What To Do In Your First 30 Days as a Product Manager
January 25, 2021

What To Do In Your First 30 Days as a Product Manager

by Brian de Haaff

Just starting out as a product manager? Or maybe you have moved into a new role at a new company. You are excited about the opportunity to build something that will make a difference in people's lives. But I would guess you are also a bit nervous. You know that your ability to grow the product directly impacts the success of the organization as a whole. It can feel like a lot of pressure.

But every great product manager has a plan — including one for what you will do during your first 30 days on the job.

I have written blogs about advice for new product managers' first 30 days in the past. That included things like needing to use the product, learning about customers, and getting to know the team. This advice has not changed. Nor have the fundamentals of good product management — strategic thinking, roadmapping, and prioritization skills are important always.

The world has changed though. The events of 2020 rocked many industries. Some companies did not survive. But others pushed forward by pivoting existing business models in order to solve new problems. Retailers and restaurants embraced digital ordering capabilities. Gyms launched live-streaming apps to facilitate living room workouts. And of course, video conferencing saw entirely new uses with widespread remote learning. It has been inspiring to witness so many organizations find ways to adapt during an unprecedented crisis.

And product managers have been critical to these impactful transformations. You are the ones who identify and evaluate new opportunities. Building and revising your roadmap and rallying your team around a vision for bringing those opportunities to life. It really is a privilege to lead the way towards a better tomorrow for both your customers and your company.

If you are starting a new job in product management, you have a chance to make a big impact on your company and the community around you from day one.

This opportunity means you might need to supplement your fundamental product management skills with some fresh areas of focus. So I asked you all on LinkedIn to share what you think new product managers should do during times of uncertainty. Your answers inspired me to add a few new points to the 30-day directive:

Get clear on the real problem

What problem does your product really solve? This is always an important question for new product managers to answer. But during times of constant change and uncertainty, your users' needs may have shifted. Be sure you understand the real problem clearly and make time to explore emerging needs later.

Learn empathy fast

It is more important than ever to relate to your users on a deep level. Collecting feedback from customers is a good start, but you also need to create a real dialogue with them. And ask follow-up questions that get to the emotions behind their needs and requests.

Balance internal and external voices

When the future is uncertain, lots of folks across the organization want to weigh in on product decisions. This can be helpful — with more voices come more ideas and insights. But be sure the most important voice (your customer) is not lost in the melee.

Get comfortable saying no

You may have to say no to requests or ideas more often than you did in the past — whether that is because of resources or a new product direction. No matter the reason, you need to feel comfortable saying no and be able to explain why.

Be prepared to let go

New ideas are exciting. And it is only natural to get attached to what you are working on. But you have to be ruthless about prioritizing what will deliver the most value above all else. Iterate fast and be prepared to let go of features that distract you from that goal. Besides, the best product managers fall in love with the product — not specific features.

Give yourself time to think

Do not rush yourself. You might have to make decisions within an unfamiliar context. Slow down to be sure you are not taking a shortcut you will regret later. Take the time you need to weigh your options — ensuring that the path you take is consistent and rooted in strategy.

Carve out some time — even if it is just 30 minutes a day — to focus on these areas during your first few weeks.

And remember to trust your abilities. You were hired for a reason — you are skilled, hard-working, and motivated to learn. These uncertain times will not last forever. When you look back a year from now, you will be proud of the steps you took to ensure a better tomorrow.

What advice do you have for new product managers in 2021 and beyond?

Build products like you always wanted. See for yourself — start a free 30-day trial.

Brian de Haaff

Brian de Haaff

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product development software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability and The Startup Adventure newsletter. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the journey of pursuing a meaningful life.

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