Product Management

It is your first day as a Product Manager in a new company.

What would be your top priorities in the first week? And the first month? What are some of your DOs and DONTs and why?

  • Product Director at Intercom

    Listen Listen Listen.

    Although it’s your first month in a new job and you’re desperate to prove that you were the right candidate to be hired, you only get one chance to make a good first impression.

    Now’s not the time to be inspiring everyone with how much you know and how ‘your way’s the best way’. Now’s the time to meet as many people as you can, learn about how they operate and the challenges they’re facing and be as open as possible.

    You can do this and still come across as confident and authoritative, but it’s critical that you position yourself as someone who’s here to find out what’s working and what’s not to ensure that when you do jump in you have identified the best place to start.

    Be purposeful in how you do this. I always make a list of the things I need to know before I start a new role: What’s our vision and mission, who are our customers, who are our competitors, who are my team + key stakeholders, what’s worked and what hasn’t, and how do will we achieve — and measure — success. I’m also looking out for who might be my allies too ;-)

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  • Director of Product Management at Cytora

    Stop me! Oh oh oh stop me... Stop me if you think that you've heard this one before.

    ###1 Get out the building meet your customers.
    Users will impress on you what you need to know first quicker than anyone inside the organisation.

    ###2 Take a listening tour.
    A good onboarding process will introduce you to important functions (sales, marketing, product) and maybe product teams in week one. If there's little process, do this yourself. Meeting room, cafe, pub — doesn't matter. Just get people to talk to you about the state of the company and product suite, where they see things heading and why.

    3 Journal what you learn, and what you think.

    As a new joiner, your fresh perspective is invaluable, but this will fade with time. To guard against this, journal your first (gut) reaction to everything you learn, and share these liberally with the company.

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  • Product Manager at Blend

    Your top priorities as a new product manager are:

    1. Establish expectations around your role as a product manager.
    2. Build empathy with key stakeholders.
    3. Learn about the context of the company and the product.

    On your first day, sit down with your hiring manager and talk through expectations, areas of ownership, and growth plans.

    Speak with people in various roles and various experience levels. You’ll need the organizational context to make informed decisions.

    Ask questions as soon as you have them. Don’t worry about “appearing uninformed” — people are forgiving when you’re new!

    Within your first week, play with your product and note down areas of confusion.

    Embed yourself in your development team and learn their working style. Understand what the current sprint priorities are, and clearly grasp the existing set of tickets being tackled in the sprint. You want to be operationally ready as soon as possible.

    Within your first month, review existing documents (e.g. technical specifications, customer interview notes, presentations to the executive team, past roadmaps) at a high level. Aim for breadth and not for depth.

    Your goal is to index where all of the critical information is, and figure out how to access them when you need them, as well as get a sense of how your broader organization operates.

    Create onboarding documents for your own understanding. Customer flows, organizational charts, high-level product object models, and sales funnels are particularly helpful.

    I'd also recommend you look at...

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  • PM at Ohno.ai

    1. Listen to the team.

    Just find out what's bugging them, what's broken. Don't provide any solutions, just empathise. Most dysfunctions in shipping software are related to how a team is working together.

    2. Chat to a few customers.

    See things from their end. You'll get it without the 'spin'.

    3. Get to know the head of support.

    They know where the bodies are buried.

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  • The Team at JAM

    You made it! Hope it was a big salary raise for you. You’ve been recognised as a PM expert and now can sit back and finally relax, right?

    Wrooooong.

    Switch on the mindset of mindful discovery. You have a lot to learn.

    Do you know the concept of an OODA loop? It’s a decision making system devised by colonel John Boyd, and originally used in the context of military operations. The acronym stands for observe, orient, decide, act — four essential components of execution for you as a PM. How does it map on to your first month?

    Week one is observation.

    • Understand the product in depth. Before you make any decisions, you need to know the product inside out. This applies to all its aspects, from how it’s built to how it’s sold. You might have to put on your nerd hat and do some reading too. Yay for documentation!
    • Get to know your team. Talk to each member — yes, that’s many one-on-one meetings. Note your team’s current struggles.
    • Identify stakeholders. Find out whose interests will you need to bear in mind when working on the product. Determine the current relationship between them and the company. In other words, figure out if your biggest investor is already pissed off at lack of updates.

    Month one is orientation.

    • Set expectations. Communicate with your colleagues — your team, those above you, and fellow managers. Make it clear what steps you intend to take in your new position. You might need to introduce them all to the concept of an OODA loop.
    • Prioritise changes for most efficient gain. Identify processes and workflows that can be improved. These small gains will compound overtime, and have a lasting impact.
    • Low hanging fruit. After talking to your team you likely identified little changes that can help them be more productive. Perhaps the web designer would do better with two monitors, and the front end engineer with a better chair?

    Depending on the initial expectations you set, month one might have to include elements of decision or action too. Show your initiative and buy that extra monitor.

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