Guest Post by: Alin Baicoci (Mentee, Session 9, The Product Mentor) [Paired with Mentor, Chris Butler]
Changing a job can be a stressful occasion in in your working life. Why? It might be the case (like in my case) to have spent years as part of an organization, becoming an integrated part of its culture, making good friends at the office. Leaving your job means saying goodbye to these people, and to the teamwork and sense of collaboration you’ve developed during your time together.
Changing jobs is not a comfortable thing to do. I found that joining a new company is not easy especially after spending more than 5 years on each of the previous companies I worked for in the past. To me it is more about stepping out the comfort zone and dealing with “The New”: new People, new Processes, new Products, new Culture, new Business models, new Communication ways. After accepted a new PM role I knew I’m starting a new journey in my career, with new people, new products, new culture. The process interview was a long and though one, so after it was done, the excitement was commensurate. Soon, I started to think about having a plan to help throughout my transition.
Based on the previous job transition experiences and on other people advice, I started with drawing the classic 30/60/90 day onboarding plan. I’m saying “the classic” because there are a tone of articles and books talking about segmenting the 3 month onboarding period in 30/60/90 days activities.
However, I began with the 30 days before and the day I start (-30/0). I decided to start preparing for the new challenge even before joining the new role/company.
The goal as a product manager, was to find out more details about the customer I will work for and to build an opinion about the product(s) they have and the market they address to. The point is that having a good idea about the customer and its product(s) helps in conversations you’ll have with people starting with day 0. These people can be biased by all the time spend working on the that product, so viewing things from different angles can be a good thing.
I spent some time reading about industry trends, gather details, understanding the customer’s users, and looking at competitors similar products.
“Go slow and build your reputation up first before challenging company norms.” – Twitter
My first 30 days plan
I was seeing myself spending a part of the first month discussing with my manager and team members and finding answers to these questions:
- Who’s Who? Who focuses on what and who are the subject matter experts?
- Who are the most important stakeholders?
- What do they think is working well for the team and what is not?
- Any thoughts about how the team work could improve?
- “What can I do to make your life easier?” – I need to know what do they expect from me as a Product Manager, to have a shared understanding of this role.
I knew from the last interview step some details about the customer I’ll work for and the product I’m going to be in charge of leading it. The goal would have been to better understand the company, the customer and the product(s) we’re developing for the customer.
I planned to schedule one-on-one with:
- My Manager – to review my objectives and to set the right expectations for what I’ll be doing
- Every development team member
- Stakeholders from the customer side
- The other PMs from the company
Be aware that overall, the one-on-one meetings can take some time depending on the number of people you want/need to meet, so plan those accordingly. For the first meeting that can be about almost anything, the agenda is optional. You should keep it informal, ask questions about work habits, team collaboration, short term goals, team relations, personal development, and actively listen.
My 60 days plan
After having a better understanding of the product:
- getting a demo of the product
- performing internal demos to understand how the product works
- what are the areas that can be improved
- doing competitive analysis
- looking at current KPIs and how they’re measured
“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” – Mike Tyson
Even though I planned in details the onboarding period, the reality was different. Because of some strategic business decisions, after 2 weeks, I was asked to immediately jump into another project, for another customer and help there. My entire -30/0 day plan become obsolete: another customer, another projects, different stakeholders etc.
They need my help there for 1 month.
“Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower
This time I continued to keep an eye on my plan developed initially, but it was pretty though performing stuff I planned considering I did not have credentials to access any environments or tools related to the product I was supposed to take over. It was good having a plan after all even though almost nothing was the way I planned in the onboarding process.
When I finally got access to platform/tools/resources/team members of the project I started to prepare my onboarding for, I just returned to my initial 30-60 days plan. The point is not having a X-Y-Z days plan(structured by first 30 days, next 30 days, and last 30 days), but to clearly have defined what you consider being important to do right after taking a new job as a PM.
As for that I think during onboarding period a PM should consider to set clear expectations with his/her manager, to schedule 1:1 meetings with the main stakeholders, understand the product and its architecture, familiarize with development processes.
If you have the chance to run a retrospective meeting (most of the times there will be at least one release pre-dating your day 0), do it! Will offer a great chance to learn about the team, to get the pulse of their morale, work relation, how they see things going on. Agree with them on action items, add owners for each action item and follow up with them on the action items that have been agreed.
To me, this period of onboarding is about the 3Ps: People, Product(s), Processes – the keys to your success as a PM.
In summary, to be successful at your next job you should start with the following:
- Talk to EVERYONE you’re going to work with.
- Strive to create a trust climate of work through interaction with others.
- If you have the opportunity to visit/meet your customers do it!
- Play with the product! Try to internally demo your product to show that you understand how it works.
- Get familiar with Release Cycles and Iterations.
- Ask your customer to present his vision and work together on having a roadmap in place.
Business Analyst, Product Owner, Product Manager with 13+ years of experience in IT world. Passionate about working with people, multiculturalism, help on building high performing self-managed teams, LEAN thinking, data science. Proud twins father, currently living in Cluj-Napoca city, the heart of Transylvania, LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/alinbaicoci/
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The Product Guy