Natalie Yan-Chatonsky and Asha Ioculari connected through the Association of Product Professionals’ two-way mentorship program. The program connects like-minded product professionals – helping them collaborate on shared projects and bring their brightest ideas and goals to life.
Natalie Yan-Chatonsky started her career in a product marketing role at a technology company before stepping into a product manager position with Yahoo—a trailblazer in the digital business space. After spending time at Tourism Australia and in other product management roles, Natalie decided it was time to embark on a journey of her own. Today, she is the Founder and CEO of Full Time Lives.
Asha Ioculari has worked across various roles that blended content, design and customer experience. After an early career in book publishing, her experiences through working for Lonely Planet, Jetstar and Open Universities Australia set her on a path to product. She has been a product manager for the last six years.
Bright Ideas Brought to Life
Asha believes APP’s mentorship program has given her the confidence to approach her career from a different perspective.
“I was thinking about fostering a relationship with an industry expert who could form an opinion of me, my skills, and my situation outside of my day-to-day work.”
“I was also excited to help someone else as well. I’ve enjoyed the mentoring relationships that I’ve had in the past,” she explained.
“I wanted to discover how I could grow in ways that were not always tied to my employer. I wanted to develop myself and my career trajectory in a more holistic way.”
“APP’s two-way mentorship helped me to work through all these questions, and is one of the reasons I found and started a new role recently at SEEK,” she explained.
As the global peak body for product people, APP’s people-first approach encourages members to advance their careers, and to align and uplift the entire product profession.
“An industry association is particularly important for messy, complicated professions and roles—they help provide cohesion for the industry as a whole,” Asha said.
A Perfect Match
When Natalie connected with Asha through APP’s two-way mentorship program, she knew it was the perfect match.
“Asha was clearly very passionate about product management, right from our first meeting.”
“It’s almost like there is a professional bar – you can tell someone is committed to their profession and the industry by the fact that they have joined their professional association and want to grow and learn – like I do,” Natalie said.
All APP members can participate in the mentoring program, where a member gets paired with another member with the knowledge and experience to help them work towards a specific goal. The unique two-way program allows both parties to hone their coaching skills, ensuring that communication and mutual benefits are high on the agenda.
“I saw that Asha had a publishing background, and I was already starting to think about writing a book,” Natalie said. “The combination of Asha’s publishing experience and knowing that I could coach Asha through her career progressions and next steps was fantastic.”
Similarly, the experience helped Asha to fast-track her career and seek new opportunities.
“The conversations I’d already had with Natalie helped me recognise a good opportunity when I saw it. Having someone like Natalie to share my thinking with – particularly when I was unable to speak to my co-workers – was really, really helpful,” Asha said.
A Built-in Safety Net
The two-way mentorship program can be highly structured, or it can be completely fluid. Participants set the boundaries themselves and work together to ensure everyone gets the most out of the program. To set participants up for success, APP acts like a safety net, providing help and support along the way.
“APP helped us kick off the mentorship in a great way. I really appreciate that they made the introduction and had resources focused on how to approach the first session and how to set expectations,” Asha said.
“I was particularly impressed that APP had done some thinking about who it is that you’re matched with. I was confident that Natalie had seen something in me that she wanted to work with,” she added.
Natalie and Asha started their mentorship program with a ‘get to know you meeting’ and quickly decided that a weekly session would work best for them. They took alternating turns in the spotlight, receiving fortnightly insights into their careers and aspirations.
“You know that if it’s your turn coming up, you need to do some work – particularly if there is something you need to follow up on,” Natalie explained. “This structure allows each of us to prepare the problems we want to discuss so that we’re not wasting the other person’s time—you’ve already scoped out the discussion.”
Trust and Career Progression
Asha said the weekly discussions were the perfect way to “build a rapport quickly and get some quick wins”.
She believes the mentorship has given her an outlet to speak honestly outside her daily routine and connections.
“Natalie’s immense skill and experience have been wonderful. I was so surprised when Natalie wanted to work with me. It was great to know that my skills and my experience are valuable to someone else.”
“It really gave me the confidence that we all have a unique story, and all have something to offer. The mentorship really benefitted me,” Asha said.
Natalie was just as positive about the benefits of the mentorship. “There are certain areas where I don’t have anyone else to talk to. But because we have a trusted relationship, I know Asha only wants the best for me and gives me advice that helps.”
“We care about the success of one another. The emotional support we’ve built is just as useful as the practical information on the publishing world and being an author,” Natalie said.
You Won’t Know Unless You Give it a Try
The pair have recently shifted their formal weekly sessions into a monthly routine. Now that they’ve built a rapport, the formalities aren’t needed quite as much—a quick call for a friendly chat when a curly question pops up isn’t uncommon.
“We’re already forward booked well into September. Our coaching calls are something that I really look forward to,” Natalie said.
“APP’s Skills Capability Assessment is also a great resource—it helps you determine where you sit in the industry, which is particularly helpful if you’re trying to work out where to focus your learning, and where you want to go in your career,” Natalie said.
Natalie and Asha encourage everyone in the product management space to try APP’s two-way mentorship program.
“Think of it as an experiment. Give it a go, and don’t feel like it’s a big chunk of your life. It could be of great benefit to you, but you just won’t know if you don’t give it a try,” Asha concluded.