What questions should you ask during your one-on-ones with the engineers, design, support, marketing and sales team during your first month at the company?
Every organization is different and has a different culture, different role definitions, different ways of getting work done, different objectives, secret sources of power, and unwritten rules. Finding out about as many of these things as you can as quickly as possible will be extremely helpful to you in your career.
Lets start with the questions to ask your R&D partners (engineering, design, research, operations, and in some situations product marketing). Every company has challenges and opportunities within its physical or digital walls. You have an opportunity in the first 90 days to efficiently find out about the challenges and opportunities so you can more intentionally steer towards your intended outcome. I'll provide an answer from the perspective of the IC and the leader because the focus is a bit different.
As an individual contributor your objective is to understand what elements can contribute positively to your effectiveness in this role, as well as the things that block progress. The most important thing to remember for these first conversations is that in order for you to get any useful insights that aren't just canned answers which maintain the status quo, people will need to trust you. Start building trust by asking these individuals about themselves. Find something that you both have in common to connect on, build some rapport, then dig into some of your questions (You'll get richer answers). Next you'll want to dig into the projects, people, process, and tools, as well as anything you have questions about that was covered in onboarding.
Ask about anything you are unclear on relating to the topics mentioned. Remember to save some time for some unstructured discovery:
-Who is the best product manager you have worked with and what made them great?
-What do you hope this role will accomplish for the organization?
-How can I be a great partner?
-What works well here?
-What doesn't work well here?
-Where have others struggled?
And my personal favorite.... Are there any topics or projects that are a touchy subject here? (I've avoided many awful situations with this one). If you're lucky, this one can help you avoid the traps.
For product leaders, the altitude changes a bit. Instead of figuring out how you can be the best IC, your goal is to make sure the function is performing well in the organization. Adjusting the verbiage so that it's applicable for the product function should elicit some thoughtful responses. One question I'd recommend asking specifically is "how is the product managment function seen in this org?" Perception isn't always reality, but it can help you uncover glaring process gaps, or opportunities for relationship and rapport building between key groups. If you need a PR level overhaul for product managment, you'll be able to start sooner if you find out about it early and speed is of the essence.
The elements you uncover with this exercise can help you formulate your most impactful short term contributions for your 30/60/90 day plan.
For xfunctinal geoups like marketing, sales, support, and others, the questions can be similar, but it helps to get some more underlying detail from these groups. Ask if you can shadow a rep on the lifecycle of a deal to learn. Ask if you can see the distribution of support cases and shadow a support representative. Similar scenario for marketing on new campaigns and plans. Offer to be of service to build those relationships. Not only will these conversations help you learn so much about what is going on in the organization so yo can be more effective in your role, but once open, these lines of communication can keep you aware of shifts and changes for a long time to come.
When asking for materials like these, remember to be a good corporate citizen. It would not be strategic to criticize it upon reciept, or talk about how inefficient those "other" roles and functions are. Use it to learn, help make it better if you can, but never throw stones with no positive intended outcome in mind.
There is a lot to learn from your new team when starting and it can be tempting to jump right into what they can help you build first or what their problems are and you will get to that soon enough. Before that I like to start building processes and systems so all of those groups can self-serve information as much as possible without you becoming a blocker to them doing their jobs. So asking what kind of information they need/expect/want from Product Management and how they want to get that information. Making this self-serve also lets you create a single source of the information so everyone is getting the same answer all the time and you only have one thing to update when it changes.
When I am meeting folks for the first time I like to establish what they have been working on and why, what problems they are having they need help with even if I cannot solve them. I also like to ask them who their go to person is when they need questions answered or something done. I have found that this answer is often the same and you find out a natural source of information within the company, a key stakeholder who may not be obvious or someone who just knows how to get things done.