IRL Product
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IRL Product

No-nonsense game plan for first-time product managers

Congrats, you finally got your dream PM job! But… what now? Here are some pointers to plan your first few weeks — and beyond.

A picture of a dark green light bulb with a question mark in the middle.

Sooo, what exactly am I supposed to do in my first few weeks?

1. Familiarise yourself with the existing work

When: First few days
Talk to:
Your development team (engineers, designers, etc)

2. Understand how your team fits in the wider product organisation

When: First couple of weeks
Talk to:
Fellow PMs and your manager

3. Understand your team’s mission, vision, strategy, and key metrics

When: Second or third week
Talk to:
Your manager and some senior/tenured members of your team
  • How does it help the company’s and the product’s vision?
  • In a year’s time, what should the product look like to make you describe it as successful?
  • What are the metrics my team cares the most about? What are the control metrics (i.e. the metrics we aren’t trying to move directly, but we need to be mindful of — we don’t want to affect them negatively)?

4. Have intro chats with the stakeholders

When: First few weeks
Talk to:
The people that need you and you need (get the initial list from your manager)
When: First few weeks
Talk to:
User researcher/designer, data analyst/SWE
  • What their pain points are
  • What the value propositions of your product are
A blue square on the left, titled ‘value proposition’, divided into 3 areas: products & services, gain creators, pain relievers. A red circle on the right, titled ‘customer profile’, divided into 3 areas: customer jobs, gains, pains.
Value proposition canvas by Strategyzer
  • Performance rate of your product

6. Decide on the next piece of work

When: Depends on how long the last piece of work takes
Talk to:
Your manager and some senior/tenured members of your team
  • It can give you some visibility. You can shout about the release and get the praises (that you humbly pass down to your team).
  • It gives you a confidence boost. Getting something released is your first milestone as a PM and you did it! Yay.

What am I supposed to be doing during the development time?

Your engineers will be busy coding all day and you’re left drumming your fingers alone, unsure what to do.

  1. Clarifying business requirements or motivation behind the feature
  2. Giving them the bigger picture or longer-term vision
  3. Making tradeoff decisions
It’s a comic strip with 2 frames. The first frame showed a parent-to-child interaction, where a kid was complaining “I can’t work on this because of X!” and the parent replied “Don’t worry, I’ll fix that for you.” The second frame showed an adult-to-adult interaction, where one person said “I’m not familiar with this codebase and I can benefit from talking to somebody who knows more about this.” The other person replied, “I can give you an intro to Carole.”
I wrote about this comprehensively in this article.

Ok, I feel like I understand the basics now. What else should I do?

Now you’re getting to the juicy part of product management. This is how you can bring 10x value to your company, not just 10% improvement. This is also how you get to be a more senior PM. Whilst the first two sections above are concrete activities, this section could feel a bit abstract. It’s not something that you do once in the beginning — you’re maintaining living documentation of your understanding.

  • Understand the customer’s jobs-to-be-done and their unsolved needs
  • Understand your industry trend



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