9 Musings from my First 90 Days as an Associate Product Manager
Spoiler: I learned more than I expected… a lot more. www.uberapms.com.
1. Feeling like you’re “doing it wrong” is not you doing it wrong, it’s just adjusting to a new and often ambiguous role.
At the beginning of the Uber APM program, my cohort went through an intense two week bootcamp where senior employees throughout the company gave us the tl;dr on how to do almost everything. It was an empowering and overwhelming experience. I walked out of bootcamp feeling like I was equipped to take on PMing, but a week into on-boarding onto my new team, it was easy to feel like I wasn’t doing anything right, and didn’t know what ‘right’ was. I thought I was the black sheep of APMs, but, literally everyone other APM who I chatted with during the first couple months felt exactly the same way, despite completely different teams and products. Inconsistency in what a PM does is the most consistent thing about being a PM.
2. APM == Community
It was during conversations with my cohort of APMs that I felt like I was seen and understood. Being a PM, you are often the only one on your project (and sometimes even team) with the Product Manager role. As a result, it feels like you are facing unique asks and challenges. Finding friends at work, mentors, and other PMs, will help you realize that you are a part of a PM family.
3. The people who you work with are more important than what you’re working on.
As a PM, 90% of your time is spent meeting with other people. Having good relationships will make the days fly by and even the most tedious products a thrill to work on.
4. Your team survived before you and will survive after you, but impact come in many shapes and sizes.
Another consistent thing that my fellow APMs and I felt in the beginning of our rotation is that we weren’t actually delivering any impact, and whatever we contributed would be abandoned when we rotated off our teams. Sure, as an APM you might not be moving top-line metrics for the whole company, but whether its taking notes, planning a hackathon, or just developing a relationship with your team, being there makes a difference.
5. Truth trumps optics.
On the subject of impact, optimizing for something that appears to be loud and touches every user possible, might not be the best thing for your or your company. Smoke and mirrors only go so far. If you seek for what actually helps a user experience, or what foundational needs can allow for future ideation, that will be more long lasting and impactful even if it doesn’t seem so at face value.
6. There aren’t shortcuts to building intuition and endurance.
Looking for ‘truth’ can be hard and tiring. Everyday for the first two months I came home feeling wiped out and unable to think in a straight line. I thought there was something wrong with me… until I spoke to five other APMs who were worried about the same thing. Although it wasn’t immediately obvious, looking back, I realize that each day, I come home with a little bit more clarity and energy to keep going.
7. Make your personal primary KPI ‘learning’.
As an APM, I am deeply lucky to be in a situation where I have the opportunity to rotate onto three teams. I have the opportunity to switch directions and try something new with almost no strings attached. As a result, don’t be afraid to make a mistake or ask something dumb. If you optimize for learning, by the time the APM program is finished, you’ll have gotten depth of value from the experience.
8. Be thankful for all kinds of feedback, because it will always be transferable.
Ask for feedback and graciously receive feedback. Being an APM is the time to learn from mistakes, work on bad habits as soon as they start to from, and nurture your budding PM ‘superpowers.’
9. Deeply understand your product and your users.
You won’t be the source of truth for everything, but if you deeply think about your product, even if it is tiny in scope, you can become the expert in what you are working on, and that is valuable.