Diane, currently a product manager at Canva, is a passionate product coach that’s dedicated to helping early career professionals who are part of the BIPOC or women spaces, and interested in making their mark in product!
Coaching is essential in product – as product people work closest and most frequently, with other people on our teams. The most ambiguous and challenging products are seldom the ones that test your hard skills, but instead those that test your soft skills with people interaction. There isn’t, and possibly could never be, an instruction manual with the ultimate blueprint on how to handle every possible human situation as a product person in your career. As a result, I believe the direction of the product in the future will be set by its people and the coaching. Skills such as conflict resolution, effective community, productivity hacks etc. are what can be passed down and tailored to each product manager’s way of working. There is no better lesson on coaching than directly from those who have experienced it. Over the next 5-10 years, product’s emphasis will lean less on frameworks, where having a go-to approach is ideal. In my opinion, the product specialty will evolve based on the leaders who coach their mentees the best practices, shaping the new toolkit for anyone pivoting or just getting started as an emerging product manager, as well as echoing the new wave of product as a people-first profession.
In the past 2 years, I’ve mentored many aspiring and emerging product managers. I’ve had a focus on helping the BIPOC community and those transitioning into product. The past year, I’ve been an exclusive mentor on Monday Girl, Canada’s largest platform for women professionals. I haven’t found the perfect framework, so I created my own! Here’s an overview:Empathy – This is SO important! I’ve learned that as miniscule or unimportant the issues your coachee is experiencing may seem to you, you should support them through finding a solution. As a person of disability, I used to be offended if certain PMs complained about finding a regular task or problem as difficult. I would coach with the mindset of “If I can do this with my condition, why can’t you?” or “This is so simple, here’s what I would do. Just listen.” I realized very quickly that if the tables were turned, I would never want a coach that couldn’t emphasize with me. Now, I always ensure I take the time to get to know who they are, why they are experiencing the challenges they are, and how I can answer questions for them to come to a solution that works the best for themselves. Application – Examples, examples, examples. Do not focus on theory. As a coach, always try to show examples in your past experiences where you encountered something similar.Specific – Unless you have all the free time in the world, make sure you take care of your own time and wellbeing as a coach too! Be specific about who you accept to coach, and that the communities are truly reflective of your values and passion. Yes! - Accept the challenges. This is a great way to remind yourself and the coachee to say yes in our careers more often. Take a risk and push yourself (within reason). As the acronym hints, take it EASY.
The most important advice is to not hold back. Don’t be shy to get involved and support your community. Getting involved means contributing content back, not simply engaging with, or absorbing the content that’s already available. Likewise, supporting your community in a way that others have supported you in your career. It can be through small actions like re-sharing an emerging PM’s post or making a genuine introduction to connect two new PMs at an event. Personally, my advice is that it’s just as impactful to choose a niche or smaller community that you’re passionate about, and mentor 2 mentees, versus trying to make a splash in a larger community of hundreds, where there’s a general but muddled need for coaching. For example, I experienced the panic and hopelessness of having my offer rescinded during COVID. It was a brutal time, but I was able to take away an immense amount of learning. I would be keen to offer advice to those product managers who are going through a similarly tough situation, and coach them on self worth and interviewing skills. As a thought leader, it’s important for you to impact others with the thought leadership pieces you put out, in addition to your hands-on support and guidance to those in the place you once were.
Diane is a passionate product leader that’s been awarded a Product 50 finalist for the “Up and Coming Product Leader” in 2022 with 49 other global product people. At 16, Diane founded her first non-profit, Creativity Through Arts, as the youngest World Vision ambassador and grew the community from a team of 10 to 11,000 youths across the nation within 2 years. For her work, she was recognized as an international change-maker by WeDay at 17 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Puo9eFw5tzQ). Her second non-profit, Y2 Labs (https://betakit.com/y2-labs-to-bring-entrepreneurship-training-to-gta-schools/) partners with the Government of Canada to bring entrepreneurial curriculum to classrooms. Between 2015 to 2017, 3 incubated startups founded by high school students went on to raise over $21k in angel investments. In university, Diane began publishing articles on startup trends from hardware to social (https://ottomotors.com/blog/the-new-lean-manufacturing) (https://medium.com/@dianehuang/the-automation-of-creativity-c91c2fe4d1f1). Up to date, Diane’s favourite product talk is when she presented at PechaKucha Markham, about how easy it is to feel lost and have your creativity stifled in the formal education system(https://www.pechakucha.com/presentations/pursuing-happiness). This speech on how we can all grow brave and pursue our passions was highlighted as PK’s featured talk for over 50 weeks. Currently, Diane is a senior product manager at Canva, developing a brand new product as the first step of the company expanding into Canva for Work. This new collaboration product will not only welcome a new product vertical to Canva, but has the potential to drive the next million ARR. She’s spoken on various panels to promote diversity, a cause close to her heart, most recently at an EmpowerHer event for Women in Technology organization. She was a part of the Untraceable team, an events organization that’s hosted hundreds of crypto events, including Canada’s first Bitcoin Expo. Along with the team, Diane co-founded Blockchain Futurist, the largest cryptocurrency expo with speakers such as Larry King, Vitalik Buterin and the CEOs from Coinbase and Bitcoin.com (https://www.futuristconference.com/). Most recently, Diane was also selected as 1 of 21 fellows at Unshackled Ventures, to learn from immigrant-founded startups (https://medium.com/unshackled-ventures/meet-the-unshackled-fellows-85378ce50e91).