Day in the Life of a Google Product Manager

What do product managers actually do? Here’s what I did in a day as a Google Product Manager.

Note: This list is not a direct snapshot of my actual calendar. I’ve pieced together various meetings and events from my time at Google to display a informative agenda on what product management is like.

6:50AM: Wake up

I wake up. I brush my teeth, shower, and get my things packed for the day.

7:17AM: Bus ride

I rush to board the “GBus” (Google’s private shuttle bus), which drives me from my home in SF down to the Google Mountain View headquarters. On the bus, I pull out my laptop to get some work done. My inbox is slammed with new emails, that generally fall into one of these categories:

  • Reminders. I use Inbox by Gmail’s “Reminder” feature to set reminders and snooze them later. (More on my inbox system here)
  • Updates. Either via an automated newsletter or a team member, I’ll receive some sort of status update.
  • Tasks. For example, an engineer may ask me to submit our product for launch approval, or I may need to edit a document and reply to comments.

9:00AM: Breakfast

Yep, it takes over an hour and a half to finally get into the office, especially if there’s an accident on the road.

I grab my usual breakfast of scrambled eggs and kale in my building’s cafe and run into one of the engineers on my team. We chat about our weekends, and I mention the good news: our user metrics have nearly doubled since our launch last week.

9:30AM: Meeting #1 (Legal)

I dial-in to a meeting with the legal team to discuss risks and approval for a new Google Search feature we’re launching — the Google Solitaire feature! These meetings are standard and help flag the legal team for any potential issues with a product launch.

Yes, I actually worked on this!

10:00AM: Meeting #2 (Usability Testing)

I’m running a one-hour usability test session on a set of new Google Assistant voice features (e.g. “Ok, Google… flip a coin”).

I’ve sent out an email and a calendar invite to a group of interested co-workers, and we all meet in a conference room to test out the Google Assistant. I ask all the users survey questions, as well as jot down some of my own observations.

11:00AM: Meeting #3: (Standup)

Standup! This is a time for engineers, product managers, and designers on our team to share updates from the past week. We’ll also discuss what we plan to accomplish next week, and if there are any opportunities for collaboration in our workflows.

11:30AM: Meeting #4: (Dashboard Core Team)

Next up, I have a core team meeting composed of an engineer, a designer, and myself (PM). The engineer/designer/PM trifecta is a common core team composition. At this meeting, the designer presents updated mocks for a dashboard feature we’re building. The engineer comments on some of the constraints, including the technical difficulty with changing the graph color dynamically.

As the PM, I run the meeting. I’m prepared with an agenda and open questions that our team needs to resolve. I take notes and send out action items after the meeting has ended.

12:00PM: Lunch

I grab lunch with some engineers on my team. I enjoy the lunches with my teammates as a great way to talk about something other than work.

That said, half the time, my calendar is often too full for me to make time. 😅

1:00PM: Email

In a cozy nook of the Google office, I crank out more emails and chat replies. I have a queue of tasks I’ve entered into my Inbox reminders that I usually start with.

1:30PM: Work time

Finally! For the first time since the morning, I have some time to actually get work done! After checking my email, I crank away at a Product Requirements Document (PRD) for a new Google search feature: a random number generator.

PRDs are clearly defined specification documents that outline key product decisions. For the most part, they’re exclusively written by product managers. Some specs for the random number generator might include:

  • What’s the min and max number a user can input?
  • Does the random number generator box appear on the top of the search results page? Or should Google Search rank it along with the other results?
  • What queries should trigger the feature?

3:30PM: Snack time

I grab a snack with a coworker and attend one of the Talks at Google. Google often hosts free talks, events, and classes that are a great way to take a break from work.

4:30PM: Meeting #5 (Engineering Lead One-on-one)

Toward the end of the day, I have a few “one-on-one” meetings. These are more casual meetings that serve as a great way to discuss product, solicit opinions, or ask for feedback.

I spend this meeting chatting with my engineering lead about Google Solitaire’s product vision for the next quarter. We’ll be presenting our plan to executive-level management in a week.

5:00PM: Meeting #6 (Manager One-on-one)

In my manager one-on-ones, I review what I’ve worked on the past week, and my plans for the upcoming week. I also take the time to alert my manager of potential delays with the dashboard project due to unforeseen engineering constraints.

5:30PM: Email

The pace of work has slowed down a bit, and I’m now able to catch up on the onslaught of emails I’ve received throughout the day. I also catch up with co-workers and hang out a bit before dinner time.

6:00PM: Dinner

Dinner time! I grab a to-go box for the bus ride home.

6:30PM: Bus ride home

After wrapping up some final emails, I catch up on personal work and finish reading a book on my Kindle.

7:30PM: Home

Home at last! The bus rides are shorter in the evening, so I have some time to hang out with some friends and relax for a few hours before I sleep.