I like to be prepared.

I like to be nimble, but I also like to be prepared.

So prior to starting a new gig as a senior product manager at a major US tech company, I spent a lot of time reading and watching Youtube videos on Product Management.

This one, presented by Product School, stood out to me.

Text written in italics is my forever-present internal commentary–in written form. This new job I was preparing for was not my first product job, it’s actually a senior position. Nevertheless, one can never know and prep enough.

Here are my notes.

My notes on “First 90 Days as a New Product Manager by former Flipkart PM”

Harbani Malhortra introduces herself and her product management experience. Personally, I do this a bit differently–I keep to just a few strictly professional points, like “I’ve been a PM at 3 different companies”. But I try to include a lot of personality, too. I’ll always mention my 3 dogs, and my affinity for neo-classical metal, for example.

“At the end of the day, as a product manager, you are managing people.” I totally agree with this and it seems often forgotten. Specifically, managing people’s expectations.

What this will be covering.

And what made me want to start taking notes.

  • What should you first 90 days be about?
  • What methods do you use to build relationships with teams?
  • Should you introduce PM processes?
  • When should you start building the product roadmap?
  • How should you measure success?

A Framework for new Product Managers

1. Orient yourself – understand what you need to know
  • Understand the tools and software
  • While setting up, try to get what you need to be successful. Example–not having an A/B testing tool at your disposal. For me, it would be access to the proper data stores, and access to the source code repos if possible.
  • Product – bugs? Experience gaps? Design elements? Get to know you product better than anyone else
  • Data – understand the trends. Seasonality/business hours.
  • KPIs – I’m yet to work on a product where I can define this upfront. This next gig will be the time…
  • User behavior. “Let data tell you its own story; do not torture it to say yours”. In other words, make sure you’re actually following the story–don’t try to create your own narrative, first.
2. Observe – learn the lay of the land. How does the team interact?
  • Protocol – how does the core team build? How do the internal team members work together? How do they prioritize? Feedback? Stakeholders? Stick to observing, for now.
  • People – this is what I always say. Get to know the PEOPLE. Empathy is everything.
  • Process – be a fly on the wall. Understand the creative process. Don’t judge at this point. And in my opinion, you should pretty much never judge…more on this in another post.
3. Decide – use the info you’ve gathered to start building your product strategy
  • Vision
  • Assimilating
  • Journey mapping (on sites)
  • Documentation
  • Building product strategy
  • Asking
  • Retros or sprint cycles
  • Decisions

“Before you finally spring into action, make sure you don’t lose out on all that you are learnt…”

To me, this means “Expect the possibility of things not going your away.” And for me, that also means always have a backup plan. Be prepared to back off on planning and dates until additional questions are answered.

Product Domain – understand it!
  • Define your role, understand your expectations, your charter
  • Align with all key stakeholders
  • Identify customers and build empathy
Decide – set the stage
  • Set goals for your product
  • Ex: I want users to come back x times a month
  • Cadence for stakeholder meetings/stakeholder empathy
  • Feedback loop that works – Monthly? Weekly?
  • Measure success!
  • Listen and make sure you’re doing it in an unbiased way
  • Measure – I’d say, create your own dashboard!
  • Learn
  • Iterate

Breaking down the 90 days

First 25% Orient | 45% Observe | 70% Decide | Last 90% Act

  • Week 1: Set up
  • Week 3: Be a fly on the wall
  • Week 5: Learn the ropes
  • Week 7: Build the vision
  • Week 9: Set the stage
  • Week 11: Get building!

Additional Points

  • What about when you’re filling a previously-existing role where there is already an existing backlog?
  • You are a new entrant on the team. You still need to go through all of this. You may have to do it at the same time as managing the existing releases. Juggle a bit.
  • Conflict management – don’t let it be a me-too discussion. As a product manager, what you can do differently, is funnel insights from data, customers, and metrics. You have the ultimate say. Empower yourself.
  • Fall in love with the problem you’re solving for. Don’t fall in love with the solution.
  • When there is a lack of process–you just need to do what works.
  • Show documented, tangible impact with an unbiased lens when trying to align stakeholders
  • Definition of done – make sure to define what “done” is! Consider a Product Brief document that talks about what is and is not in scope. Including a testing plan.
  • Betting on the wrong features can be expected. You will fail. That’s fine. You’ll think users will use it one way, but you can never really predict.
  • Build empathy with your dev team. This is where I like diving in to the code. Do it, if you can. If you can’t, at least understand the logic and structure.