“Framework for Strategic Personal Growth”: Liliya Sabitova, TikTok (Video + Transcript)

December 26, 2023

Are you ready to take charge of your career and elevate your professional journey? In this ELEVATE session, Liliya Sabitova (TikTok) introduces a framework for strategic personal growth. She will share her three key components: personal skill assessment, understanding market needs in your profession, and creating a tailored action plan. Attendees will discover how this framework can propel your career by aligning your skills with market demands and crafting a strategic roadmap for success. She is attending ELEVATE in a personal capacity and not speaking on behalf of the company.


Liliya Sabitova, a senior product manager, discusses the importance of aligning personal values, skill sets, and interests with the right company environment for career development. She emphasizes the impact of business models, company size, and product maturity on the work environment, and highlights the significance of company culture in job satisfaction and professional growth.


Liliya Sabitova: Thank you, Angie. Appreciate the very warm welcome. Hello, everybody. As Angie said, my name is Liliya. And before we start, a few words about me. I’m a senior product manager with 10 years of experience working in different company sizes, startups, SMBs, and enterprises across B2B and B2C business models and in different industries, data, travel, media, et cetera. I worked in four different countries, and now I’m a senior PM in a big tech company in the Bay Area, California.

First, a disclaimer. In my talk today, I’ll be sharing my personal opinions and not the opinions of the company that I work for. So now that it’s out of the way, let’s dive right into it. Earlier in my career, I was approaching career development on an intuitive level. However, I soon realized that to succeed, just a skillset versus the job requirements match is not enough. A career journey is not a one size fits all scenario. Some individuals are happy in large organizations and some are happy in smaller companies too.

And to be honest, I’ve seen the opposite happening as well, where people can be miserable in either of the situations. So how to know what will work better for you? From my perspective, it varies depending on multiple factors. So today, let’s figure out together how we can maximize our chances of thriving in a workplace. So let’s start with the first slide. I hope you can see it clearly. It’s a little bit small as I can see now. So it is an enhancement of paradigm. On your screen, you can see an example of the skills self-assessment wheel for PM, designer, and that developer.

So I spoke with Angie and she mentioned that most of the participants represent those three different roles. So the framework I initially saw in the Mind the Product by Petra Wheel, who is an independent PM consultant. So I duplicated this concept for the designer and also for a developer. So please take your time to evaluate yourself potentially after our talk today. So this is an abstract example, but let’s discuss how it works. Along the edge of the wheel, we have different skills for given roles.

For example, for PM, we have the execution, data literacy, market acumen, strategy, et cetera. The center of the wheel is connected to each of the skills with a line. In the wheel center, we will have a zero score, and where the line connects to the edge of the wheel, we will have a 10. Thus, a person who does the self-assessment decides how well the skill mastery is and rates oneself accordingly. In this example, we can see that a PM is proficient in execution. Thus, he gave himself 10 out of a 10 score.

However, that same person needs improvement in the feedback synthesis as it’s below the five score. I propose to use an identical approach to evaluate how different parameters of the workplace itself resonate with your values. Therefore, instead of putting the skills along the wheel’s edge, put values like work-life balance, opportunities for growth, recognition, supportive manager, et cetera. And note that your expectations and values will probably change in the different stages of your life.

So reevaluate when needed. By understanding what is important for you on the values level, you’ll be more equipped to make a right call when it comes to choosing your next career opportunity. You’ll have an understanding of what is non-negotiable for you and what is not that important and thus not worth the sweat. Also, keep in mind that you yourself can decide what values you want to put along the edge. So it doesn’t have to be what I have proposed, but this is a good start.

So I invite you to take an opportunity and do this exercise in your free time. So now let’s move on to the step two. The step two is the business model, company maturity, size, and domain. Naturally, all of us have different interests, so we’ll be gravitating towards certain industries. Knowing where your interests lie will also help with your longevity and happiness in any given company since you’ll spend at least 40 hours a week, which is about 62.5% of your non-sleep weekdays, excluding the weekends, on work.

So one example that I would like to propose is that I’m personally interested in data and I get a lot of fulfillment from working in this domain. On the contrary, right now my values do not align with a tobacco production companies, so I can’t imagine working in that domain for myself. You can also do a little bit of a reflection and think about which domains are interesting for you. The company size will also impact the work environment. Large companies can usually provide more stability.

However, you’ll have to deal with a negotiations as most likely there will be significant cross team collaboration since one area can be owned by multiple teams. Therefore, alignment and meetings and agreements are needed. So understanding this concept is crucial in order to make the right call for your next career move. For smaller companies, you’re more likely to avoid company politics. But at the same time, there are also challenges. You’ll be most likely constrained with the resources and the pace might be quite aggressive.

So when you are evaluating those types of opportunities, having and realizing that this will most likely be the environment where you will have to work will also be helpful to making the right call. Now, let’s discuss the business models. So here you have the table where I have outlined some of the key or the major business models. B2B refers to business to business. And in such a model, a company is offering products or services to other businesses. In other words, other businesses are your customers.

One example could be Atlassian. Among other things, Atlassian offers software for project management to other companies to run their processes. So if you will look at this table, you will see some of the nuances of work in such type of a business model, so it will involve a lot of negotiation. It’ll require understanding of the business needs. Because compared to B2C, you will not be able to try the product on your own. And most likely, in order to really understand the business pain points, you will have to talk a lot with your stakeholders.

Thus, comes stakeholder management. Also, ability to communicate complex ideas effectively will be important, because sometimes the decision makers and people who will use your product are actually two different user groups. Also, integrations of various business aspects and technology will be crucial because you will have to integrate with existing technology that business already uses. Now let’s talk about the B2C. B2C refers to business to consumer, and one example of such company could be the Spotify, a streaming service for individuals to listen to music and podcasts.

So as you can imagine in this type of company, there will be a very big number of users, millions, so it will be really hard to understand what users want barely from the user research. So for this reason, data literacy will be very important. Also, in order to validate the solutions that you have developed, just talking with your clients like in B2B will not be enough. And also seeing how many solutions were integrated is also not enough. You will have to run A/B tests for validations of your solution.

Then also, it’ll be crucial to have a very agile and flexible approach to adapt quickly to changing consumer trends. And finally, compliance. Especially in the US, user data is very much protected. So for this reason, whenever you would want to roll something out, you will have to go through a number of circles before you will be able to achieve something. And finally, the B2G refers to business to government, and one example could be Palantir.

It empowers intelligence agencies like US Department of Defense to securely derive actionable insights from sensitive data and achieve their most challenging operational objectives. So you can see nuances here, but we’ll move on for the interest of time. Finally, let’s discuss the work environment depending on the product maturity. So here you also have a table. Zero to one refers to products built from scratch, and the environment there will require frequent pivots and changes in direction as the product concept is still being refined and product market fit is being searched for.

For this reason, for especially engineers, it might be quite challenging to join such a company because something that an engineer developed before potentially will be changed or not used or severely altered. So for this reason, it may cause frustration. Also, it is a very fast-paced environment with a focus on quick iteration to bring concept to the market. Now let’s talk about one to infinity. One to infinity products referred to incremental improvements to existing product, and the environment there will be much more predictable and more structured.

Thank you for your reactions. And it will most likely include a lot of cross-team collaboration, specifically at the large companies. It actually quite closely related with a company size. Okay, and also there will be a big emphasis on enhancing user experience and adding value to retain the customers. So you will keep improving what is already existent so there will be much lesser ambiguity. Also, the scalability will be the major focus. Since for zero to one products, you’re not really interested in scaling your products just yet because you didn’t validate the problem that you’re solving for.

One remark that I’d like to make here is that sometimes in larger companies you actually can find zero to one initiatives. There will be some departments who are working on exploration. However, it is rather rare. And most likely in larger organizations, you will be working on already established products. So this is something to keep in mind. So for this reason here, I have a little icon with the eyes so that you can think about and reflect how comfortable you are with the levels of ambiguity, how decisions are being made.

Are they top down or down up? How is the pace in the company? What is the scale of the problems that you have to solve? What the collaboration structure look like? Because if you understand what your expectations on the comfort level, the longevity and your happiness in the company can significantly be increased. So now let’s move on to the next topic, which is the step three, deep specialization versus the broad skillset. When making career decision, it’s helpful to realize that with current life expectancy and social security retirement age, we’ll spend about 40 years in the workplace.

So it’s not uncommon that interests and career aspiration will change. So let’s talk about some statistics that is not mentioned here on the slide, but you still can look at some of the visualizations here. Baby boomers career change statistics in 2019 show that they held on average 11.3 jobs between the ages of 18 and 46. So given the longevity and pivots of careers and employee type framework based on areas of expertise, skills across the topics, and leadership could help understand the possibilities of expertise development.

If we really, really, really oversimplify it, there are two primarily path: the specialist or the generalist. So you can see here an example for the domain experts and also for the broad skillset representatives. Also, here I added a book that has been recommended by Bill Gates regarding those two different specialist type. So I would highly recommend for you to check it out. Let’s talk about the specialists. They give deep expertise and authority in a specific domain, making them sought after in niche areas and often commanding higher salaries.

However, they have some limitations as well. In job market flexibility and risk obsolescence, if their skills become outdated, they will face significant consequences. On the other hand, professionals with a broad skillset adapt more easily to various roles offering a holistic view of projects and greater job market opportunities. This adaptivity is valuable in the rapidly changing industry, but it may come at a cost of being perceived as less proficient in any one area.

So for tech specialists, it’s choosing between the specializations and broad hinges and aligning personal interests, career goals, and the evolving demands of the tech landscape. So evaluate for yourself where you see the most return on your time investment and make a decision wisely. Finally, I would like to talk about the culture and why it is so important. Considering a company’s culture is paramount when evaluating new career opportunities. A company’s culture encompasses its values, beliefs, behaviors, and the overall environment in which employees operate.

It significantly influences job satisfaction, engagement, and ultimately one’s success in the role. So let’s look at some data. So we can see here that happy employees are more creative and usually exceed expectations, when disheartened workers are 10% less productive. Why is this data important? Because if you are interested in your career development, it’s important to evaluate the company. Company evaluates you, that’s for sure, but you also should evaluate the company.

Does it match with your values, with your interests, with your comfort levels? And based on that you need to make a decision. Because if you will be happy, you will be much more successful in the company compared to the situation where you’re not happy, not fulfilled, and feel like your skills are not being put into good use. So speaking of the skills being put into good use, here we see that employees are 10% more likely to search for a new job if they feel their current job isn’t putting their skills to a good use.

So these are some statistics that you probably need to think about before making a final decision about [inaudible 00:14:17] All right, so let’s move on to the next one also about the culture. So aligning with a culture that resonates with your personal values and work style not only enhances day-to-day job fulfillment, but also fosters long-term professional growth. In environments where there is a strong cultural feat, individuals are more likely to thrive, contribute meaningfully, and sees opportunities for advancement.

Therefore, a thorough understanding and assessment of a company culture should be a critical component of any career decision-making process. So now for the conclusion. So navigating career development, and let me get to the final slide if you would like to connect. So navigating career development is a multifaceted journey and a one size fits all approach does not really apply to career growth. The importance of aligning personal values, skill sets, and interests with the right company environment cannot be overstated.

Whether it’s choosing between a startup’s agility or an enterprise’s stability, a B2B or B2C model or the thrill of zero to one innovation versus the steady growth of one to infinity products, each choice shapes your career trajectory. The key takeaway is to remain adaptable, open to learning and to continually align your career choices with your evolving professional and personal goals.

By focusing on transferable skills and being mindful of the cultural feat with potential employers, you position yourself not just for job success, but for job fulfillment, a crucial distinction in the long arc of a career. So here you can see some of the resources that I would like to recommend. Please feel free to scan the QR codes. The first QR code is my LinkedIn, so feel free to follow and connect. And also I wrote a Medium article covering this topic in case you are more of a reader rather than audio receiver.

So feel free to check out the article as well with all the slides provided there too. And in terms of the recommended resources, if you are struggling to understand what is important for you, I would highly recommend to find a mentor, and there is a really great tool for that. It’s called Meander. There you will be able to connect with mentors and professionals from bigger companies, smaller companies, different maturity levels, et cetera. So feel free to check it out and find a guide for your career.

Then also, there are a few communities that I have mentioned here. First one is the Product School community. If you’re a product manager, you can get a lot of support from your peers. It actually helped me a lot when I just moved to the US and was looking for my next job opportunity. So I highly, highly recommend this community as well. If you’re a designer, feel free to check out Friends of Figma community. They have a very broad number of directions for the different specialties within the design.

And finally, to read the reviews and know a little bit more about the culture, I would recommend to also check out the Blind and Fishbowl. However, take it with a grain of salt because people are much more motivated to share negative feedback than positive. However, you take much more risk if you do not know the negatives compared if you do not know the positive. So it’s much better to be surprised with the positive aspects rather than to be discouraged with the negative things.

So check out that as well. And finally, Levels.fyi to know the salary and benefits comparison. So that concludes my presentation. Thank you very much for your attention. Angie, back to you.

Angie Chang: Thank you so much for the excellent talk and all the resources that you shared with us today at Elevate. I encourage people to check them out and take a picture of that QR code, go to that link. We’ll be moving on to the next session. So thank you so much and we’ll see you in the next one. Bye.

Liliya Sabitova: Thank you.

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