Product Management

First 30 days in a new product gig

Product Manager job descriptions vary across companies depending on the industry, the number of products, and the size and growth stage of your company. However, beginnings are almost always the same. Here’s your checklist for how to ace your first 60 days on the job.

Week 1 Goals: People

  • Meet everyone in 1×1 meetings
  • Read product documentation
  • Set goals for your role

1×1 Meetings List

  1. Your first meeting with your boss – set expectations.
    • How do they assign work?
    • What’s their communication style (email, in person, phone)?
    • What do they expect from you in the first 30-60-90 days?
    • Create a plan and update the status weekly so they can see how you’re progressing.
  2. Your second meeting with your boss – find out how you can help.
    • How can you make their life easier?
    • What is harder than it should be?
    • What is a project they’d love to do but there’s just not enough time/resources?
  3. 1×1’s with your team members
    • How can I make your life easier?
    • What is harder than it should be?
    • What are you struggling with?
    • How can I help?
    • Tell me about a time you really enjoyed working with a product manager.

Take notes in every meeting and share them with the person you met with. If appropriate, let them know that you’d like to help with some of their struggles/issues. Right away, schedule a check-in in 3 months to sync up on your progress.

Week 2 Goals: Process & Product

  • Understand who sets the strategy, what is being measured and how decisions are made
  • Understand how you fit into your org
  • Understand the past – review latest completed work and not started tickers
  • Study every corner of your product

Questions to ask:

  • What are the strategic goals this year? How are they measured? How are product KPIs tied to those goals?
  • Who sets the roadmap?
  • What are the outside influences into the PM decision making?
  • What areas of the business have inputs to strategy?
  • Is there pressure to implement ‘special’ features for Customers/Sales in releases?

Read anything you can get your hands on – old documents, specs, design documents, old meetings notes. As you find documentation that is missing or out of date, fix it.

Week 3 Goals: Users

  • Talk to current customers. Sit in on sales calls, support calls, customer success calls, or any scheduled call with your end users.
  • Spend quality time on the help desk/support center.
  • Get on the forums, engage with users on Twitter.
  • Participate in sales calls

Questions to ask:

  • What is the main benefit of this product for you?
  • If you could no longer use our product, what’s the one thing you would miss the most?
  • Please list the top three things that persuaded you to use us rather than a competitor.
  • Is there anything we should improve?
  • What is frustrating about our product?
  • What new feature would you like to see in our product? What kind of tasks do you need this feature for? How do you manage your needs now, without this feature?
  • What other products would you like to see us offer?

Week 4 Goals: Competitors

  • Check out your competition and the rest of the market space. Sign up for their service and for their newsletter.
  • Understand the innovation trends in your market space.
  • Put together a competitor matrix

Don’t forget to take care of yourself.

  • Get all your systems in order:
    • Set up tools and devices in order.
    • Install the software you need.
    • Create email filters.
    • Set up Google News Alerts for your product and your competitors’ products.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • What is one thing you really want to do/learn in this job?
    • What is one thing you need to improve at? What steps are you going to take to get better, and how are you going to measure your progress?
    • Who is in your support network?

That’s it. You got through the first month.

Now, it’s time to act. However, don’t forget that one of the biggest traps of a new PM is starting projects too early when there’s a risk of you not understanding something yet. There’s a fine line between showing respect to your coworkers so that they know you don’t consider your a “know it all” and actually starting to deliver value. Make sure your timing is right.

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