Like any other job, product management can oftentimes be a very overwhelming experience for any individual joining a new company. When I first transitioned into my first product role, I was completely lost and found myself scrambling to different meetings without proper context of what was going on. As I’ve watched and helped new product managers ramp up in our company, I’ve found that it’s important to take the following 5 steps as a new product manager:
1) Meet Everyone on the Team
Some of the most successful PMs we’ve onboarded have immediately taken the time to introduce themselves and schedule 1 on 1 chats with every member of the team. It’s important not to be over-intrusive here, look for times when team members aren’t swamped to schedule chats and get to know everyone on a personal level.
During these chats, take some time to figure out what bottlenecks people are facing or what issues they keep running into during the product development process. Your goal here is to take notes and look for areas where you can help standardize or improve processes so that the team can focus on optimizing productivity.
2) Circle Back with your Manager to Set Expectations
You may have already spent a great deal of time during the interview / pre-onboarding process to speak with your management team or manager about your role. Keep in mind that most companies (especially startups) try to iterate quickly and by the time you start your job, your key objectives may have changed. As a new product manager, it’s important to circle back with your manager to review your role expectations and how you can help contribute right away.
3) Read, Listen, and Absorb
Figure out where your team’s central document repository is (keep in mind some earlier stage startups may not have one, or may have been running too lean to even document much of the product process) and try to dig to find old documentation (specs, wireframes, product requirement documents, wikis) that you can read.
Additionally, as you attend meetings or go through the 1 on 1’s that you’ve scheduled with you team, listen to your team discuss what’s been going on and try to hold back from providing your input. As you continually read and listen, you’ll start to absorb a lot of the context behind the product which will help you think more clearly before diving in to assist the team.
4) Meet with your Engineering Manager to Discuss the Product in Detail
To further develop context and credibility around your product, schedule some time to meet with your engineering manager (or whoever is the lead engineer) and discuss all aspects of the product in detail. Hopefully you’ve already spent a great deal of time prior to starting the job playing around with the product at a high level so here’s where you might ask about the technical architecture of the product and about any previous major issues the dev team has found itself facing. Don’t worry too much about sounding like you need to understand 100% of the conversation; the goal here is to be curious and ask questions so that you can better understand the inner-workings of the product you’re going to be working with.
5) Spend Time with your Customers
Now that you’ve gotten a better understanding of your product, it’s important to go spend time with your customers to get their perspective on the product. Sit in with your sales team on a few calls / in-person visits or engage with your customers through forums / support tickets.
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