How to hit the product management ground running and avoid spinning your wheels.
Learning how to best work with a product team or organization requires taking the right action and avoiding mistakes. Your opportunities to make a good first impression are limited, so you need to make the most of them.
Most product managers will work with a new team from time to time and many will change organizations. It turns out this advice will also help product managers who are not in transition.
To explore transitioning well, Gavin Feuer joins us. He is now a senior product manager for T-Mobile, recently making the transition from Amazon. Gavin brings a strong entrepreneurial mindset to the role of product manager, which you’ll hear in the interview. His Amazon colleagues shared that his superpower is the ability to “think big.” He’s happy to help people who have a really big idea think more deeply about it. He also is a volunteer mentor to undergraduate students at the University of Washington, always willing to take on the right motivated mentee who is new to product management.
Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers
[3:48] What are some of your key takeaways from your time at Amazon?
Amazon’s leadership principles enable anyone to have a conversation about anything. If you can utilize them in your ideas, you’ll have support to move them forward. Amazon also employs the Working Backwards Process of writing a news story and FAQs about a product before anyone starts working on it. This helps you to focus your ideas and the benefits to the customer.
[7:55] What ideas or strategies from your transition have been successful?
I tried to learn as much as I could about my product and how it got to the current state. I met with anyone who had a hand in it and read any documentation that existed. There was also a bit of unlearning Amazon’s way of doing things and replacing it with T-Mobile’s processes. However, I’m cognizant not to completely lose what I bring to the table from Amazon because it’s part of who I am as a product manager.
[11:34] How do you build trust among new coworkers?
Volunteer for the hard stuff. There was a small launch that happened on the Sunday after my first day. I ended up coming into the office for a few hours to be part of a war room. Going a little bit above and beyond is a great way to show that you are dedicated to the cause. I also put time on just about everyone’s calendar that I’ll be working with to get to know them one-on-one and learn more about what makes them tick. It lays a foundation on which to build future work.
[15:38] How did you decide who to meet with when you started your new job?
I wanted to meet with people on my direct team and sent them calendar invitations with notes about what I wanted to talk about. These were casual conversations over coffee to get to know people on a human level. I also met with people I’ll be working with from a product perspective. These are mostly people who are not on my team. These conversations were focused on how their team has historically worked with my team.
[20:15] How do you move from those conversations into product work?
I’m in the process of re-documenting everything related to the product and how we got here. Getting to know all of these people has helped me learn about work in progress and what still needs to be done. In the absence of up-to-date documentation, people are your main resource about where things are and what needs to be done.
[25:00] What’s something you wish you would have done differently?
Don’t be afraid to challenge the answers that you receive. It’s easy to just accept things at face value, but sometimes you need to dig deeper to get to the bottom of things. It can be tough to challenge things when you are new, but as a new person, you need to uncover things by asking questions.
“The quieter you become, the more you can hear.” -Ram Dass
Thank you for being an Everyday Innovator and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it on your favorite social network.