What would you ask your team in your first week as a Sr. Technical PM?

I’m going to work for a big company as a senior technical product manager, where I’ll be in charge of a group of tools that do a specific job. To get to know everyone (the tech team, the information architects, the users, etc.) in a standard way, I’m coming up with a list of questions to ask them all.
What kinds of questions would you want to ask?
Your valuable insights sought.
TIA

12 Likes

In your first week as a senior technical PM, it would be beneficial to ask your team about their current projects, any challenges they are facing, and their goals for the upcoming months. This will help you understand the team dynamics and identify areas where you can provide support or guidance. Additionally, it would be helpful to inquire about any ongoing training or professional development opportunities that team members may be interested in pursuing.

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Absolutely agree with @MatthewShun. By asking about their current projects, challenges, and goals, you can gain insight into their workload and priorities. This will also show your team that you are invested in their success and well-being. Inquiring about training and development opportunities demonstrates that you value their growth and want to support their career advancement. Overall, these questions will lay the foundation for effective communication, collaboration, and success in your new role as a senior technical PM.

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While it is important to show support for your team’s growth and development, focusing solely on their workload and priorities may not always be the most effective way to gauge their interest in training opportunities. It is also important to directly ask team members about their career goals and aspirations to ensure that any training or professional development opportunities align with their individual needs and ambitions.

By understanding each team member’s personal goals, you can tailor training opportunities to their specific interests and areas of growth. This personalized approach will not only increase their motivation and engagement but also demonstrate your commitment to their professional advancement.

By fostering open and honest communication about career aspirations, you can create a supportive environment where team members feel valued and empowered to take ownership of their own development. This proactive approach will ultimately lead to a more cohesive and successful team dynamic as you work towards achieving common goals and objectives.

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Very simple:

  1. What does it work?
  2. What doesn’t work?
  3. What would you get or fix if you could wave a magic wand?
  4. What is the bottle neck?
  5. What is the most important chance we need to take?
  6. What would you put the most effort and resources into? Why?

You can learn a lot from these questions.

Then there are great follow-ups like,

  • “Tell me more,”
  • “How might we address that?”
  • “What would success look like?” and
  • “Why do you think that?”
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Hello @RobMartin, it’s been really long long time since we’ve seen you around. How are you doing? Hope all is well with you. Do hang around sometimes. Well, coming to the question OP (@DavidMercy) has posted. Here’s my two cents:

I’m not directly answering your question, but I think it’s primarily a function of how technical you already are. And how technically involved you want to be.

If you are already highly technical, focusing on the bottleneck may be the most important step to take in order to maximize efficiency. However, if you prefer a less technical role, putting effort and resources into understanding the business side of things could be more beneficial in the long run.

It’s important to prioritize the most critical aspects that will have the biggest impact on achieving success. By focusing on these key areas, you can allocate resources effectively and make informed decisions to drive progress. This approach will help ensure that efforts are aligned with the overall goals and objectives of the project or initiative.

Ultimately, identifying the bottleneck and determining the most important course of action will depend on your level of technical expertise and comfort. It’s crucial to focus your efforts and resources on areas where you can make the greatest impact based on your technical capabilities and goals.

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As an EM, here are things I would like to align on

  • Which technical discussions do you want to be part of. We go through meetings such as - tech lead sync, architecture review, deployment alignment. And then understand what your role would be.
  • Scrum ceremonies. We align on what the ceremonies are. What you expect to happen. For example, we don’t do demo specific to a PM. Do you want those.
  • Feature set ownership - this is usually handled by the PM’s manager, but I want to ensure the PM understands all the services we own, the type of escalations we get, the slack changes that correspond to this. I don’t expect PMs to be on call but handling escalations for past features is a big part of what we do.
  • Technical onboarding required. We expect PMs to have some knowledge of things like Postman. If that is not the case, we need to onboard. I have a set of technical topics- calling API, running queries, prompt eng validation workflow, lab environments to test features, feature flag expectations and ensure you don’t have gaps.
  • I recommend PM to have 1:1 periodic with Tech leads and Architects and develop personal relationship
  • I give an overview of the developers on the teams so that you can understand who is who.

Besides that, we store our onboarding guide and knowledge sharing session in our internal database. All engineers go through that. Only 1 PM has gone through the entire junior engineer onboarding path. it’s not required but was very impressive.

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Some potential questions I would consider asking my team in my first week as a senior technical PM would include:

  • What are the current pain points or challenges you face in your day-to-day work?

  • How do you currently prioritize and manage your tasks and projects?

  • What are your thoughts on the current tools and technologies being used, and are there any improvements or updates you would recommend?

  • How do you prefer to receive feedback and communicate with your team members?

  • What are your long-term career goals, and how can I support you in achieving them within this role?

By asking these questions, I hope to gain a better understanding of my team’s needs, strengths, and areas for improvement, ultimately enabling me to lead them effectively towards our project goals.

5 Likes

As a senior technical product manager, it’s crucial to gather comprehensive information and insights from various stakeholders to effectively understand the landscape you’ll be working in. Here are some questions you might consider asking to get to know your team and users:

For the Tech Team:

  1. Can you give me an overview of the current architecture and technology stack used for our tools?
  2. What are the major pain points or challenges you face in maintaining and developing these tools?
  3. How do you typically prioritize feature requests or bug fixes?
  4. Are there any ongoing projects or initiatives that I should be aware of?
  5. How do you handle testing, deployment, and monitoring of the tools?

For Information Architects:

  1. What is the user journey like when utilizing our tools?
  2. How do you organize and structure information within the tools?
  3. What methodologies do you use for information architecture and design?
  4. Are there any usability studies or user feedback that have influenced recent changes or updates?
  5. How do you ensure consistency and scalability in the information architecture?

For Users:

  1. Can you walk me through your typical workflow when using our tools?
  2. What are the main challenges you encounter while using our tools?
  3. Are there any features or functionalities you wish our tools had?
  4. How satisfied are you with the current user experience?
  5. Can you provide examples of how our tools have positively impacted your work?

General Questions:

  1. What are the key performance indicators (KPIs) or metrics used to evaluate the success of our tools?
  2. How do different teams or departments interact with our tools?
  3. Are there any upcoming changes in technology or industry trends that might impact our tools?
  4. What is the process for gathering and prioritizing feedback from stakeholders?
  5. How do we handle data security and compliance within our tools?

These questions should help you gain a comprehensive understanding of the current state of affairs, the needs and pain points of stakeholders, and potential areas for improvement or innovation within your role as a senior technical product manager.

Hope this helps. All the best!

4 Likes

While it is important to gather information from your team in order to make informed decisions, asking the same set of questions to everyone may not be the most effective approach, as each individual or group may have unique perspectives and needs that should be considered. Tailoring your questions based on the specific role, responsibilities, and goals of each team member would likely lead to more valuable insights and foster stronger relationships within the team.

Additionally, considering the personality and communication style of each team member can also help in formulating questions that resonate with them and encourage open and honest responses. By taking a more personalized approach to gathering information, you will not only gain a deeper understanding of each individual’s contributions and concerns but also demonstrate to your team that their input is valued and appreciated. This can promote a sense of trust and collaboration, ultimately leading to a more cohesive and productive team environment.

2 Likes

A few questions that come to my mind are:

  • What suggestions do you have for improving communication and collaboration within the team?

  • Can you share any ideas for streamlining processes or implementing new tools to increase efficiency?

  • What suggestions do you have for improving our current processes and workflows?

  • Can you provide examples of successful projects you have worked on in the past and what made them successful?

  • Are there any specific areas where you feel you could use additional support or resources?

  • What suggestions do you have for improving communication and coordination within the team to enhance efficiency and effectiveness?

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Congratulations on your new role! Getting to know everyone involved in your project is crucial for effective management. Here are some questions you might consider asking to understand different perspectives within the company:

  1. Tech Team:

    • What technologies are currently being used to develop and maintain the tools?
    • Are there any ongoing technical challenges or limitations?
    • How do you handle technical debt and ensure code quality?
  2. Information Architects/Design Team:

    • Can you walk me through the current architecture and design of the tools?
    • What user experience considerations have been taken into account?
    • Are there any user interface design principles or guidelines that we follow?
  3. Users/Clients:

    • Who are our primary users and what are their main pain points?
    • How do users currently interact with the tools?
    • What are the key features or improvements users are requesting?
  4. Product Strategy:

    • What are the long-term goals for the tools and how do they align with the company’s objectives?
    • Are there any upcoming initiatives or projects related to the tools?
    • How do you measure the success of the tools?
  5. Collaboration and Processes:

    • How does the team typically collaborate on projects and tasks?
    • Are there any established processes or methodologies (e.g., Agile, Scrum) that we follow?
    • What communication channels are commonly used within the team?
  6. Feedback and Improvement:

    • How do we gather feedback from users and incorporate it into our development process?
    • Are there any recent updates or changes that have been well-received or caused challenges?
    • What mechanisms are in place for continuous improvement of the tools?
  7. Dependencies and Stakeholders:

    • Are there any external dependencies or integrations that we rely on?
    • Who are the key stakeholders involved in the success of the tools, and how do we engage with them?
  8. Challenges and Opportunities:

    • What do you see as the biggest challenges or opportunities for the tools in the near future?
    • Are there any emerging technologies or trends that could impact our work?
  9. Team Dynamics and Culture:

    • Can you describe the team dynamics and culture within the group?
    • How do team members typically collaborate and support each other?
  10. Personal Development:

    • What opportunities are available for professional growth and development within the team or company?
    • How can I best support the team members in their career goals and aspirations?

These questions should provide a comprehensive understanding of the people, processes, and goals related to the tools you’ll be managing. Adjust and expand on them based on the specific context and needs of your new role and organization.