Osnat Benari, Product & Strategy Consultant, DragonsCanFly

Osnat Benari is the Product & Strategy Consultant at DragonsCanFly. She is a product and leadership coach for companies and professionals. Named one of the product-led-growth top 25 influencers, Osnat has over 20 years of product management experience working for companies like Diligent, Verizon Media, WeWork, and BBG Ventures. Osnat serves on the advisory board for Audioburst, on the board of Computer Science at Hunter College, and is an alum committee member at the American Friends of Tel Aviv University. She’s an advocate for resilience and mental health in the workplace and a founding member of Chief, a network focused on connecting and supporting women executive leaders.

In a recent chat with CXO Outlook Magazine, Osnat Benari talks about her professional journey, personal inspiration, key strategies to implement while addressing workplace mental health issues, and a lot more. Following are the excerpts from the interview.

Tell us about your professional/personal background. How did your journey at DragonsCanFly begin?

I’ve been in product management for 20 years. I started my career in corporate training, and meeting customers got me to bring a lot of their feedback to the product team. Someone on that team recommended me when they were growing and were looking for a new PM to join, and the rest is history. I have had various product roles throughout the year, I worked in start-ups, large corporates across multiple industries. I led product, design, engineering, content, and product marketing teams.

Early this year, I took all this experience and started Dragon Can Fly, a product and design agency, with my partner Inbar Edut. She is a design and creative rockstar, and I have worked with her for the past eight years – so I knew we could build great things together. I made this change to work on my own to also focus on my book “Starting from Scratch – Manage Change Like Your Career Depends On It,” which is very timely now.  

You are an advocate of resilience and mental health in the workplace. Which key strategies can companies implement to address workplace mental health issues?

First, talk about it and normalize it. It’s astounding, but I still encounter pushback from leaders or organizations still stigmatizing this term. Our mental health is essential for us to be able to focus, see opportunities and thrive – and organizations that understand that put an emphasis on their employees’ health with relevant resources and tools like access to mental health services like Groops or Better Help, subsidized apps like Headspace but also normalize putting out of office messages (and taking time off) as well as company-wide no meeting days.

Please tell us about Audioburst and your role as an Advisory Board Member.

I met the team at AudioBurst when I was heading the R&D team at AOL. We were looking for innovative technologies in text, audio, and video – I loved the team, and the technology was impressive. When they invited me to advise on product innovation, I joined with no hesitation.

In your experience, what do you think makes a great leader?

A great leader needs adaptability, resilience, and good listening skills. With the constant changes, leaders need to recognize when change is coming, see opportunities and adapt. Adapt their direction and their team’s focus quickly and seamlessly. They also need to be resilient, an ability I like to quote this metaphor “Survive the rain and use it to grow.”

Lastly, they need to listen. Listen to the market, customers, peers, colleagues, and their team. Listen to the verbal and non-verbal cues.

Your book ‘Starting from Scratch’ is already in pre-order and ready to release for the new year. Can you brief us about it?

Change affects us all. Apparently, 15% of us take it as trauma; most of us are resilient, but 25% bounce back bigger, better, and stronger.

After being affected by workplace changes several times, reorgs, layoffs, and mergers, I decided to identify the model that 25% follow and write all about it.

Guiding you step by step through the process of starting from scratch, this book is a toolkit, packed with everything you need to make change work for you. You’ll learn how to grow your knowledge, build your resilience, connect with the right kind of support, recognize when change is coming, design your role model, step into her shoes, and manage your mental health along the way.

What do you think women leaders today will look back on and wish they had known or done differently five years from now?

Many of us self-filter ourselves when we see an opportunity. We have this strong need to be perfect and many times miss on a chance, a new opportunity. We need to stop that. Whatever it is you wish for yourself, start it today, don’t wait for the perfect moment or for a time you will be more prepared.

Who was an inspiring woman leader to you growing up and who inspires you now?

My mom made sure I had a mentor since I was very young. I met him in middle school, and we are still in touch. He wrote the forward for my book “Starting From Scratch.” So the fact that she knew I needed someone to inspire and push me from an early age – is impressive. I am lucky to have worked with some of the best leaders. They have been my guide, and as many of them are on my personal board of directors, I am lucky to be able to reach out for support or advice.

I am constantly looking for a professional crush, and I have so many: Mel Robbins, Bozoma Saint John, Glennon Doyle, Oprah Winfrey, Dorie Clark and Melinda Gates – That’s my shortlist, and I have more…

How did you become a mentor? What advice would you give someone interested in becoming one?

Being a mentor is an extremely rewarding experience. Mentorship is when someone takes the time to invest in themselves and be mentored. This action is worth commending knowing you need help to grow and taking action is empowering.

As a mentor, you are part of someone else path to growth and success.

I started mentoring as a professional about 10 years ago. Someone invited me to meet teens and tell them about my job – it was as part of an organization supporting youth in STEM. I saw it as a “riskless mentorship,” and I felt comfortable talking about my job. But I found myself preparing for the session, learning more, and learning to better articulate my ideas. All of a sudden, I noticed I grew with them. Since then, I have mentored at WiTNY, WAVE by Built By Girls and now at Cornell Tech and Product League.

My advice is to start small – whatever that means for you. A mentor is “an ear to listen, a shoulder to lean on, and a brain to pick – so don’t worry if you don’t feel like the biggest expert; you will always have something to give. Find an organization that takes time to match you with the right person based on understanding their needs and what you bring to the table. I specifically like mentoring at Product League because my mentee gets access to me but also to a community of like-minded people, courses, and resources.

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