This is a blog post I had written in response to Ask Women in Product series to the question: “ I am the first PM hire at a B2C startup, and I am also a first-time PM. What should I focus on in my first 30 / 60 / 90 days?“
Being the first Product Management hire when it’s your first time in the Product Manager role is an incredibly rewarding experience. It’s a rare growth opportunity that many PMs seek out only in the later stages of their career.
The journey starts with the PM being a student of the product and continues as you grow into a subject matter expert. I find it helpful to break down the first 90 days into the different phases of the PM’s knowledge growth.
First 30 days: the Learning Phase
Spend the first 30 days learning everything you can about your users, your product and market, your company, and the tools that your teams use.
To do the job of a PM well, you must first understand your users. Learn about the user segments that use your product. In B2C products especially, you’ll want to leverage analytics to understand your users’ behavior.
Ask the team about the (qualitative and quantitative) trends they’ve seen so far, then take the time to do a deep dive into the data. You’ll want to ask questions like:
- What are the key user cohorts of the product?
- What is the set of power users? What is their typical behavior?
- What are the core problems faced by each user segment?
If there isn’t an extensive data infrastructure that tracks this data, ask the team for the consumer insights that they’ve learned so far. If there’s no information available, see if you can run a survey or a focus group with some users in various user segments and learn about them.
The Product and Your Market
Learn the industry and the market of your product. Look at the top competitors and become an expert in their products. Use your product with the aim of becoming an expert in it; learn its ins and outs. Study the competing products regularly to understand the differences.
Some questions to ask yourself:
- What pain points do you encounter when you use your product? What about competing products?
- What does your competitor’s marketing collateral imply about their user cohorts? Their value proposition?
- What does your product lack that you see in your competitors’ products?
Find industry-specific reports that offer an outsider’s perspective and which provide data on the key drivers and differentiators in your market.
If you work in a regulated industry, you’ll also want to understand the rules that your company and products have to abide by.
Learn about the company’s goals, its mission, its founders, and meet the team. Here are a few core activities to get started:
- Set up a 1:1 meeting with each team member and ask about their roles to learn the culture of each of the various disciplines;
- Find out how the PM role was previously distributed throughout the team, then ask your teammates to share their expectations of the role that you now have. Knowing what people expect of you as the first PM will help you work well with other disciplines like engineering, design, and research;
- Get to know the founders, the company-level goals, and the high-level strategy for the product(s). Learn about the mission and main goal of your company in addition to understanding your manager’s expectations.
Take some time in the first 30 days to learn the tools. You’ll want to understand any analytics infrastructure as well as its limitations. Make notes of what is missing, if anything, and what you’d like to add in the future. If there is no analytics infrastructure, ask your team how they have been tracking main user events and add analytics to your backlog. If needed, take some time to define the metrics strategy for your product. A strong product analytics infrastructure becomes more crucial as you scale.
You’ll also want to learn what technical tools the engineers are using. This knowledge will help you understand your product’s technical design at a high level going forward.
Aside from learning the analytics stack and becoming familiar with the engineering tools, you may need to introduce product management tools (if the company has not been using them yet). Some of my favorite product management tools include:
- Amplitude for product analytics and event tracking;
- Trello for organizing and tracking tasks;
- Slack for team communication; and
- Invision for design and collaboration.
First 60 Days: the Growth Phase
In the next 30 days, your focus will shift from knowing the background to learning how to grow the product and yourself. Let’s break this phase down into three parts:
Personal Career Development
Since this is your first PM role, you will want to learn from other PMs about best practices. Leverage these and similar communities to build a network of experienced PMs who can be your sounding board. With luck you may even find a mentor:
- Women in Product — https://womeninproduct.com
- Women PM — https://www.womenpm.org
- Product Manager HQ — https://www.productmanagerhq.com
Make every effort to hone your product intuition. Also, get an in-depth understanding of the tasks of a PM and assess your strengths and weaknesses. For example, you might be good at analytics but lack strategic skills. Once you identify your weaknesses, work on building those specific skills.
Here are some helpful resources that you can use to acquire new skills:
- Data Science for Product Managers Course (SF Only)
- Reforge Growth Program (in person and remote)
- Mind the Product events
- Collection of blog posts
Now that you understand and know your product and its user base, use that knowledge to figure out how to make the product better to achieve your product goals. You can make the product better through several approaches:
- New feature development. Ideate and specify features that add significant value to your product and enhance existing features; and
- Optimizations. Optimize the existing features of a product or an existing user experience;
- Technical improvements. Introduce technical improvements, which for B2C products, often lead to better user experiences. For example, there may be room to improve error rates, load times, or fix some tech debt.
As the only PM, you will have to figure out not only what to build but also when to build it. Align with the founders and stakeholders on your short and long-term roadmap so everyone has a common understanding of priorities.
Note that one roadmap template will not fit all products nor all companies. Don’t be afraid to use frameworks from various resources as long as you adapt them to the needs of your company and stakeholders.
In this second phase, you should spend time building a good relationship with your team. As the first and only PM, you need to gain your team’s trust and assure them that you are capable of making good, informed decisions. Continue the 1:1’s with your teammates and discuss your ideas for the product openly so you can validate your product thinking.
Be open to other stakeholders who may have ideas and ensure that everyone feels like they are a part of the roadmap process. Be open to ideas but as a PM, it is also your responsibility to ensure the expectations are realistic. Handle unrealistic requests by explaining why they aren’t possible and support your explanations with data.
First 90 Days: More Growth + Execution
The third phase — Days 61 to 90 — is a continuation of the learning and growth that were the focus of your first two phases. In this phase, however, we add one key component: Execution.
For the first 60 days, you’ve been learning the basics of the market and the product, and you’ve been working on growing your PM skills. It’s time to apply that learning and start executing on your ideas and goals.
Work with your team to ship a small feature or optimization and figure out the process that works best for your team.
As the first PM, you will set the precedent for how a specification document should be written, who will manage the shipping deadlines, and how smoothly the process works. Once a product has shipped, evaluate its performance and communicate the results to the team. If you were not successful, determine what needs to change. These activities are all part of the product delivery process and execution that you will constantly be doing as a product manager.
Being the first and only PM at a B2C startup is a great opportunity to very quickly learn and grow as a product manager. The changes that you make at an early stage often yield results quickly and serve as great learning opportunities. I hope the ideas that I’ve shared in this piece prove to be helpful.
Here are some other resources on Product management:
- The Modern-Day Good Product Manager/Bad Product Manager
- 5 Trial-by-Fire Lessons from a First-Time Product Manager
- Ask Women in Product: How do you deal with a CEO who dictates all product and design decisions?
- How to Approach your first 30–60–90 Days as a Product Manager?
Thank you to @mdy for editing this piece.