All related (8)
Ibrahim Bashir
Vice President, Product Management, AmplitudeJuly 6

My # goal is to provide leverage around the strategy:

  • If we're having impact, accelerate and expand
  • If we're not having impact, get into that mode
  • ensure all work connects to top level outcomes
  • anything that derives from the above (alignment on strategy, hiring PMs, initiating / killing product bets, etc)
Adrianne Wang Martinson
Head of Product, China Platform, Airbnb | Formerly Microsoft, Salesforce, Box, AdobeMay 10

The first product manager of a startup plays a crucial role as one of the foundational members. S/he not only needs to quickly lay the product strategy, create short and long term roadmaps, and build development processes, but also potentially extend responsibilities wherever help is needed, including user research, marketing or even as a QA engineer.

Here are initial 30/60/90 day goals to achieve this as the first product manager:

30 days: Be open minded to listen, observe and learn

  1. Understand the company and its business model in depth, including history, challenges, overarching strategy and short/long term goals
  2. Learn the products and features to get familiar with them
  3. Understand company culture and dynamics
  4. Get to know your team and key stakeholders, including engineering, design, product marketing, operations and sales
  5. Learn about any existing processes and gain context on them

60 days: Identify opportunities and form a strategic plan

  1. Identify the problem spaces of user pain points, business challenges, technical and operational needs
  2. Layout the user journey to identify product opportunities
  3. Prioritize the opportunities, define an MVP and build a roadmap
  4. Identify success metrics
  5. Got leadership and stakeholders’ buy in

90 days: Start execution and iterate

  1. Form and develop a plan to work on the detailed solutions
  2. Test out the solutions and iterate
  3. Build and iterate on the progress to have an efficient eng development cycle
  4. Potentially build a product management team
Mckenzie Lock
Director of Product, NetflixAugust 3

The most important thing you can do as a new head of product is to align with the founder/s and/or your manager on what your role is. Most people assume they did this in the interview process. Yet, misalignment on this question are the most common reasons heads of product fail. You want to know: 

  1. How will I be evaluated? “In 1 year, what evidence will tell you I’ve been successful?” Make sure they are specific. For example, if they say something like, “customers are happier,” follow up with: “what’s an example of something that would give you confidence customers are happy” This tells you what outcomes you’re being evaluated against.
  2. How much autonomy will I have for which product decisions? The best piece of advice I've received is to ask a new manager or founder, "What decisions do you want to make? What decisions do you want me to make but run by you first? What decisions do you want me to run with entirely?" This tells you how much autonomy you have on what.

Once you understand these things create a 6 month plan that incorporates a few things:

  1. Quick wins - ask your manager, their manager, your team, and your peers, “what do you need most from product management?” Use this to identify a few quick wins you can deliver to build trust.
  2. Start with the low context decisions - a lot of new Heads of Product make the mistake of trying to define a product strategy too early. This is often a mistake because such decisions require product context, organizational context & an intuition for the space. Instead start by making decisions you don’t need a lot of domain context to make - who to hire, how to uplevel the team, how to improve your product process, etc.
    For product decisions, start small by picking a few projects/or areas to go deep on before building out a larger strategy.

In all of this, setting expectations is your best friend. Once you’ve aligned with your manager on your plan, be sure to set expectations with the organization about what you’ll be focused on in what order.