What I learned during my first month as a PM in a Super-Growth StartUp
And how could this help you navigate a career and company transition
Last month I started working at Nubank, a fast-growing Fintech start-up as a Product Manager. This was a major change coming from a traditional industry such as consulting, and in a mature company as the one I was working at. The past 30 days went in a whim, and felt like 2 months to be honest. Although this post might be a little bit tailored to Product Management, if you are going through a career change hopefully this will help you navigate your first thirty days.
Disclaimer: this is not a post on how to be a great product manager, still trying to figure that out so please share any info if you already know how to get there.
First impressions count, work as you want to be remembered
The past month has been challenging as I was trying to adapt to a new country as well as a new job. However, I did my best to get up to speed as fast as I could and start to deliver value to my peers. That implies working a little bit longer as well as trying to absorb as much information as you can and digest it in a simple way. For example, I started working on a Product Management onboarding guide for someone who would join the firm at my business vertical, and that has really helped me out.
Starting a new job is a marathon, not a sprint
The first impression issue can be processed by your brain in a negative way, leading to unnecessary pressure on yourself. What has helped me is to realise that you are not expected to know everything or excel at your job in the first 4 weeks, but its more about getting enough knowledge to be able to deliver value, and acknowledge that you are just at the start line and there is plenty of road to build ahead. Raise the necessary blocks to get you up to speed for the marathon and you will be in a good place.
Listen, Listen, Listen
The best way to absorb enough information to get up top speed and run that marathon is to listen. As a Product Manager, one of the most important skills is to be an active listener. This will enable you to analyze what the different problems are and be able to connect the dots to find a solution. Most of the advice I am writing to you came from listening to others. Shadow another PM that has been doing the job for a long while, schedule 1:1s, look at other's work and how they got things done, and navigating the company will become way easier.
Set up your your goals and expectations and align with your supervisors
The first week I started I wrote a one/two pager of what were my goals and expectations for the next 6 months and what would success look like. This document includes what do I want to achieve, what value am I going to deliver (with specific action items) to my team and company, and what are the steps to get there. Defining what success looks like and writing clear and attainable goals is key. This document is something I look at and update frequently. It is not only a great guide to keep myself on track but also a happiness booster when you start getting things done.
Always think about the customer, business, technology, and Ops
One of Nubank's culture pillars is for our customers love us fanatically. And so far, they've done an amazing job. I believe this should be a common pillar for any company that wants to succeed, and as a PM you should keep this in mind in any product decision you make. In addition to addressing the customer's needs and improving their life, decisions should also take into account the impact on the business, the technology complexity involved, and also how will it affect the company's operations. Interacting with different stakeholders and getting enough information to be able to make informed decisions that will have the best outcome for these four areas will lead to exceptional results.
You are not alone, reach out for a hand, and get some feedback
Whenever deciding which company to move as your next step, make sure they have a great culture, specifically one where collaboration and winning as a team is embedded throughout the company. Great culture usually attracts great people, and I can affirm by the amazing peers I have that Nubank got this right. Whenever you are in doubt, reach out for a hand. In a collaborative environment, people will definitely be willing to help you strive since they were all in your shoes at some point and they are aligned with the goal of winning as a whole. It is very important to quickly identify and flag any roadblocks you might encounter and ask for help whenever needed. Doing check-ins and asking for feedback will also help guide you not only in the first months but along your career journey.
Invest in yourself and get out of your comfort zone
If you are doing a career transition or just starting at a new company, it is very helpful to build up the skills that you might not be as good at. As a PM, you have three pillars: customer, technical, and business. There will be always one area in which you will be stronger than others, and that is fine. Just focus on improving those areas in which you feel less confident in, and try it out. For example, I am starting to lead Daily Stand ups with engineers, and just led a Retrospective last week. After each activity I ask for feedback and iterate, and things are naturally improving.
Prioritise and deliver
Finally, a great advice I got from someone within the company: don't go too broad, and instead prioritise and deliver. In a dynamic environment, where there are a thousands things to do, it is very easy to fall into the trap of doing a little bit of everything without delivering anything. Three/six months into the job, when somebody asks you "what is the thing you made you are the most proud about?", you might find stuck and unable to give a proper answer. To avoid this, pick which challenges you want to take on, prioritise them (Impact/effort), and deliver.
Rounding it Up
Switching careers and/or moving from one company to another can be challenging. With hard work, curiosity, focus, and proactivity, you can definitely navigate this transition and come forward. Just remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint, so remember to breathe and enjoy the journey.