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What pointed recommendations do you have on gaining influence as a new member of an organization or as a junior product management team member?

3 Answers
Natalia Baryshnikova
Natalia Baryshnikova
Atlassian Head of Product, Enterprise AgilityNovember 9

Your ability to create value quickly will depend on how quickly you can identify the problems and gaps in ways your organization operates today, and demonstrate progress towrds fixing them. Here's how you can do that:

  1. When you join an organization, schedule introductory 1-1s with a wide variety of stakeholders in your first couple weeks, and ask everyone about what problems they wish they'd see fixed. After 10+ conversations, you'll see clear patterns.
  2. Identify 1-3 small improvements (low hanging fruit) that you can deliver on quickly. Note that for a product manager role, often the best value add you can bring is not about shipping something, but an improvement in product org processes, sharing learnings, improving collaboration with engineering and design etc. So don't just look for roadmap quick wins, but rather how might you make your teammates more successful - this will allow you to capture a broader set of improvement ideas.
  3. Deliver and communicate the delivery of 1-3 improvements within your first 90 days on the job. This is important - your reputation will be formed quickly, so you want to create value quickly too. I have see many folks making a mistake of picking up a giant, challenging problem early on that is exciting but will take years to deliver on. Don't do that - focus on small, albeit potentially less exciting items, and get them done. And once you get them done, don't be shy to share it - let the team know you have solved a problem based on their feedback.
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Melissa Ushakov
Melissa Ushakov
GitLab Group Manager, Product ManagementMarch 7

Before gaining influence, you have to gain your team's trust. One question I love to ask when I join a team is: "What are the biggest challenges the team experiences? How can I help?". Gather this information from many members of your team and people the team collaborates with. Usually, I can derive a list of action items based on their answers, and I can suggest a few more things that I can do to help. In this initial conversation, focus on what you can do and not what you think they could change. Then follow through on your action items, using your best judgment and discretion if there are sensitive topics. This simple process allows you to learn more about team challenges, demonstrates your commitment to the team, and will help the team improve. This leads to increased trust, which leads to increasing your influence. 

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Subu Baskaran
Subu Baskaran
Splunk Director of Product ManagementFebruary 13

If you are a new PM in an organization, my advice would be the following:

  1. Be curious - learn as much as possible about the customers, users, features, and the system. Talk to as many people as possible and arrive at your point of view.

  2. Make allies - Identify engineers, UXdesigners, and sales teams (B2B) that you connect with and validate your learnings periodically.

  3. Question status quo - Once you have a particular POV, ask questions if something seems wrong. If it's new learning, admit it, but if the question helps the team uncover some kind of oversight, you have done a massive favor for your team. Note - Keep in mind, in a company with a history, there are many reasons why things are done a certain way and the team probably looked at many possibilities before going down a particular path. 

  4. Grunt work - Finally, do all the grunt work you can. Every document you write to a demo you give reinforces learning and establishes you as a product leader within your group. Attend all the meetings where engineers are talking about technical solutions, of course, if time permits. PMs often tell me they don't care about how engineers build stuff, but going through those discussions helps you appreciate the engineering effort and gives you a system-level understanding.

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