All related (18)
Patrick Davis
Group Product Manager, GoogleAugust 16

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.
Virgilia Kaur Pruthi (she/her)
Principal PM Manager / Product Leader, Microsoft | Formerly AmazonJanuary 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.

Rupali Jain
Chief Product Officer, WorkBoardFebruary 26

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!

David Cutler
VP Product, CookUnityJune 17

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!   

Nico Rattazzi
VP of Product, ZumperFebruary 20

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.