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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As a Product Manager, you might be asked a lot of questions during an interview. One of them includes technical questions. Here are 4 types of technical questions that you might come across.