You just got hired to your first job as a product manager. Congrats! Now what? It takes most new product managers six to eight months to reach full productivity, and most companies don’t have onboarding training that is designed specifically for product managers. Without proper training, you could end up spending the first part of your career haphazardly gathering bits of information. So, how do you create a learning plan to conquer the first 90 days of your PM career? Tribevest Product Leader John Franck shares insights on how to navigate your role as a product manager, and discover the information necessary to be successful.
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On knowing your teams as a product manager
Building good working relationships with your team makes your job more enjoyable, and in turn, your teams are more productive. Close-knit teams that trust each other are more innovative and reliable. Product managers need to know their team on a personal level in order to develop a cohesive work environment. This is what is important to know about building teams as a new product manager:
“The first area is knowing your team when you join or you start a new role. And that’s understanding the who, what, when, where, and why of the people that you’re working with. So, who is this person? What do they do? Where did they work before? And why do they do this job? Why are they passionate about what they do?”
It’s just an easy framework to have those conversations. And I think it’s critical to have meet and greets with everyone that’s on your team. And the first week or two, separate from other meetings, schedule time one-on-one for 30 to 45 minutes, where you just talked to them, you split that time 50% between work-related questions and 50% between just getting to know them.
“You want to feel close to the people you’re working with, you want to understand them. Product Management is a personal field. And so we have to build that relationship with all of our team members.”
On the importance of knowing your stakeholders
Stakeholders have the most impact on a product manager’s work. Communicating with them in the right way plays a vital part in keeping them on board with your product. It is crucial to product development that you organize, monitor, and maintain your stakeholder relationships. And this practice is not always easy. Remember the following when building relationships with stakeholders as a new product manager:
“The next area is knowing your stakeholders. This is understanding who they are, and what motivates them. Similar to knowing your team, I suggest you schedule a meeting greet with them, where you’re talking to them and getting to know them as a person. So you can begin to understand what motivates them at work with stakeholders.”
“The key part here is understanding what their goals are, and how they define product success. We have to make sure our mindset is right in aligning the product, vision, and direction with our stakeholder’s individual goals. So, filling out quick templates, knowing what their goals are, and how they define success helps you be able to manage stakeholders.”
“I think managing stakeholders is one of the hardest parts of product management. They want their feature on the roadmap prioritized over everything else, they’re the ones putting the pressure on them. I know from my early days in product management, that it’s easy to cave a little bit and prioritize what they’re asking just to make them happy. But that can’t be how we operate as product managers.”
On the importance of knowing your product
Product knowledge is essential for managing your stakeholders and product teams. Knowing the ins and outs of your product allow you to present your product accurately and persuasively. When your customers, teams, and stakeholders know you know what you’re talking about, they are more likely to trust you and invest in your product. Here are some of John’s reasons why it’s important to know your product as a product manager:
“When you start a new role, you can bring a unique perspective into the company. But you also bring a fresh set of eyes. In your first few months, you want to capture your unique perspective and insight onto the product. You get a great opportunity in your first few weeks to actually go through the product as if you’re a first-time user.”
“What I suggest for people to do here is to document your experience. The first couple of times you’re going through it, write out how you navigate, and what you click on. If it’s a software product or a mobile app, write it down in non-technical language, as if describing it to a friend. What this does is help you identify potential issues or problems.”
“There’s a lot of different questions you can ask of your team or those around you to understand your product better. Do you want to understand how different releases have been and how growth was affected by different features? What’s causing churn? What do the most loyal customers do? The best thing we can do is keep asking questions to keep learning. So, ask as many questions as you can about your own product to make sure you fully understand.”
On knowing your numbers as a product manager
When you understand your company’s data, you understand exactly where the pain points are and you’ll know which ones to fix first. Product managers need to gather feedback in order to find out what their stakeholders and customers think of their product. New product managers should prioritize data digging because it is one of the best ways to understand the product. These are some reasons why it is important to know your numbers as a product manager:
“This is understanding what numbers and metrics are most important to pay attention to. When you start your role, there are the core product numbers and metrics: growth rate, churn, number of sessions per day, or per week or month. There are all these core metrics. But depending on your product, you want to know what unique metrics are the lifeblood of your product.”
“I’m always surprised when I ask product managers what their products goal are for the year, and a lot of times it’s a hard question for people to answer. This is maybe the company’s goal, or this is the division’s goal, but break it down to your product, what is the specific goal for this year?”
“If you’re new or you’re training, spend that time digging through whatever analytics or data. Learn about the metrics, trends, and spike-ups that have happened over the past few years. What’s caused those? Any extra time you have is well spent when you’re digging into data because you just understand your product much better.”
About the speaker
About the host
Rishikesh is a Sr. Product Leader at Instacart. He has 10+ years of field knowledge at some of the most prestigious product companies in the world. He enjoys working on product development from the bottom-up and seeing products come to fruition.