A new PM(ommy) is born: How my experience as a PM helped me with my new baby girl
My baby girl, Ziv, was born last summer in August 2020. During the first few months as a fresh mother, despite being sufficiently distracted by sleepless nights and a newborn schedule, I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between managing a product and taking care of my newborn. I felt that by using my PM experience, I could get a better control over my new situation.
In order to make sure I’m doing the right things and that my baby is calm, happy and properly developed, I attended a few online sessions which discussed things like how to take care of a newborn and which myths to disregard. As I started on my journey, it hit me — this was my first desk research as a new mom.
One tip that was repeated in these sessions was the following:
“Try putting yourself in your baby’s shoes…”
For example, if you are unable to sleep in a lit and noisy environment, don’t expect your baby to. And as I began to empathize with my baby, it hit me again…
A new baby = a new customer
Since the first day Ziv arrived, priorities have changed. I was now accountable to a new (demanding) customer, with a variety of rapidly changing pain points which needed to be identified and addressed ASAP. Whether she is hungry, tired or nervous, I have a limited time window to identify the root cause and provide the relevant treatment before the situation escalates, and it will.
Hopefully with a lower tone and sense of urgency, our product’s customers also expect us to address their pain points, and the sooner, the better. While our baby doesn’t have much of a choice but to stay with us, our customers can make the choice whether to do so or not. They can disengage from our product or use a competitor’s product which better fulfills their needs.
This is why, as product managers, we should proactively map, prioritize and address our customers’ pain points before they escalate and scale.
Learn Forever, Stay Agile
The first few months of a baby is an endless experimentation, and full of trial and error (though mainly error). This is a learning cycle. You try, you fail, and then you try again with some slight adjustments, hoping that this time you’ll be successful. Although I hear many people say “mommy knows the best” I felt that I should stay modest about it.
The same can be said for the products I’m managing. Although intuition is important, we are not necessarily (or necessarily not) a representative user of our own products, and hence we have to base our decisions on customers’ feedback, in any way, shape or form it will be, whether it is a conversion drop, churn or a crying baby.
The first time I tried putting Ziv in her trampoline chair, I could tell she hated it. She cried out loud begging me to take her to a different docking station, which was often my arm. That didn’t mean I didn’t continue trying. Every few days, I put her on the trampoline chair in different locations of the house and with new toys. Two weeks from that first day, she loved it (the evidence can be found in the picture below).
As Ziv develops, it’s only natural for her preferences to change. By staying flexible and nurturing a learning cycle, we’re creating optimal conditions to be successful. As product managers in an agile environment, we need to embrace changes yet still allow ourselves room to go back to things we’ve tried in the past.
Another example involves Ziv’s always-changing sleep habits. Once she gets used to the current technique of putting her to bed, I need to revise my approach and come up with a new technique. This can also be something I’ve tried in the past.
Both of these examples make me think that the same might also be true for our customers. Needs continuously evolve, especially in such dynamic times. This is why we shouldn’t be afraid of retrying things, assuming we are clear on the learning which were gathered and aware of all possible constraints. We should be ready to fail, but we need to make sure we learn from it.
Lastly, as our customers’ needs might be evolving over time, it is worthwhile revising and updating their pain points lists once in a while.
Every few weeks, there is some kind of a version release going on during Ziv’s night sleep. She wakes up with a new set of features — starting with simple features such as smiling and following objects with her eyes, through making sounds of different syllables and clapping hands and all the way to crawling and standing. Professionals call it a growth spurt.
This is a lot like our product. With every new set of features, its functionality is increasing and new capabilities are being introduced to the market. This process is not flawless. You may suffer from some sleepless nights and anxiety, but in the end you wake up to an advanced and refined product.
Just like when managing a product, transparency to your stakeholders/ customers/ managers is crucial. When you introduce a new feature, you are making sure it is well communicated to all relevant stakeholders and that the usability of it is clear to your users.
Going back to Ziv, when she starts complaining that she is hungry, I noticed an interesting thing. If she sees me preparing her food in the kitchen, she smiles and politely waits for her meal to be ready. If I’m out of her sight, she becomes nervous and impatient. My baby wants transparency, as many stakeholders do.
Until baby Ziv was born, my partner and I were just another regular couple. Ziv’s birth turned us into a team, one that must be in full alignment and synchronization in order to make it work. Our objective for Q1 was mainly surviving (MVP). For this first quarter, during the nights, we worked in shifts which required a smooth transition of information — how much did she eat and when? How long did she sleep for? How many diapers were changed? And so on. We kept a tight track of her food intake, vitamins, outputs (let’s call it that) and so on. After successfully achieving our Q1 objective, we were able to set more ambitious goals for the following quarters.
Same goes for our product teams — a strong team with good communication and a healthy dynamic can and will deliver impactful results.
Taking care of a baby is challenging, as is becoming a mother. Changes surround you, but by being empathetic, transparent, flexible and working as a team with your support system, your perspective can change and life becomes easier, especially in those early days. And since this product is truly one-of-a-kind, you may as well enjoy the ride.