A Product Manager’s First 90 Days Guide

Feb 12, 2022

5 Min Read

The first 90 days on a job are ideal for asking questions, even seemingly obvious ones. After that, you might find yourself in embarrassing situations if you haven’t gotten up to speed yet.

This article will outline how you should spend your first 90 days as a new Product Manager. After experienced PMs finished their first 90 days in the Product Manager (PM) job, they thought to gather some of the key lessons for new PMs to consider as they embark on their onboarding journeys.

Whether you’re a new or seasoned PM, there’s something for you here; the first 90 days are critical for getting up to speed. You and others, as newcomers, have the ideal excuse for not understanding the context of almost everything. So naturally, there will be a slew of inquiries.

It is, undoubtedly, the ideal moment to ask any questions. At this level, asking the appropriate questions is more crucial than consuming data since information without relevance is simply noise.

So, how do we go about asking the right questions?

Create Questions Using the 5 WS and 1 H Structure

The primary goal for all new PMs in these 90 days should be to come up to speed on the job function. However, when it comes to charting out what you don’t know, the good old 5 Ws — 1H framework comes in handy. Consequently, it is recommendable to propose the following list of 5 Ws — 1H questions that new PMs should try to answer.

Job Functions

  • What are my product’s most crucial features to concentrate on?
  • When do I have to hand them over?
  • Why is it necessary for me to deliver?
  • Who are the people involved in my project?
  • Where can I find the information I need?
  • How can I tell whether I’m on the right track?

Beyond these, there will undoubtedly be many more. Those are, nevertheless, an excellent start. But, of course, more questions will arise when these straightforward inquiries are answered.

When asked, “what are the important parts of my product that I should concentrate on,” one may also question “what precisely is my product?” and “how to identify essential areas.” It allows new PMs to concentrate their efforts on the knowledge areas that are most important at the time.

It’s frequently more necessary to ask “who are my stakeholders” and “where can I acquire the knowledge I need” than it is to jam a million facts into your mind.

For example, memorizing the incident priority definition, i.e., what types of problems are essential vs. minor, and the related service level agreement, may not be beneficial.

What would be more helpful at this point is knowing where to seek the papers holding the definition so that you can check it up quickly when the need arises.

Similarly, remembering that Jack (or whoever it is at your new job) is the customer experience team lead will be more successful. Even if you forget everything about incident priority and the document in which the term is contained, Jack will almost certainly be able to help you.

Write Down Additional Questions if You’re Overwhelmed

Did it surprise you?

It’s impossible not to feel as if you’re drowning in knowledge during your first few weeks on the job.

To begin with, accept it. It happens all the time. And have faith that you’ll be able to keep your head above water in no time.

Second, whenever a new question arises in your mind, write it down on paper, no matter how little it may seem (electronic or physical).

Because your mental clutter is discharged into another medium, this method successfully cleans your mind. Instead of having all these uncertainties flying around in your head and pushing your anxiety level up, writing down the questions will give you the peace of mind that they have been answered.

Sort through the questions after the week and group them into manageable categories. You’ll be astonished to learn that many questions have been answered during the week and that many more questions have still to be addressed, but you know who will have the answers.

Worrying About Your Career Is Never Too Early

Contrary to common assumption, it is never too early to learn as much as possible about professional advancement within the first 90 days. Some may argue that they have previously posed this question during the interview process.

However, the information you get at that time is just a summary. Now that you’ve gained insider information, it’s time to learn about job leveling, performance assessment standards, promotions, and who the high-fliers are.

You may ask some professional development questions using the same 5Ws — 1H approach.

Career Growth

  • What skillsets/qualities should I have by when to become a PM?
  • Why are the best PMs the best?
  • Who might be a professional mentor for me?
  • Where can I get information about work grading, career advancement, and promotions?
  • How can I tell whether I’m on track?

Arrange for One-on-One Discussions With Stakeholders

Make contact with the folks you’ll be working directly with, as well as any coworkers you’d want to learn more about—request one-on-one meetings. Physical encounters are preferable, although Zoom can suffice.

Introduce yourself, and your job in your emails and meeting invites. Explain that you are new to the team and would wish to learn more about their responsibilities to collaborate more effectively in the future.

Having a defined plan is a hurdle you will experience while scheduling virtual one-on-one sessions. When you have to send out a calendar invite, the spontaneity of a casual catch-up is partly gone. The issue is that you will not know enough about the other person’s job to ask the right questions.

Explaining your job to them and asking for input on which sections of their domain they believe you should be aware of has proven beneficial. It helps to keep the discussion focused on essential topics to both sides.

Check-in With Your Manager Weekly

It would be preferable to have a weekly catch-up with your manager from the start to ensure that your onboarding is on track.

Rather than just asking, “Am I on the right track?” it’s more beneficial to recap what you’ve already done and what you want to focus on next. After that, seek input on your strategy.

Your manager should be able to point out any critical areas you’ve overlooked or reassure you that your priorities are accurate.

It’s much more vital to express all of the above through weekly email if your supervisors aren’t as hands-on as you’d want them to be.

Final Thoughts

Thinking about your first 90 days on the job might be stressful and daunting. But have trust in yourself that you will pass them with flying colors. We hope you discover these ideas helpful in reaching your first 90-day goal.

The PM interview preparation or getting consultations from a highly-experienced PM will help you if you’re thinking about switching careers to product management or a PM looking for a new challenge.

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