5 External Supports When Your Team Need Product Advice

Aatir Abdul Rauf


Aatir Abdul Rauf


Sep 26, 2022

5 External Supports When Your Team Need Product Advice

Q: "I'm running a startup. Who do I need to look for if my team needs product advice?"

When you're looking for external help in product (or any other department, for that matter), there are typically 5 choices available:

Coach, Mentor, Advisor, Consultant, Trainer.

It's important for ventures to know the difference as hiring the wrong one can easily lead to unmet expectations & disappointment.

Let's break them down.

1/ Product Coach

A coach leverages their experience to improve the way the team thinks about problems. They'll ask questions to assist the team arrive at better decisions. They encourage being thorough & spotlight considerations that the team might be missing. They, however, don't suggest answers or recommendations as such - they work as a support layer.

Ex: A Product Coach could sit in one of your scrum meetings or participate in a design sprint & facilitate those conversations.

2/ Mentor

Mentors usually work with individuals on a longer-term basis. It's also voluntary (not compensation based). Mentors formulate a personal bond with the mentee, know about their professional/personal situation & deliver all-encompassing advice in an informal manner. They share notes from their experiences to help with certain dilemmas too.

Ex: A Product Manager can have a mentor advise him/her on career opportunities.

See more: Searching For A Mentor? 16 Questions To Help You Find The Right One

3/ Consultant

When a team lacks the expertise to solve a particular problem or needs to achieve an outcome in a short timeframe, a consultant can be recruited to "buy" a fix. Not only do they bring their specialized knowledge, they might even roll up their sleeves and get the job done for you as well if pre-agreed.

Ex: A consultant can help craft a product strategy deck for a board meeting or setup a tool integration.

A man pointing at a laptop screen

4/ Product Advisor

An advisor brings experience, expertise & connections with them to help the team through challenges they're familiar with. They advise & recommend but don't do the work as such. Moreover, they work on a "pull model" where the team engages them when help is needed. If they have influence, they can also act as a brand ambassador.

Ex: An HR-tech team can ask a relevant advisor about what recruitment analytics matter to HR personnel in the market.

5/ Product Trainer

Someone who conducts live or virtual trainings for your team to up-skill them on a specific topic.

Ex: A trainer can be brought in to teach the team on best practices around prototyping.

  • If you're team is looking to get team up-skilled, then consider a trainer, consultant or advisor
  • If you have a team of seasoned professionals that needs to work better together & think strategically, go for a coach
  • If you want someone to just do the work for you, opt for a consultant
  • If there are specific hires with a lot of potential, connect them with possible mentors

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