Moriya Kassis: The main challenge for PMs is not developing products anymore but developing teams

Moriya Kassis is the founder & GM of Product League, the most trusted mentoring program for Product Managers, in 30 countries around the globe.  We spoke to Moriya ahead of her talk at the Refresh conference about becoming a Product Leader, the importance of mentorship for Product Managers, and how her experience as an entrepreneur and investor has made her a better product professional.

Your talk at the Refresh conference is titled “Mentor Your Team To Build Better Products”. Can you share more about what you will be talking about?

I am happy to! This talk is catered to those who want to shape the next generation of Product Management. Nowadays, everyone calls themselves a Product Leader, but the truth is: One does not become a Product Leader by adding that title to their LinkedIn profile. Product professionals become leaders when they learn how to inspire, motivate, and make creators fall in love with their field. Our time in history requires more leaders.

My talk will offer practical, actionable tools for transforming your career and team through mentoring. Our main challenge is not developing products anymore; it is developing teams, and when done correctly, mentoring is the Product Leader’s strongest tool.

Is there a number one skill – or quality – of a great product manager? How can it be developed?

This is an excellent question. Although the usual debate is over execution skills or strategy abilities, I have a different perspective. Focus is the best quality a Product Manager can possess.

Days are hectic and work never ends. Trends, buzzwords, and hypothetical opportunities bombard our attention.

The top Product Managers are those who are able to focus their attention on what matters to them, to the degree required, to the extent that matters, in order to overcome this challenge. Nothing less, but more importantly – nothing more.

You are the founder of Product League, could you tell us briefly about the program?

Product League is a mentoring program for Product Managers by Product Managers. Thousands of Product professionals have graduated from our mentoring program, making us the most trusted mentoring program for PMs in 30 countries.

Yet Product League isn't for everyone. The solution we've developed addresses the challenges experienced PMs face when they cannot find the answers they need from a blog post or course but need to go through a sincere process to find them.

If you're ready to challenge yourself to become the best PM you can be, either by mentoring others or being a mentee, the results are phenomenal. There is no greater testimony to the quality of our program than the fact that 92% of the Summer 2022 batch chose to continue with us for the Winter 2023 batch. I think this KPI result speaks louder than words can.

In your experience, do tech companies recognize the importance of mentorship for Product Managers?

It is true that most tech companies recognize the importance of mentorship. Nevertheless, recognizing this need and successfully putting it into practice are two entirely different things.

In some companies, internal mentorship programs are built with the best of intentions but fail to create the right culture and supportive environment.

Others do understand that mentorship can be considered a product in and of itself. It is important to understand who is capable of taking part in the process, both mentors and mentees. You need to deal with the challenges of how to match the two, how to onboard, and how to support your participants in not only naming their goals but also achieving them. Here's where Product League comes in.

Are there any typical mistakes that you have observed tech companies commit regarding product management or PMs’ function?

I think we will need a lot more time to cover them all. Dishonesty, however, will ruin your team instead of allowing you to rule them all.

The goal of a great product organization is to be honest with its employees in the sense that everyone knows where they stand and where they need to go. It's about stakeholders' ability to create a roadmap based on reality, not illusions, dreams, or trends.

Honesty is only one piece of the puzzle when it comes to product culture. But it enables everyone on the team to reach their goals together with a shared sense of purpose.

You have also experience as a startup founder (Morpheus) and startup investor (UpWest Labs). Do these experiences somehow feed into your current work?

It does, without a doubt. In fact, I will even argue that it makes me a better Product professional.

Imagine a three-legged table. One seat is reserved for the dreamer, the entrepreneur. The one who recognizes a need and transforms it into a vision. The investor is on the other side of the table, challenging a vision with the facts and grounds of both today and tomorrow.
Then, there is the Product professional, who ties these two together, pinpointing the needs and wants to come up with a strategy that beats the odds while inspiring, motivating, and making creators passionate about their profession.

Being able to sit at all three tables provided me with the ability to address all three challenges successfully, as well as turn this stakeholder relationship into a win-win situation. A situation in which I am building not only successful products, services, and experiences but also successful teams.

Moriya Kassis will give a keynote titled “Mentor Your Team To Build Better Products” at the Refresh Conference on 26 January. Check out the other speakers.