Congratulations! It’s your first day at your new product manager job. You’re excited about the company and its mission. You’re looking forward to meeting your team. Your new hire orientation is done. Now what?
Starting a new job can be overwhelming. It can feel like a firehose of information is hitting you in the face every day. Where should product managers focus their time in their first month? Here’s my list.
Meet the right people
Product managers need to learn to be effective in their organizations. That is hard to do without knowing and working with the right people. This goes beyond your immediate team of engineers and designers.
On your first day, talk to your manager and find out two things:
- Who are the people outside your team you should work with?
- Who are the stakeholders that are interested in making sure you succeed?
#1 may include people in marketing, business development, operations, data science, and the field. They will help you figure out what products to build and how to deliver them to customers. #2 may be leaders in these or other parts of the organization. You may not work with them every day, but they are good sources of feedback on your plans.
Know your customer
To build great products, you need to know your customers and what they want. It’s good to spend time reading customer research that your colleagues have already amassed. But, there’s no substitute for doing your own research. Reading product reviews, driving usability studies, traveling to field offices, and doing first-hand interviews are all good ways to know your customer. Don’t forget to bring what you learn back to your team. Often, you’ll have something new to share.
Ship a quick feature
The best way to figure out how to get things done at your new job is to go through the motions of researching, designing, building, and shipping a feature. Even if you’re a manager, shipping a feature will reveal how decisions are made in your new organizations and highlight the strengths and weaknesses of your team.
This is especially important for managers; if you don’t go through the process of building product first-hand, you won’t be able to judge first-hand what is and isn’t working well.
Get a mentor
Mentors are invaluable in giving you feedback and showing you a perspective you won’t have when entering a new organization. Find someone who’s an expert in what you’re not, and ask them if they’re willing to mentor you. If you’re not sure who to ask, get advice from your manager.
Read a book
There’s likely one or two books everyone around you has read and values highly. Ask your manager or mentor to name them. Maybe it’s a book about being a good manager, or staying innovative, or the trials and tribulations of running and scaling startups. Whatever the book is, if it’s in the headspace of your colleagues, it’s probably a good one for you to read.
. . . . .
The first month at your new product manager job will start slowly and end quickly. If you do the above, I bet you’ll exit the month will a lot of groundwork that will set you up for success in your second month and beyond.