First 90 days in Product Management Career
So, you just got your first product management job. Congratulations! This article includes pointers on how to best set up for success during the first critical 90 days of you joining a company.
The scope of the role for a Product Manager can vary from company to company. As a PM, you can handle everything from creating the product roadmap to analyzing customer feedback, and from determining the quality of market needs to controlling the marketing strategy and acquisition budgets.
I have practiced Product Management for 14560 hours, majoring in edtech, CPaaS and now leading retention KPIs for a gaming product. Having worked in a Product role across 5 different companies over the last 8 years, I have now structured the first 90 days approach for a Product Manager role. These three months are the most challenging and also the most educational as you’ll be learning about what works and what doesn’t by unlearning things, starting from scratch in a new product org and in some cases a new product market and a different set of users that you now have to develop empathy from scratch.
Understanding the PM role at your company — First 30 days
You need to get up to speed by gathering knowledge on the following areas:
- Company’s strategy and Product roadmap — Follow up on this with your manager to get a sense of your goals and the KPI(s) you would be responsible for. You might not get to set your Objectives (OKRs) as soon as you join, but rather work towards gaining the right knowledge so that you are well-prepared for setting up your OKRs at the end of your 90 days in the company, which is your end goal.
- Existing Market and Competitors — While you would study the market from organic sources, also try to take help of team members who could share literature / resources on their past research of direct / indirect competition and details on your product differentiation (moat).
- Target User Personas — Start attending Sales calls or Customer Success meetings with existing customers in B2B product cos. In B2C, you can sync with the user research team, read call center scripts and top queries from Customer support. Talk to design stakeholders to get a qualitative understanding of the Customer behavior, traits, motivations and major pain points. Also, get access to metric dashboards, talk to Product analysts or PMs to get a sense of the KPI benchmarks and L1, L2 metrics across multiple product teams.
- Distribution strategy and Acquisition channels — This is relevant especially for acquisition side PMs in B2C or if you would be working closely with the Product marketing teams that work on lead generation and qualification top of the funnel in B2B / SaaS product teams.
- Product delivery process — You need to have an understanding of the various stages in the product lifecycle from discovery to delivery followed by your team and also other organizational processes’ understanding. For example:
- How does an initiative or feature get greenlit? And how would you enable the design, analytics, tech stakeholders early on at discovery stage of any initiative / problem-feature mapping.
- Tech practices / Agile frameworks followed so that you can align to the company’s culture of product development.
- Documentation formats for PRD, change requests and Access to company docs to read up on the SDLC and system architecture.
- Release checklist with target metrics, Marketing plan, Roll-out strategy, Experimentation, sign off requirements from legal, risk etc.
- Tools/Software used — Most companies use JIRA or a similar tool for tracking software projects and sprints. But there could be additional tools like Asana for discovery side work for PMs. Also, internal backend tools or Analytics access (SQL, Google Analytics etc.)
Working with key stakeholders — By second month, start strengthening your rapport with multiple teams and not just your team members
As a product manager, you sometimes need to act as an intermediary between different teams or sometimes unblock your tech team for a key decision. You might also need another team’s support to validate a hypothesis or get access to focus groups. All this would happen if you have been able to maintain a good relationship with stakeholders across different functions in the company. Listing some pointers to help you along the way –
- By the end of the second month, you should have set up multiple 1–1s with your Engineering manager, Design representative, and similarly at least one or two people from each of the different departments
- Also, you are to set up multi-functional sync ups, i.e. cross team engagements with your pod and other teams at a frequency that aligns with your quarterly goals. This is essential as you get inputs to your product decisions as well as you get to push through certain features with the help from other teams. Some examples below:
- Fortnightly Sprint planning with your Tech team
- Fortnightly Sync up with the Sales reps
- Weekly Sync up with Marketing team
- Fortnightly sync up with Customer success / Support
Working with all the stakeholders can be a little stressful, but it’s really a rewarding experience when you’re able to get things done. You should plan on going in and developing relationships with your stakeholders. To determine the key stakeholders, get a sense of the org structure and multiple teams from the HR or your manager and start setting your weekly / bi-weekly meetings as you proceed along.
Planning your first release — Completing 90 days in the company
The main goal at the end of the 3rd month is you should be able to set up your OKRs for the product that you own. This is the stage where you gain self-sufficiency. An added bonus is that if you were able to ship / release something to production. This would do a world of good to your confidence and also build credibility across the company after having shipped, managed something end to end. Do not worry if the first release is of little significance, as long as you were able to move the targeted metric in the right direction.
In your third month, you can start leading the sprint planning meetings. You can now come up with your ideas for experiments or feature tweaks addressing a metric / KPI targeted in the OKRs for the current quarter. But, you have to understand that this can truly happen if you have done the groundwork in the first month to understand the company’s product, users etc. and then in the second month started figuring out your input sources for customer data, major problem areas and market trends etc.
Product development is a highly difficult process. It requires both imagination and the ability to identify legitimate business opportunities. Hoping this post has provided you with a basic framework to help jumpstart your first 3 months in a new product management role.
Note that the above timeline can be accelerated in early-stage startups, where you have to start delivering right from the get go. The above 90 days plan has been written thinking of mature product companies, wherein you will be given time to absorb and learn before you set your roadmap.
This guest post is written by Nikunj Sharma. 14,560 hours as a Product management practitioner. Excelled at Product market fit and 0–1 growth problems. Worked on B2C product(s) in ed-tech, mental health and insure-tech sector(s). Also, scaled a conversational AI platform (Haptik.ai) for FSI, E-commerce enterprises to 1 billion conversations in Customer support use cases. Currently, building PM School to help people crack product manager roles and figuring growth-diversification, cross-monetisation possibilities for a real money gaming app.