Emerging Leader Spotlight: Parul Shorey

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Every month we ask an emerging leader we admire to share what she is doing to take the lead in her career. We invite her to share how she achieved her current position, what obstacles she encountered on her climb, as well as tips for how to be a rising woman of influence.

Parul Shorey with eBay

This month we shine the Emerging Leader Spotlight on Parul Shorey, Senior Global Product Manager with eBay.

Favorite Leadership Quote:

“The question isn’t who’s going to let me, it’s who’s going to stop me.” ― Ayn Rand

Why did you choose your current career path?

I started my journey fairly naïve about what I wanted to be “when I grew up”. I followed the trend at the time and after completing a Bachelor of Electrical Engineering and Masters in Computer Science, my first few gigs through college as a Software Developer seemed like the perfect next step. When I started at Microsoft as a Software Design and Test Engineer, I thought I was right on track to be doing what I was supposed to be doing. But three years in and I was crying for help! I was excited by the technical challenges of engineering, but coding turned out to be neither my strength nor passion. I was miserable having to spend my work day in solitude playing with code.

While at Microsoft, I observed some great Program Managers in action. Their focus was on designing the right product (by understanding consumer needs, defining requirements, identifying priorities, building strong partnerships, directing product strategy) and driving engineering execution to ensure the product was built right. Everything about this role appealed to me and I started taking baby steps to incorporate small PM tasks into my daily job – volunteering to lead triage sessions, spec’ing a small feature, coordinating across teams, managing release planning to name a few. When I made the conscious decision to switch to Technical Program Management for my next role, the transition was smooth and I took to it like a moth to a flame!

Eight months into this switch I’d been promoted to lead a multi-million dollar program for my client, Microsoft, heading a team of 21 engineers, responsible for delivery, quality, financials and everything in between! I was finally in my element, learning at a breakneck pace. Along the way, I found it was the product management aspects of my role that excited and challenged me the most. I got laser-focused on finding and picking assignments that helped me building this product management muscle and as I progressed through the years I knew I’d chosen the right career path for myself.

What is the most important thing you have learned that has been critical to your career success?

The most important thing for me is confidence.

Speaking up and participating can get you just as far as training and “book knowledge”.

Sometimes, like anyone, my confidence is shaken. Today I’ve become self-aware enough to realize when that happens and take steps to get my groove back. Knowledge builds confidence, so if I start feeling like I should hold back, I read up on anything and everything that can help. I also connect with others who have the knowledge I need. Most people like nothing more than to talk about the areas they care about. Take advantage of that and learn from the best.

Above all, you have to trust your judgment. No one has all the answers, and everyone else is struggling through the same self-doubts. Some just hide it better than others. Once you know the basics, step in confidently and participate!

What key steps did you take to get to the role you are in today?

Moving from engineering to program management was fairly easy, but switching to product management was going to be a tougher nut to crack. I had neither the MBA background like many of the product managers I worked with nor the experience under my belt. The only way to get there was to learn it on the job.

To do that, I worked at three main areas:

• Shared my goals with my managers and peers
• Offered to help with product management-related work
• Raised my hand and consciously looked for projects that got me closer to the product management role I wanted

Thanks to my program management experience at Microsoft, I got to work alongside some really great product managers.  I explicitly shared with them my desire to move to a product manager role, asked them for advice, and grew my network of product managers. In my day-to-day program management role I started to consciously think beyond the daily tasks to understand the strategy and big picture better. I followed key industry bloggers for their product management insights and read several related books that helped me get the perspective I hadn’t yet gotten from experience.

A big advantage of working for a consulting firm at the time was that I had the chance to rotate onto different projects often. I kept in close touch with colleagues at my firm, my clients and outside contacts as well, consciously listening for and targeting projects that could be a good step toward my goal.  When the large Microsoft project I was leading was wrapping up I let the client know how interested I was in the product management role he had coming open on his new team. Within a week I was consulting as the Go-to-Market Product Manager on the Bing developer ecosystems team.  My next few projects ranged from helping a small startup launch their digital political campaign management product, helping T-Mobile build their online self-serve experiences on the cloud, to leading Nordstrom’s customer loyalty platform.

Seven years in consulting gave me a fantastic and diverse experience learning to manage product in various industries and environments. But I missed the sheer joy and satisfaction that came from shaping and growing my own product as opposed to a client’s. I decided to interview with eBay for their Global Shipping Product Manager role and these last couple of years here have given me the amazing opportunity to do all that and more!

What are some top tips you can recommend to other women who want to be recognized as high-potential emerging leaders?

Invest in relationships! This has been really helpful for me. The best win-win relationships are built through time in the trenches working with people, not at networking events or on LinkedIn. Engage with people and stay connected even when you’re not working directly with them. I have a couple of people at work who give me some pretty candid and personal feedback, and I do the same for them. We’ve established enough trust that we feel comfortable being vulnerable.

One of the most important relationships, of course, is with your direct management team. You need to make this a two-way street.   Find out what makes your boss successful and help him or her achieve it. At the same time, let your boss know about your accomplishments and “wins”. If you don’t toot your own horn, there might not be any music.

You also need to build your personal brand outside of your immediate work group. This is where building more relationships up, down and across can really help. This network is how you find out about opportunities you should sign up for and unmet needs that you can fill.

Stretching yourself out of your comfort zone and finding creative ways to add value to projects and teams outside of your immediate work group are also great ways for expanding your skills while setting yourself up to be recognized as a high-potential emerging leader.

Stop by and say hello to Parul on LinkedIn.

Angie Klein

As Operations and Marketing Manager, Angie Klein is responsible for maintaining the day to day operations of Women’s Leadership Coaching, Inc. and Be Leaderly.com. Angie manages all aspects of training program logistics, registrations, SEO, social media engagement and customer service.

Follow @kleina2012 on Twitter.

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