Question Page

I’m the first PM hire in my company. What advice would you give to someone tasked with establishing this function in an existing business structure?

9 Answers
Virgilia Kaur Pruthi (she/her)
Virgilia Kaur Pruthi (she/her)
Expedia Group Senior Director of Product, Head of Trust and SafetyJanuary 31

Wonderful, congrats!

Get into a rhythm by understanding the business/company goals. Then understand how the tech works (look at the customer/user interface first and then make sure you understand how the system behind the UI works). Begin collecting data in a transparent way and share your learnings with your stakeholders and leadership.

Conduct user research (both qualitative and quantitative) to help illustrate what product areas (epics/themes) you want to focus on and how these connect back to the business/company goals.

938 Views
Nico Rattazzi
Nico Rattazzi
DOZR VP of ProductsFebruary 22

Congrats on your new role! Joining as the first PM at a company can be both a blessing and a curse. The first thing to acknowledge is that you are going to be strapped on your time so you need to ruthlessly prioritize your time and focus to ensure you're driving value and impact to the organization. First, you should understand whether the roadmap is clear and that it is the most impactful items the company needs for the road ahead.

Is the roadmap clear and is there alignment amongst the leadership team? Work with executives to understand the companies priorities and why these items are priorities

Is there research or data to back up customer needs? Set up the processes for understanding the customers through qualitative or quantitative methods.

Is there a way to measure the impact of past/present/future releases? Make sure the right tracking is in place to measure the impact of product releases

Are prod/design/eng + stakeholders aligned with the roadmap, what comes next and why? Ensure you have the right tools to provide transparency to the org and the right avenues for feedback + collaboration.

755 Views
Rupali Jain
Rupali Jain
Optimizely Chief Product OfficerMarch 1

Whether you are the first hire or an early leadership hire that is trying to establish the product management function, the most important aspect is to show value.  Beyond that, there are a few critical aspects of setting up the function

  • Align with the CEO/Leadership team: You hopefully established with the leadership team/CEO  how they define the role and what they wanted from you as the first PM hire before you took the job. If you didn’t, its still not too late. Do have a conversation around this quickly so you can get aligned. This is a necessary prerequisite to some of the other activities that you will do
  • Define the function and its role: Explicitly define what the PM role does and does not cover.  Having a definition in place will prevent the role from turning into a "glue" function i.e. pick up the slack that is not covered by other roles.  Establish that the role of the PM is to define the why and the what, and the how will be in collaboration with engineering.
  • Create the criteria for product success: This may often be defined as the northstar metric.  Also show progress towards this and clearly show the correlation between the criteria and the overall business.
  • Establish a clear connection to the customer: As you define the role, establish a way to talk with customers to start getting signal.  Nothing gives you and other PMs on the team more credibility than using examples of customers that would use your features or are requesting them (this applies primarily in B2B)
  • Use Wins to establish value of the role with stakeholders and peers: Don't underestimate that establishing the role will take time.  Ensure you spend time with stakeholders, your peers and the broader organization.  Instead of just focusing on defining the role with them, use every "win" that you have to establish the value the role creates.

And finally, build out your team ensuring that you focus on hiring PMs that excel at the role as you have defined it and enable them to succeed!

840 Views
David Cutler
David Cutler
CookUnity VP Product & DesignJune 30

All Product Managers need to be a sales person at different times in their career. As someone establishing a PM function for the first time, you'll be selling the vision of how an effective product manager will help the business and company achieve their goals. There's obviously at least one champion considering you got hired by somebody! But don't be surprised if some colleagues don't understand the need or value of a product manager, so this is the time to set expectations and build trusted relationships. The first step is learning as much as you can from the people around you. Try and become an expert in the business, where you can put yourself in their shoes when discussing needs and requirements. There's no exact playbook as the first PM, stay open minded and realize it may be a windy road to get where you need to be. Good luck!   

405 Views
Patrick Davis
Patrick Davis
Google Group Product ManagerAugust 18

This is a good one; and I'll admit that I've never been the first PM hire in a company, but I have worked to establish a new PM team within an existing structure. Here are my tips:

  • Be humble and go on a listening tour. Things have clearly been working (to an extent) and it's your job to go around and understand the lay of the land, folks expectations of you, and how you can help. Building trust often leads to the best outcomes
  • The best quick value add you can likely achieve will likely come out of that listening tour. Again be humble and take on some grunge/grunt work that will have some outsized returns but nobody wants to do. Earn that trust and respect
  • Finally the best defense (in terms of establishing your discipline and the role you and your team will play) is often a good offense. Build a roadmap. Put some stakes in the ground backed up by as much cross functional support, user research, and data as possible.
1383 Views
Omar Eduardo Fernández
Omar Eduardo Fernández
GitLab Director of Product ManagementAugust 15

The first thing that you want to do is to establish the credibility of the PM organization and earn the trust of your peers, otherwise, you risk becoming irrelevant and ignored. PMs need to lead by influence.

To do this well, I'd set up a 30-60-90 day plan in which you meet a lot of leaders across the company, understand their pain points, talk to customers and understand their needs and pain points too, and then put together a proposal for how the PM organization will help solve these pain points.

Until a product function is built up, often the product direction falls on the CEO and the executive group. As the first PM hire, you should look into what gaps that is leaving from a product management perspective and start to plug the gaps. As you do this, contribute to the product vision and direction and showcase that you can lead it. Over time this increases the responsibilities and influence of the product function.

406 Views
Paresh Vakhariya
Paresh Vakhariya
Atlassian Director of Product Management (Confluence)November 8

Here is my advice for a junior PM in a small company:

  1. Get to know your product. Learn to ue it everyday and document any issues you see

  2. Talk to customers about their experience using your product. Document these issues

  3. Create a prioritization framework: prioritize the problems you see that are biggest for the customers

  4. Pick metrics you want to measure. What will drive the biggest impact for your company and customers?

  5. Create a 3-6 month roadmap and share it with all your team members. Align on capacity to build these features. Only pick things that you will deliver within that timeframe.

  6. Work with design and engineering on shipping these features

  7. Measure impact and see if your metrics have changed. Share these learnings

  8. Rinse and repeat for 6-12 months. Present to executives as needed.

Make sure to build relationships, learn all relevant tools and celebrate your wins with the team!

774 Views
Maxime Prades
Maxime Prades
Meta Director of Product ManagementNovember 28

This is a great question and one that happened to me as well a few years ago! Here is what I would consider doing (in no particular order)

  1. Build trust, rapport and product knowledge: Become knowledgeable about the product, the sales cycle (if applicable: join sales reps on calls, meetings, trainings etc...), go do a few shifts of customer support tickets, join marketing and sales on a trade show etc...

  2. Formalize the roadmap: Even if you're the first product hire there is probably already a roadmap. But it's probably not formalized, not formatted, not clear, not structured. that's the first most obvious measurable landed impact you can have. Gather it, structure it, tell a story around it, show past half or quarter or month impact and then look forward and build something the whole company will rally behind

  3. Find "diamonds in the rough": There are often Product Managers "hidden" in the company. As you look to grow the team, go look in functions like Solutions Engineers or Engineering or Program managers for folks with a knack for solving problems and grow the product team organically

  4. Figure out the biggest problems to solve: A high powered highly functioning engineering team might not immediately appear to "need" a product manager, but find the biggest problems they need solving and get to solving them

957 Views
Sharad Goel
Sharad Goel
Homebase VP Product & DesignMay 10

Get clarity on your role. What are the expectations - where are you the driver, approver or a consultant. What goals are you responsible for.

Also decide what role do you want to play - do you love being an IC building features or do you want to be the Head of Product.

Based on the intersection of your wants and the company needs you can come up with the next steps.

178 Views
Top Product Management Mentors
Sheila Hara
Sheila Hara
Barracuda Sr. Director, Product Management
Sirisha m
Sirisha m
Uber Director of Product
Natalia Baryshnikova
Natalia Baryshnikova
Atlassian Head of Product, Enterprise Agility
Deepak Mukunthu
Deepak Mukunthu
Salesforce Senior Director of Product, Generative AI Platform (Einstein GPT)
Pavan Kumar
Pavan Kumar
Gainsight Director, Product Management
Mike Arcuri
Mike Arcuri
Meta Director of Product - Horizon Worlds Platform
Abhiroop Basu
Abhiroop Basu
Square Product Manager
Hiral Shah
Hiral Shah
DocuSign Director of Product Management
Marvin Green
Marvin Green
Splunk Director, Product Management
Mckenzie Lock
Mckenzie Lock
Netflix Director of Product