Need advice on hiring first hybrid-product role at an early stage SaaS business

We want to bring on someone who will focus on training/product documentation (not really hardcore developer docs). I think that we might be able to hire an early-career product manager to help us with this while giving them the opportunity to work on light-weight product stuff and eventually grow into a sr. product role. The advantage of having them to work on docs in the beginning is that we need to someone to help us catch up on a major backlog of docs and it seems like a great way to learn the product which should give them a good foundation when they step into more of a product centered role. (Our founders will still own the product for the foreseeable future.)
Does anyone have experience/advice hiring their first documentation or hybrid-product role at an early stage SaaS business?

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Interesting concept! I think my only concern if I were in your shoes would be that your documenter isn’t yet a product expert. I’m unsure of the complexity of your Product but having someone learn through crafting product documentation could potentially be a recipe for a lot of confusing documentation. It might be good to start by involving the person in the product lifecycle and process BEFORE having them move into the documentation role. I know it seems like the opposite of what you were thinking but your if your end-goal is quality product docs, your best bet is getting your person fully ingrained in the Product first. Just my opinion on the matter. :slightly_smiling_face:

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It also sets the precedent that those who write code have no responsibility to document their work “that’s someone else’s job”. It doesn’t sound like these are public docs where copy editing skills are top priority, so why aren’t the devs themselves responsible for keeping some additional notes?

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I think there’s two separate tracks here in terms of hiring.
With the founders owning the product, you can still bring on your first PM to help. There you can have them structure the documentation as part of their role and it will be a great introduction to the product.

Magic hiring word is Associate Product Manager for that inexperienced talent.
On the other hand, if this is outward facing then you’re looking for a product marketer not a product manager. Technical Product Marketer or Product Marketing Engineer are the roles that’ll do this. But, there’s an opportunity to really refine your copy and make sure your marketing is aligned with your product and that requires someone with experience so I would recommend avoiding hiring as a junior role.

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Thank you for your feedback. I’m glad I asked the question to the group. The technical marketing concept is an interesting one and might actually be the right approach here instead of trying to go this hybrid route.

Since these docs are more support and in nature I don’t expect our dev team to own them. We’ve fallen behind on the docs as a whole because we’ve relied on just providing one-off support to help until now but the docs are as much a pre-sales tool as they are a customer support tool, hence a marketing function would make a lot of sense.

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If the purpose of docs is more for supporting customers then I would argue that a marketing role is not the right fit. Marketing is fundamentally a go to market function. Supporting customers is a different beast even if pre-sales benefits from support docs.

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If you know anyone in the technical marketing space I’d love to bounce the idea off them to get their feedback.

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@PriyaVarma, I agree with you conceptually, when you’re so small though you might not have a choice. I worked on quite a few internal and external supporting documents as a Lead Product Manager. I work for a company of 12 and am the only one who was really able to do so. @RobMartin, Depending on budget and constraints it is very plausible to hire an Associate Product Manager and include that under their umbrella understanding that it should eventually be offloaded to someone focusing on documentation. It really comes down to what you want that person to do in the future, just write documents or grow into a PM.

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@NaomiNwosu, That’s fair. Startups fundamentally need to be very scrappy!

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We are small. I handled support and all digital documentation (including our public facing KB) for years… and then made the jump to PM. I was mentored into product by our now COO during that time.

A few months ago, I hired a documentation specialist.
It can be done, but finding the right person will be hard. You need someone who can write, but not like a technical writer, like an educator. You need someone who can think like a founder. To document and educate, you need someone who can participate in user ended testing so they need to be able to learn their way around an application.
And they have to have good enough grammar. :wink:

It can be done, but get very clear on the qualities of the person you are looking for, find out what they feel their career path in the next 3-5 should be, find out what your org is realistically ready to state as a career path timeline based on performance, and at least be thinking about as this person moves on and up, will you be prepared to hire an actual documentation specialist because otherwise your newly minted PM will have too many jobs to do (speaking from experience!)