How to Make the Right Start to Your new Product Manager Job?

A product manager acts as a Swiss army knife, taking different roles at different occasions. He basically works at the intersection of user experience, technology and business and therefore knows about all.  If you are joining a new organization in the capacity of product manager, here are some tips to make the right kind of impression in not more than a month from joining.

In the technological universe, the most celebrated professionals are often the engineers and designers.  After all it is owing to their coding skills and designing ability that we are able to use products like Gmail, Whatsap, Twitter and others. But hidden from all the glamour and glare are individuals who guide the teams of engineers and designers to take the idea from start to finish, and these individuals are known as product managers. 

Often known as mini-CEOs, these product managers are the unsung heroes of the industry, who oversee the entire product lifecycle, coordinating and collaborating with various teams, pitching the changes and ideas to CEO and guiding it through development. Thus, product managers have a load full of responsibilities on their shoulder, and how you approach your new job in this position will make a tremendous difference, setting up your career for success or struggle.  These tips will help you make the right decisions, take right approach to your job and make the best first impression that you can.

·         Set clear expectations with your boss
In order to perform best, one needs to have clear expectations. You have been hired to fill in an important position and therefore organizational pressure to perform will be there right from the very first day. Setting clear expectations with your manager or CEO will help you move swiftly in the right direction. No matter how self-sufficient, hard-working and responsible you may be, you will need to know the minimum requirements and the benchmark of performance at the new organization.

·         Familiarize with the team
Typically when you will join a new organization your primary goal for the first month will be to familiarize with the existing team. Depending on the size of the company, this process might take few hours to few days. You should meet every concerned person individually. Your boss might take the initiative to introduce you at first. However, further efforts should be made by you to get known amongst the team.

·         Meet with the lead engineer
Enough of socializing for now! It is time to get serious about the job at hand. The first step should be to schedule your meeting with the lead engineer who will walk through the product’s technical architecture. Do not be afraid of asking questions and drilling him for whatever that makes little sense to you. However, now is not the right time to come up with any new suggestions or ideas.  Leave that to a later stage. You’re obviously here for making things work and you must have your own way of doing that. But, your ideas and thoughts will be better shaped once you have had a chance to settle in and have an insight into all the nuances of the product. Till then, demonstrate how good a listener you are.

·         Get in front of the audience
The product you are working must have a target audience. No product manager can claim to achieve complete success until he or she has the pulse of his users. Your early days at the new company should be spent with your users. You can adopt various ways of doing that. Perform sales calls and go on customer visits. Get on online forums, converse with them on social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and engage with your user community.   

·         Build something
Although you will find PMs who aren’t from the coding background, most companies find it an awesome proposition to have a product manager who can code. Here is a conversation on Quora that makes this pretty evident.  Therefore, you will find most product manager openings list coding as an essential requirement.  Besides, unless you have a strong technical hold at the product and its development you can’t expect to be effective at your work. For the same it is essential you get started with a minute project to either code a new feature of your own or to fix a bug.  Set up a develop environment and ask the engineering team to hand over you something bite-sized that you can do.  

·         Read as much as you can
Your job isn’t just to ensure everything is going as per design. In fact, a product manager also has to keep up the product with the demands of changing times and therefore, you are required to keep a tab on the current as well as the future trends of the industry. Read the latest development and design blogs, magazines, and related material to absorb as much as you can.

·         Set personal goals and deadlines
It’s your new job and therefore you will be pretty excited about pretty much everything. The best way to give a method to this madness will be to set some personal goals and deadlines. Whether it’s launch of a new feature or fixing an error or getting familiar with your customers, take everything as a personal goal and work on it within a self-imposed deadline.

For all the seriousness with which take up the new role, it’s important to not forget to have fun. After all, a little fun goes a long way to keep you motivated at the workplace.

Contributor: Saurabh Tyagi