Ontario Digital
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Ontario Digital

My first 90 days in product management

My First 90 Days in Product Management

Editor’s Note: Ruth T. is part of the Ontario Internship Program and working in the Product Chapter of the Ontario Digital Service. She has outlined her “flying the plane while building it” approach to learning product management in her first 90 days.

Hi, I’m Ruth. Three months ago, I started at the Ontario Digital Service in the Product Chapter and wow- time has flown by!

It’s been a jam-packed 90 days of learning and experimentation. I thought I’d share my journey to date with you all as I continue to nurture my skills in the world of product management.

But before we begin, I need to give a shout out to my team members; it’s been a pleasure to learn from you all.

My journey

I’m part of the Ontario Internship program, which places new graduates into seven different focus areas essential to serving the people of Ontario.

I’m part of the information and information technology stream, which is how I ended up in the product chapter of the Ontario Digital Service.

Admittedly, I didn’t know much about product management on my first day, so off to learn I went, and I haven’t stopped since.

Product vs. Project

There’s a common misconception that project management is the same as product management. This is false.

Andrei Tit’s blog post and explanation below did the trick for me.

  • Product managers deal with the What? And Why?
  • Project managers deal with the How? And When?

The main difference between product and project is the scope of work. Product managers set the product vision, plan for development and are responsible for the product throughout its lifetime. While project managers focus on resource management, keeping the project on track in terms of time and expense.

Additionally, Brandon Chu’s blog post further outlined the three knowledge domains — technology, business and user experience — needed to succeed as a product manager (PM). This article shaped my learning planning and was the first place I saw the term minimum viable product manager.

Product management in government 101

My next steps focused on how product managers fit into a government context.

The biggest focus for me was understanding

From there, I spent a lot of time familiarizing myself with the range of work my fellow PM colleagues have supported, including:

Getting my feet wet

There’s only so much that can be learned through observation and research; it was time for me to join a team.

As part of Ontario’s new digital plan; which focuses on improving government transactions online for services currently available for example driver’s licence renewal, as well as developing net new services that are currently paper based, for example vehicle registration, I joined the vehicle services team.

We are working on digitizing the vehicle registration process. The team was in the discovery phase when I started so, I focused on getting up to speed on the problem, product vision and user research.

Taking learning into my own hands

A visualization of my MVP learning strategy I created

The term minimum viable product refers to the creation of a product with only a basic set of features, meant to solicit feedback and capture the attention of early adopters. The final, complete product is only designed and developed after considering the feedback from the product’s early users. This ensures that teams are building a product that serves the user’s need.

Screenshot of the MVP Kanban Board via Trello I created

I’ve decided to apply this and become a product manager with a general understanding of user experience, tech and business. From these knowledge domains, I built my MVP learning plan.

Building a MVP learning plan

I created a Kanban board to organize and track my learning. I practiced writing tickets, tracking ticket progress and the importance of task prioritization. The board allows me to keep a living backlog where I add new materials regularly. I’m constantly updating and rearranging items to better organize my learning.

When I first started my product learning backlog, I focused my learning on user experience (UX). This was strategic since my team was in the discovery phase, and user research was the focus. I brushed up on:

At the time, I didn’t realize it, but looking back I couldn’t have planned it better myself. This gave me a solid foundation of understanding the user. I’m currently completing the Human Centred Design Course by IDEO. This will wrap up my UX learning; up next business!

Lessons learned

My MVP learning plan has taught me a few things:

Always iterate

I constantly have been modifying and building on my learning plan, as I discover new things about my team and my own preferences. How I approached my learning journey on day one has drastically changed over the last 90 days.

Prioritization is key

There will always be new skills to be learned, but I’m in it for the long game. While I’m eager to learn everything, I’ve always been mindful with the number of opportunities I take on. I want to approach my experience mindfully.

Embrace Ambiguity

I’ve learned so much in the past three months, at this point I have a good foundation of the product discipline. I don’t claim to know everything (not even close!). However, I now have the tools to navigate. I’ll continue to learn and do, in parallel. I look forward to continuously learning! I’m excited to be in product, in government, working on problems that will make Ontarians lives simpler, faster, better.

Further reading

Here is a short list of resources I’ve pulled together for people who aspire to become product managers, or transfer their experience in related disciplines into a future product management role. Let me know what you think in the comment section below!

Books

Blogs

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