The takeaways of an early-stage career Product Manager
I decided to write down a few things I learned working as a Product Manager so far. Besides reading, listening and practicing on a daily basis I believe writting helps us to reinforce the knowledge and also contribute with the community so I hope this is the first of many articles to be published here.
The takeaways I will mention basically cover most of the responsabilities of the Product Manager in a startup environment and, just to be clear, they reflect my personal reality so feel free to question and express your point of view.
Understanding the role
A good analogy is: think about the PM as the coach of a soccer team. We aren’t playing the match, neither inside the action field but we stay as close as we can, driving, guiding and supporting the team to make sure we achieve our goals.
The objective is to score without touching the ball and if we win, the team get on the stage to raise the cup but if we lose, the coach probably is the first to be replaced.
Below I describe the most important things the PM is in charge and, just to emphasize, they aren’t listed in order of importance, each one of these points has its share of contribution in what is said about “being a good Product Manager”.
Make sure the product is aligned with the company’s vision
The company has its mission and vision statements. It’s intended to clarify what, who, why and how so it’s important the product to be broken-down in smaller pieces with its own vision, something achievable that drives us forward. It should also be aligned with the team, after all, they are the ones who are inside the field trying to score.
Prioritize to be more efficient and deliver more with less
A week has 7 days and that won’t change. The time is limited, so it’s our job to measure the ROI of everything we will be working on, considering the cost to develop, the resources needed and the value we will get at the end. This is true not only at work but also for our personal lifes.
Manage the Roadmap
We help to craft the product roadmap with CTO, Heads and other PM’s, thinking in a mid to long-term perspective what we will build, which projects should we attack and why.
Manage the Backlog
If the roadmap is our highlevel plan in a mid to long-term perspective. The backlog is where we start to break it down to smaller pieces, in a short-term perspective so we can organize and, again, prioritize. It goes to the point of writting in details each task and the problem to be solved.
Analyse and bring insights
We are constantly experimenting, launching new things, benchmarking, observing metrics and talking with people. It generates tons of insights that can be applied to the product. It’s up to us to be good at translating those insights into value to the user.
Be a channel of comunnication
As a Product Manager we are all the time in contact with other areas, from customer service, marketing and sales to development, data and user research. Therefore it’s important if we communicate our team about what’s going on outside especially if it affects us somehow.
We act like a sieve, filtering all information, requests and demands, prioritizing what should pass through. Sometimes part of these shouldn’t even be in our sieve so we delegate those to the right one.
Speaking about information, it may be insights from other areas or outside the company. For example, the impact we had with the things we launch. Even if the changes we made in the product or the features released didn’t perform well.
The same way in the other direction, everything that is going on with the product can affect other areas so we need to keep them up to date. We need to know how to communicate the same information to different audiences. The level of technical details we speak with developers aren’t the same we speak with others.
At the end, Product Management in general isn’t an exact science, we learn too much, too fast all the time and the feeling is that we will never reach the top, there’s always something else to chase.
A lot of the things I learned and wrote here came from the experience and the relationships I built so far. For this reason I thank my team, colleagues and friends, especially Ricardo Guia.