something you’re supposed to know what’s going on, like at all times, and it’s supposed to be well thought out and prepared, and just like a done and set process. And I think the second I started to let go of that notion a little bit. And honestly, a lot of it really hit in COVID when this team that was used to collaborating in person all the time, and it was a team that would like to get lunch together as well as collaborate together, all of a sudden, we all went remote at the same time. And it was like a forced iteration of a lot of our meetings and how we collaborate and communicate and work with each other. And I think the second, I got more comfortable doing two things, one, changing things, whether that was like a meeting or a process, or the way that we thought about doing something, the more I got comfortable with that. This is true with everything, it feels abundantly obvious, but the better it got. And I think people don’t really think about iterating on something like a meeting, you should totally do that. Because as your team is changing, and the people are choosing and a company is growing, when I joined segment, it’s 300 people and now it’s like 600, I think like the way that we’ve thought about who needs to meet how often we meet and who like what we’re meeting about has fundamentally changed. And I think people tend to think of process and meetings as set in stone, but product as reserved for iteration. And I think when you start to iterate with everything, at the same time, your product is iterating, your people are certainly iterating, they’re changing over time. And then your process and culture, and cadence has to iterate alongside it, the better it is so that’s, that’s like the first bit of it. And the second that, that I think went a long way with the iteration experimentation was really bringing people along for the ride. So it doesn’t have to be me, that is doing the iteration and experimentation. And I think as a manager, a lot of times you believe that the process or meeting or something needs to be borne from you, the best managers are really able to leverage someone’s strengths and give them an area of ownership and operational ownership that allows them to drive that experimentation to iteration. So that one, it’s just like more of a shared ownership around this thing that you might be working on. And it’s just like a really easy way to get buy-in for whatever it is that you were doing when it is your own teammates and team members that are iterating on a process or, or artifact alongside you.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  32:04

Yeah, I love that. And even I mean, what you’re saying is you’re right, like the environment is changing. Like if everything is changing, How could your processes be set in stone? or How are you still running the same agenda? for that meeting? There’s new people involved, or, you know, so I love that I think like depending especially depending on how fast the environment is changing, you really have to, you know, spend some time to say, okay, it’s six months later, are my processes, the same processes that I should keep for the next six months? Or even maybe six months is too long? Who knows?

Hareem Mannan (Segment)  32:38

Yeah, yeah, I think that that is like really where I think people tend to get a little set in stone when it comes to those things. In particular, again, all iterations, such a hot word, but only for some reason with product. And I would love to start pairing iteration and experimentation or process as well. Because exactly, as you reiterated, your people are getting promoted, and new people are joining. And they’re changing their roles. And like they’re, you know, just everything is moving. So some not, we can’t just leave certain things set in stone, because it was always that way. And I think that mentality goes a really long way with creating productive managers, we’re able to evolve an operational cadence as an organization is evolving as well.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  33:22

You know, fun, fun story. One of the things we do internally at Fellow is we have version numbers for meeting agendas. Like it’s literally 0.1 0.2, you know, as it evolves. And But yeah, I mean, it’s just, it’s just part of the, yeah, it’s just part of the culture of just constantly changing that. So speaking of meetings and your calendar, we started by, you know, talking about how you could look at your calendar and like, very quickly say, Okay, here’s where I’m spending my time, I can see what things I’m, I’m trying to impact if I kind of classify these things. You know, this is to some extent, my work. So how do you strike a balance between, you know, doing this, this kind of almost meta work and helping other teams and sometimes you have to make time for maybe some sometimes, like, you need to do deep focus? What does your calendar look like today?

Hareem Mannan (Segment)  34:21

Okay, my calendar today is a tragedy. So it’s a work in progress. And I think what’s interesting is like my calendar organization has ebbed and flowed as, as an organization has, and I think I was so I was really like, you know, when I became a manager, I was like, Okay, my calendar is out of control. And then I realized, okay, as a manager, you’re tight. You’re deep work often. A lot of times actually really are for other people. And you know, like the meetings that you have with other people, the things that you’re unlocking in those alignment, conversations and bringing the idea or different ideas up. Right time is really your version of tactical work. As I mentioned before. That being said, I think management is like a well that you need to replenish. And I think a lot of times, we’re, a lot of times managers are a lot more focused on what they are giving and the way that they are replenishing that well. And I think that will only really get replenished when you do have that time to focus and like, reflect on how things are going and ask yourself the questions that we were just talking about, which is like, is this meaning serving me anymore? Or how is this process going? or How are my people doing, you know, so one thing that I like to do is that we have no meeting Fridays now, which is really nice, those tend to get filled up. But I will put just like be really prescriptive about like, do not schedule blocks, which I know is like a very common thing that a lot of people do, when those don’t work I do out of office blocks, just like this is you cannot contact me during this period of time, I have not here I have all applied on slack. And by that I really just need I’m just put my head down and focus or really think about a problem. And I’m replenishing this well, so that I’m able to really like to give more of myself and in a way that is both meaningful and productive, that you really can’t do if you’re not recharging. And I think that’s a lot of this is actually something David and I talked about as well, which is like, who is coaching the managers, you know, like that there’s there needs to be some level of like, additional just like support that you are getting yourself and like recharging that you’re getting yourself in order to be able to do that. But I will say like a lot of the unlock for me with my calendar in my transition from ICT management was really like, you hit a certain point where your manager or your calendar really just becomes for other people instead of for you. And so really just being prescriptive about those blocks of time that you might have. And really strict about it, I think is probably really common advice. But truly like the only way I think to actually hold on to that.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  37:01

Yeah, hey, you know, I haven’t heard it explained that way. But it makes so much sense. It’s a wonder your time as a manager is like you said giving? And if you don’t replenish that, I mean at some he’s not gonna give Yes. I love that. It’s so true. You do have to replenish that energy. I mean, you mentioned David Hong, who was also a guest on the Super Managers podcast. Another design leader when we were chatting earlier, you mentioned in passing that you had a manager group chat, tell me about that.

Hareem Mannan  37:35

Oh, my God, it’s so fun. It’s actually a Twitter DM group, we call it DMs in the DM, which is like design managers in the DMs, like Twitter DMs. I think, honestly, for me first, it just started, like, I just wanted to, like send an article or two to a couple of people and be able to talk about it. And now it’s like just this really great, like support group of sorts where I’m like, Do you ever feel this way? And for people who just want to like, Oh, my God, I do feel that way, or like, right now a couple of people are thinking about interviewing for re manager roles elsewhere. And I think what’s wild and familiar, we don’t talk about enough, because there’s a lot of transparency in how to go about actually interviewing for and what the interview process looks like for manager roles. A lot of that content is really focused around an IC, but how do you present that portfolio of influence that you’ve had at the company for two to three years to a new company where that context doesn’t really live? You know? And so I think a lot of what we’re, like talking about these days is like thinking about that, in terms of just like okay, like how can we brainstorm and help each other with some of us have interviewed managers before some of us are hiring managers, some of us are like, have just been through that process. And so we can help collaborate on those things. I think what it comes down to though, for me, the nicest part is like, a lot of times what people don’t talk about as in some ways, management can be a lonely role, right, you have a team that is likely friends, and pretty close and able to connect in a way that even you know, after your best efforts, you’re just not able to open up at the same level, just given what you might be protecting them from or what you might be thinking about or worried about is not really something that you might want to share. And so I think having that group, and for me, David has certainly been a part of that group of people where you can be like, Hey, does this feel right? Like how would you have handled this situation? And for me, I have a group of women at work too, that I am able to just like bounce things off of them that way as well. But it really helps replenish that well, that we were talking about, where it’s like that replenishment I think comes from both alone time in terms of really being able to think about what you and your team needs. And then also just like being able to talk to people who get you know, able to understand why a conversation might have been tough for you or, or why this day is a little bit harder than than others. days in a way that’s a little bit more difficult to articulate to somebody else.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  40:04

Yeah, no, this is great. You know, we often talk about, you know, mentors and coaches, and you know, who’s going to coach the managers? Like you said, but it’s really interesting. I mean, you know, subtly there, you also gave, you know, everyone a playbook, right? It can just be very easy. It could be a Twitter dm group, and it can start with, you know, very innocently sharing some articles and, and it can snowball from there. So I think that’s, that’s actually really good tactical advice, everybody who wants to get better at management? That’s the thing that they should do.

Hareem Mannan (Segment)  40:38

Yeah, I strongly agree. And I think it just comes down to starting with one, I hadn’t met any of the other people in person in that group. And besides David, who I who I knew, again, because we taught together, and I think when you think about that, that should just tell you where it’s like, you can create these kinds of like, online friendships and connections with people who you just like respect or know of and start to build bridges that way, but you just don’t really, you don’t have to be alone in it. And I think that realization is just really nice. 

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  41:08

 I agree. Hareem, this has been super awesome. So many insights, so many lessons. One of the questions that we ask everybody on the show is for all the managers and leaders looking to improve at their craft, what tips, tricks, resources, or just words of wisdom would you leave them with,

Hareem Mannan (Segment)  41:27

I would say maybe two things. Probably the word of wisdom, or the phrase of wisdom I’ll leave them with is really where we started, which is, I think the big unlock, for me, again, has been learning from my manager on being able to see the future versions of people. So really start indexing as much as possible on the potential of people and building on their strengths and the things that you notice that they spike in, or the things that make their eyes light up. And leveraging those strengths, to be able to do a lot of the things that we were talking about here, whether that’s iterating on an operational cadence, or helping build a stronger team culture. So I think that’s like one parting piece of advice or wisdom. And the next thing that I’ll say is, you know, I also talked about what I started managing and how I was like, reading every, every making of a manager is really like every day I could get my hands on that was like, a minute, like traditional management texts related. And then last year, I watched our videos this year. I don’t know what time is anymore, the last dance, which is that Michael Jordan docu series. And I was like, This is like the best case study I’ve ever seen in terms of like, if you watch it, and you’re able to just like start to see the way like coaches think about players, like there’s so many analogies for management out in the wild, that I think we don’t really think about as managers because it’s not the medium article that’s telling you five things you need to do to be a better manager and wake up at 5am to start your day or, or whatever the latest one is telling you about. But I think I’m starting to be comfortable getting inspiration from other places and thinking about things like, what are analogies for management that exist in maybe it’s Parenthood, maybe it’s just like seeing a community builder, maybe it’s like sports, or art or something else that exists. But I think there’s there’s a lot out there that are great lessons for you to learn, that don’t necessarily exist in the package management playbook the way that we might think about it, but I would encourage anyone who is thinking about a transition management to just be like, or is managing right now to be open to like, I just watched Ted Lasso. I was like, that was a great like, case study of management as well, right? There’s just like a lot of cool places you can start to get that kind of inspiration from that I would recommend you start to think about too.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  43:47

I think that’s great advice and, and a great place to end it. Thanks, Hareem. Thanks so much for doing this, 

Hareem Mannan (Segment)  43:53

Of course. 

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