Letica Fox-Thomas, who goes by “Tica,” calls her path to product management “ridiculous.” While she started out as a Russian and Eastern European studies major, she did earn her chops in financial services on her way to her current role as vice president of product management for Fidelity Investments. She sees product management as a great compilation of the many things she’s done, plus many she still wants to do.
“The idea of being a product manager just kind of got here,” Tica says. “They don't teach it in school. Some schools are doing some version of that now, but it’s not a traditional path. It’s not accounting; there’s no CPA institute to get you certified. And so, because the field is just always evolving, the technology is always evolving, incredible new tools are coming onto the market, you have to be in a learning mindset in general.”
It’s that learning mindset that helps shape her views on the importance of mentorship, both in its traditional form and in “reverse mentoring,” which she sees as a key part of the Diversity and Inclusion movement.
“One concept that I learned about is called ‘reverse mentoring,’ in which senior executives actually get paired with people of color, people with diverse backgrounds, veterans, etc., to really try to understand what the experience is like within an organization as a veteran and as a person of color or someone with different abilities,” she explains. “It’s an opportunity for senior executives to learn in a way that they really don’t have an opportunity to get … I like this idea of giving them a different education from the one that they would have had. So I’m a big fan of reverse mentoring.”
Tica’s take on true diversity goes beyond standard measures, such as race, gender and ethnicity. There are many forms of diversity she believes are integral to a successful organization, including diversity of background, neurodiversity and personality type. And she applies diversity principles not just to internal teams, but to customers, as well:
Learn more about Tica’s insights into the diversity of thought and ideas, as well as why she thinks product managers should be “intimately” involved in research on their products, on this episode of This Is Product Management.
Download the transcript of this episode here:
Here are the highlights:
The importance of reverse mentoring: 8:09
The multimillion-dollar DNI question: 9:57
Incorporating research into product management: 22:00