Are you a Mole or a Meerkat?


A mole is solitary. A mole is hard-working. A mole gets the digging done.

A mole also spends most of its time in the dark. A mole receives little to no assistance from other moles. A mole rarely sees the light of day, let alone the scenery. A mole is not routinely provided tips about opportunities beyond its burrow. A mole presumably gets better and better at digging, and that’s about it.

A mole has a very short life span. It is difficult to determine whether or not a mole can be said to be “having a good time” along the way.


Meerkats are highly social. Meerkats work hard like a mole does, but meerkats work as hard at social interaction as they do at any other activity that’s important to them.

Meerkats spend plenty of time out in the light, and are often scanning their surroundings. Meerkats can expect assistance from each other, and tips and insights about what’s going on all around them, even at a distance. Meerkats develop and apply a variety of skills.

Meerkats have a much longer life span than moles, and they appear to have a lot more fun along the way. They labor, they party, they play, they share, and they are continuously engaged.

Product Manager?

On the scale of Mole-to-Meerkat, where do you fit? Where would you like to?

Do you engage with other product managers beyond your business responsibilities? Have you joined an association or a networking group? If you’ve joined, do you actually show-up? Have you volunteered your time, energy and smarts?

We product managers, given our innate tendency to take on too much work and perceive all gaps as fillable, can be completely consumed by our jobs, and many of us don’t take time for anything else, much less professional associations. Perhaps it’s the classic “I just don’t have time”, or the more subtle “Maybe I could make time, but would it be worth it?”

Not so many years ago, I decided to set time aside for product management associations, first as an occasional attendee, then as an active volunteer. Just this year I joined the Advisory Board of a regional association, the Product Management Consortium, and the blog of an international one, the AIPMM.

That decision has resulted in hugely positive impacts on how I view my role, the breadth of my knowledge, and the degree to which I enjoy what I do. I meet very interesting product people of various specialties, hear stories that provide new insights from other industries and careers, and get support for problem solving that I simply can not get on my own. I also enjoy a greater immediacy of news, events, and job leads. The value of association to me has been substantial, tangible, and has only grown over time.

So if you’re a Mole who, during a rare break at the surface, glanced at we Meerkats and wondered if things are really any better for us, I can enthusiastically assure you that they are.

Come on over!

Trevor Rotzien
the product manager

Categories: Anthropology, Product Management and tagged , .
  • Gwen Gyldenege

    Excellent post, Trevor.
    We all have our mole moments – the need to dive in and work solo. But more and more I hear people express the need or want to socialize and collaborate to accomplish their work. If we have a good balance of the two aspects – mole and meerkat, we can achieve greater success. For, without the moments working alone and allowing yourself to ponder, your mind to solve problems, our group collaboration might not be as successful.
    I agree with you on connecting and engaging in professional societies. They are intented to help support us when we are unable to find that support elsewhere. They are also there to provide us with avenues to give back and teach/mentor others about the mistakes we’ve made and how they can be successful. A group is no better than the people who make it up. Show up, engage, ask, encourage and you’ll be surprised by how much you get in return. We must help one another. I believe it was Mr. Franklin who said, “United we stand, divided we fall.”

  • Trevor Rotzien

    Thanks Gwen…
    While I tend to exaggerate, generalize (and blatantly anthropomorphize) to make a point, I agree that sometimes the mole mode is essential for thoughtful work and social battery recharging, and makes us better meerkats long term.