How do you lay the foundations for success when starting your first product management job, or your third, or your tenth? In this episode we go through a set of ten activities that – if you do them – will get you off to a great start.
1) Meet 1:1 with everyone
- Superiors, anyone who will be a stakeholder in your work
- Reportees, anyone who will be working FOR you, or where you will be a stakeholder in their work
- Colleagues, “across the aisle” and everywhere else. Anyone you might need to borrow ideas or resources from, or get consensus with.
2) Get Expectations
- Primarily from superiors, but also from peers & reportees
- Know what they view as a successful first year (minimum, good, great)
3) Get assumptions
- Technical infrastructure, team release schedule, research capability, customer love, marketing skills, etc, etc, etc
4) Test those assumptions
- Seriously, before the 100 days are up, you need to know if they’re reliable assumptions. Get into the nitty gritty if you need to.
5) Get on help Chat (or calls)
- This obviously means you’re going to have to know the product, the help docs, and the escalation process. If you’re technical, you can show your skills here. If you’re not, you can earn respect by diagnosing system issues and saving the engineers time.
- Validate assumptions
6) Get on Sales Chat (or calls)
- The larger the average deal size, the more I’d recommend shadowing a few sales calls first before you screw something up, but if you can’t sell your product, you don’t know your customers.
- Benefit here is that you’ll earn the respect of the sales team since you’ll have to know the product and I’d highly recommend being humble and taking feedback about your actual sales tactics from the reps. If you can close a deal, instant respect.
- Validate assumptions
7) Get introduced to your top 1-2 partners
- Generally managed by an engineering or marketing leader, they should be confident enough in you to make the introduction to either the partner contact, or your counterpart.
- You can play dumb as you “get the lay of the land”, while secretly validating some assumptions.
8) Get a list of information streams
- Where is the churn data?
- Who is churning?
- Where are the bug records/customer support logs?
- How can you reach out to new customers?
- Where is the product usage data & engagement metrics/tools?
- What tools are in place to test new ideas or get customer feedback?
- Who handles bugs and how are they communicated to engineering?
- Who handles feature enhancement and communication to product?
- Who handles new feature request and communication to product?
- Who handles the education/messaging gaps and communication to product/messaging?
9) Understand what your boss believes they’re good at.
- – If it is what you do, prepare for some initial learning followed by head-butting. Try to feel this out early and find support from others in the org
- – If it’s not what you do, be prepared to explain a lot and cite sources
- – If it’s not what you do, meet again with another person for whom that is their job. You’ll need each other.
10) Get or complete a Product Audit
- List out every use case, no matter how granular
- Go over every release note and put it in a timeline
- Visually depict the product’s growth since inception, highlight holes, and overlay it with new sales by week or month, churn, usage data, etc.
- Do not accept brush-offs
I know we already gave to 10 things, but here are three more points that tie everything together:
- You can’t do 100 things all at once. Only worry about two or three of these ten things at a time. You won’t make as much progress on them as you’d like – that’s just reality.
- The checklist isn’t your job. It’s a way to help you get as good at your job as you can, as quickly as possible. So you still have to do your job.
- The list is a takeaway – use it as a starting point for getting off to the best start in your new job.
Over to you
Let us know your methods and experiences on your first 100 days. We’d love to hear your stories and advice.
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