You do tens of tasks in the first week when you join a new team or company. But not all those tasks are directly linked to your success in the new role.
Today, I share six things you should start doing in the first week of your role to be successful from day one.
1. Talk to your manager
2. Understand larger goals
3. Start building relationships
4. Understand the company culture
5. Understand the company culture
6. Know your product better than everyone else
Talk to your manager
Why: Your manager strongly influences what you do and how you do it. They also get to decide if you’re successful at doing what you’re expected to do.
Secondly, building a strong rapport early on is essential to building a healthy relationship and setting yourself up for success.
What: Some critical things that you should get from your manager:
1. A deeper understanding of your role and responsibilities.
2. An objective way to measure progress and success.
3. A broad understanding of the current (6-12 month) priorities.
4. A list of the most critical stakeholders – their names, roles, and goals.
5. A detailed plan of what you should do in the first 30-60-90 days.
How: Gathering all this will take time. I recommend setting up regular 1:1s with your manager and continuing this conversation as you settle in.
Understand larger goals
Why: The only way to move in the right direction and make an impact is to know the right direction. And to do that, you need to know the team’s and company’s goals. Knowing the goals will help you objectively identify the highest impact projects your team is/will be working on.
What: Understand the company’s focus areas and how your team fits into the larger picture.
How: to know and understand the larger goals, get access to:
1. Recent documents with strategic alignment on the direction or critical initiatives.
2. Yearly and quarterly planning documents.
3. Roadmap for the previous and next 12 months.
4. Press releases and product launch documents for the last six months.
5. Other documents or publications by the exec team.
Know the team
Why: getting to know your immediate stakeholders (engineers, designers, data scientists, analysts, etc.) is critical, as these people directly contribute to the execution and success (or failure) of your roadmap.
Knowing what they do, how they do it, and why they do it will help you understand their working style. This knowledge will empower you to build strong collaboration and achieve success for the entire team.
What: understand how the team works – what planning processes they follow, how they make decisions, how they like to collaborate (meetings, slack, emails, etc.), who are the decision-makers, etc.
First, meet with the managers and:
1. Introduce yourself.
2. Understand their management style – how involved are they in the planning and the execution process.
3. Get a deep understanding of how the team is structured – what skills do we have vs what do we need.
4. Know their expectation of your role. Identify areas where you can start adding value immediately.
5. Create a list of their team members, and identify top performers and the most tenured. Talk to them first.
Then meet with the team and:
1. Understand their day-to-day activities. Determine the aspects where and how they collaborate with the product manager.
2. Understand the tactical processes – daily stand-ups, project syncs, progress updates, relevant slack groups, etc.
Start building relationships
Why: A product manager’s success heavily depends on stakeholders. Stakeholders can not only influence your roadmap, but they can also make its execution easy (or very hard.) You need to align with them regularly, and the first step is building a strong and healthy relationship.
What: Get to know them – their working style, likes, dislikes, and, most importantly, their motivations.
Build a transparent environment where both parties share thoughts and feedback openly. Transparency fosters trust and collaboration – essential ingredients to drive alignment on critical aspects.
How: do this in your first or second week:
1. Identify stakeholders who have the most substantial influence on your roadmap. And those who are critical in speeding the execution of it.
2. Meet them regularly, and make each meeting count. Have a well-defined structure and a pre-defined agenda. Document the next steps and deliverables from each meeting. Hold each other accountable. (I use this template to run effective meetings.)
3. Work with them to define clear ownership areas. Answer the question – “Who does what and when?”
4. Mutual respect is core to building a solid relationship. Make every interaction meaningful and impactful. Treat their time like you expect them to treat yours.
Understand the company culture
Why: Every company and team has a different style of working. Some teams make decisions top-down, and some make them bottom-up. Some experiment quickly, and some take time to do a lot of user research and analysis before making a decision.
The sooner you understand the culture, the easier for you to integrate and make an impact. On the flip side – if you do not know the culture soon enough, you will spend a lot of time doing things that might not create the desired impact.
What: Answer the below questions:
1. Who are the most influential decision-makers? How do they operate?
2. What do I need to know to increase the quality and speed of strategic decision-making?
3. What is a typical end-to-end journey for critical features?
4. What operational challenges, nuances, or strengths influence the quality and speed of product releases?
How: The best way to do this is to find high-performing product managers on the team, talk to them, and understand how things work and the tricks they use to create impact.
Learning from someone who has been doing it for a long time is a trick that works in most situations.
Know your product better than everyone else
Why: A product manager who knows their product well can have meaningful discussions, make impactful decisions, and start creating an impact very soon.
If there is only one thing you take from this list, make it this one.
If you can become the expert, you will be able to achieve everything else (on this list) almost automatically.
What: You need to know the things that help you have meaningful and logical responses to questions about your product. If, most of the time, your answer is “I’ll have to check and get back.”, then you’re not doing a good job.
There will be many situations where you’re making decisions, and everyone else is looking at you for expertise and confidence. In such cases, if you do not exude confidence (because you lack product expertise), you give everyone a reason not to trust you.
How: Doing this will take time. Take the time. But do it right:
1. Read existing documentation – The best place to start is existing documents: wikis, PRDs, user stories, and older tickets. Get context on what exists under the hood, go deep where necessary, ask questions, find answers, and do not stop till you have them.
2. Understand existing data – Understand what metrics are essential for your team and how you can access them. Identify what product/features/aspects are the most important. Determine the best way to measure impact of your ownership area. If you cannot find the relevant data and reports, ask other PMs to point you in the right direction.
3. Know the market, competitive landscape, and industry trends – Try to understand what’s happening in the real world outside your company. Use that information, where relevant, to make your roadmap better.
4. Talk to users – When you look at data and talk to internal stakeholders, you will understand the problems you’re solving and the solutions you’re creating. But you might not discover the user’s pain points. So, talk to users and understand how they use the product and what problems the product solves. If it is tough to do interviews early on, read old interviews.