I’m in a panic mode. Joined this company as an associate PM (it’s been my first PM position after a few years in project management) in a growth team, my PM lead is leaving which makes me a leading PM on the team. Sounds like a dream, but I have no idea what I’m doing. Priorities are unclear, backlog is empty, I’m firefighting some stupid shit instead of doing actual product work cause I’m too scared of making decisions. Moreover - I have NO IDEA what decisions should I make. It seems like everyone is overflown with ideas, but I’m instead just sitting here in a panic mode every day not knowing where to start, what to build, what to tell my devs and designers to do and how to keep my stakeholders at least engaged in my area of work. I’m considering quitting every day because of this panic. It starts showing: I’m getting e-mails like “so who’s in change of strategy of this team?” cc’d to my manager, my engineering manager keeps asking what’s the next thing I want to build, but I don’t. know. how to respond. Please help or at least leave a calming comment. I feel like I’m drowning and am considering therapy, but yet - work isn’t disappearing.
I was in exact same position few months ago, except I am a Sr PM and expectations from me were higher.
Firstly, try to buy some time from your leadership which you must utilise to build your knowledge for product and start building relationships with your Design and Engineering leads/managers.
Slowly ramp up on tasks and gain trust/confidence from your leadership.
Do not be afraid to ask for help. I repeat, DO NOT BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP.
Ask questions, ton and ton of questions. Ask until you are not satisfied of the answer, because tomorrow you’ll be responsible for the product, its success, and all the decisions around it.
If you look at this from an optimistic angle, you have a great opportunity to grow.
And while you do all that, make sure you have time for your own task and most importantly yourself to not burn out.
Remember, it’s a marathon and not a sprint. Take one day at a time.
Focus on people > process > product, in that order.
You’ll do good OP. Many of us have been there firefighting and in hindsight, it taught us a lot about work and life at large.
All the best.
Oh God! Thank you for the advice. It’s just that it’s been 6 months already in this mode since my manager left. Time slips through the fingers. I’ve already implemented the roadmap that the previous PM has planned for and now it’s either mundane tickets or something so big and vague that it just doesn’t seem to be doable. I guess my question is how does anyone even come up with ideas as a PM? Cause I feel like I’m just asking other what I should build.
@Dave Instead of focusing on what to build, you must focus on what problem to solve.
The latter one will automatically give your ideas on what to build.
The best way to figure problems is to talk to your users/customers and ask them, what problem they face in achieving a certain goal.
Find the feature gaps and plug them
Reduce the friction in their journey
Optimise for performance (in case of stable product)
Focus on growth and revenue (in case of stable product)
Identify what stage your product is in and which part of sales funnel is crucial for the given stage.
Define the goal and then start solving the problems to achieve the goal.
Finding clarity in ambiguity is one the key traits of a better PM.
Also, good artists create. Great artists STEAL. Go find another competing product and make your own spin that solves the true problem of the customer even better.
Do you have access to customers? They’re a never ending fountain of potential ideas. Let them be your guide! Sometimes they have problems they dont even realize! Anticipated, and unanticipated needs.
Hey there, as a fellow new APM I can totally understand where you’re coming from. It’s a chaos whenever starting a new role and can be overwhelming at times. I found multiple posts on other forums about how to manage first 90 days as a PM. There was one such post today as well. But firstly I would like to tell you that it’s totally okay to feel clueless and lost, nobody has it all figured out.
Even I’m just trying tips and focusing on learning as much as I can about the organization and it’s processes before jumping to decision making or core product stuff.
Relax, take a deep breath.
My suggestion is just come up with a short list of things for the team to work on, basically to get them off your back for a couple of weeks. It can be tech debt (ask the engineering manager), working through a bug backlog, etc.
The lead pm should have created a roadmap. Take a look, see what’s next on the list. Start talking to people about what that thing(s) mean.
Second, this is really your manager’s problem, not yours. Make them help you figure out what needs to be done next. Usually the easiest way to do this is to write up a proposal (which could be just a guess) and present it as a draft plan to them.
If they don’t like it, they’ll tell you what needs to be changed. If they don’t have any input, well, might as well go forward with it - you have their blessing.
All the best
Thanks @Marco. That’s a relieving comment. Thank you, for real. It’s been 6 months since my lead PM left and I’ve already implemented everything there’s been left for me to build. As for what’s next… it’s a mystery, whenever I start thinking about it my mind just goes blank. How do you even come up with anything?
@Dave, To build a roadmap you have to start at the top.
What are the goals of the company?
Are there goals for this product? (financial, number of customers, etc.)
What types of things do you and your teams control that could impact those goals?
Create a list, prioritize them by impact, see if you business stakeholders agree… go from there.
It’s going to be alright! Being thrown into the deep end is almost a right of passage. There are so many fires, so many opinions from every direction, it’s hard to take a step back and get everything aligned. As someone newer to the role have you considered joining some product communities? Reddit is a great place to ask questions but you might benefit from a place where you can have some more one on ones with people who have been in a similar position and work through your struggles. There are many of these communities for both Slack and Discord. When I first started as a PM these were a huge help to me and helped me get past the feeling of drowning every day.
Did they only leave you a six month roadmap? Was there not a longer term vision that you can dive into?
I find it helps me to just start talking to people. What are the stakeholder’s pain points? What are the developer’s pain points? What is the feedback from the users? Is your current product addressing these issues? What do you need to build/do/create in order to help that along?