What helped you most in your beginning days as a product manager?

What systems / approach / frameworks or tips helped you most ?


There’s some books on this, but I’ll let you know what worked for me as I recently hit 120 days in my first official PM role. I got promoted last week.

  1. Prioritize talking to customers. They are your ground truth.
  2. Make your stakeholders like you. Ask for their opinions on key decisions, their pain points and tell them you understand, by voicing their opinions back to them.
  3. Find a low hanging, ideally highly visible pain point within the organization and solve it as the main driver. For me it was improving our CI pipeline and now the engineers love me. People tend to make their mind up about you in the first few months.
  4. Ask more questions than anyone else, particularly in the first month. Chances are you’re not the only one wondering.

For point 1 - If it’s a digital product. How do you do it? Via emails & social media?

And for point 3. What’s CI pipeline? And how was it ‘highly visible’ to you?


1 - It’s going to vary by company size and product, and I don’t know yours. But if you have a PM, customer success manager or user researcher in your organization, they should know or point you in the right direction.

3 - It’s the automated tests that are run on the code the engineers write to make sure it’s compatible with the existing codebase and produces the expected behavior. It was visible because many engineers’ paint point was ‘all I do is fix bugs and run tests’ when I did my 1:1s during the onboarding.


Can you expand with some details regarding what you did to improve the CI pipeline? Your perspective is really valuable!



Step 1 - Define and document the problem and its cost. From my 1:1s I gathered that on average engineers spent ~55% of their time on tests, fixes, maintenance. So I quantified that in terms of total cost to the company in $ (time salary num_engineers), as well as listing effects like lower morale, decreased agility, poorer time estimates, etc. to create a standalone document that explained the situation and why it’s critical we address it.

Step 2 - Get an effort estimation of your proposed solution. I asked the engineers.

Step 3 - Get stakeholder buy in. Pitch the problem to your superiors and stakeholders using the well crafted problem definition from 1 and the solution brief from 2.

Step 4 - Prioritize and execute. In my case, I had one other customer problem which was more urgent and then we did the CI pipeline. I could also pretty much reuse 1 and 2 as the PRD for the engineers.


In a month I can ask my engineers to estimate that ~55% number again and we’ll see how much we’ve improved and we can use that number to market the initiative.

  1. Talk to users. The quickest way to get a sense of how they view the product
  2. Book time with all stakeholders. Get to know them both in terms of how they impact roles and also who they are as people.
  3. Constantly be learning. This could be reading through previous features, examining processes, or asking questions. There is so much to absorb in 90 days so don’t feel bad for asking more as opposed to less.
  4. Find something you can impact! The goal is to make a good first impression so find an easy win and execute on it.

The most helpful thing for me was my boss having me write out a 30/60/90 day plan, for each of those he wanted me to pick one accomplishment, one personal learning, and one team learning. These weren’t meant for me to be measured against by him. They were meant for me to look back on for calibration. “How wrong were you? How does that change how you set goals?”

That last bit was the thing that made the whole bit worth doing.


Make sure you understand how you like to learn, and have a system for that.

In my experience, I find that people are either ‘top-down thinkers’ (eg; they think big picture, and then zoom-in) or their ‘bottoms-up thinkers’ (eg; they focus on something small, master it, move on to the next small thing, and then develop the ability to zoom out and see the big picture).

The most challenging part of being a PM is that you have to think both big picture and at the detail/tactical level. Figure out how to navigate between those two things, and the rest will come with time, exposure, and experience.


Spend some time per week in customer support. Actually doing it, not shadowing. This will open you up to the problems users are facing without needing to seek out customer interviews.


Lots of solid advice; I would add ‘shortening the gap between the known and unknown’ of your role. Actively seek out participation and areas that will provide you with more knowledge of your product/ work ecosystem. Even if it is a product type you are familiar with it is extremely important to understand how the business runs and where you can make strategic impacts.


I was thrown into the fires, but what helped

  • understanding of the product, the market, the customers, and why there’s a market/need

  • hands on deep into the product.

  • started working on features/roadmap right away (day 2?)

  • met with sr execs - why are you here? why do customers like to work with us?

  • ask a lot of questions, show passion/care/drive

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Many of the answers are all great. One thing to be clear on is to help them help you. Be aligned, and focus on what makes you successful for both 1) their and 2) your definition of successful. After all, it’s no good if you’re not aligned.

To that end, be clear and ask about a 30/60/90 day plan. If they don’t have one for you, that’s fine. You’re a product manager, after all, and have skills around uncertainty. Be clear that you are interested in effectively contributing WHILE onboarding. To that end, the 30/60/90 helps you onboard in a way that accelerates your value to your team, your product, your customers.

“Summary” of what I focused on with prior product management hires was the following, which meant great outcomes for both the product manager, the team, and me. My “twitter statements” for each period (each of which can be decomposed with your manager) are:

  • 30 Days: Join and contribute to a fun team that kicks butt. Learn the people, products, politics behind the strategy – in parallel with immediate execution (tactical opportunities) toward that strategy​. Identify opportunities for a “notch or two” of immediate success as credit with stakeholders, influencers​
  • 60 Days: Ownership role in building / executing that strategy with “wow” product​. Build on current product initiatives for deeper engagement with stakeholders, influencers. You need to make sure you’re owning something that they need​, you know things they didn’t before, and you are bringing that into the product & company with impact
  • 90 Days: Leadership role in a market-leading product organization​. Lead ownership of critical product activity​. Find ways to be a driving force of not just a kick-butt product team, but of the company as a whole
  • Throughout and afterward, be aligned with your management. Make sure you’re aligned, they know the work you’re putting in to ramp up and launch. Then return the favor, because your 30/60/90 can become an amazing resource for other team members, new or old.
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