My First Week as a Product Manager with a Silicon Valley start-up

February 23, 2023

I recently started as a Founding Product Manager for a Bay Area start-up (fully remote), and I wanted to share my experience from the first week.

While I’m not new to Product Management, the job title is new to me. In the past, I worked closely with developers and designers, leading projects from start to finish, but I’m unsure if that qualifies as product management. I’m more comfortable with design thinking than SQL, which made me wonder if I’m suited for the role — because what’s a PM without SQL right? Most of the products I’ve worked on were B2C, but this technical B2B product feels daunting.

During my onboarding, the overwhelming backlog and massive documentation filled me with a sense of dread. The fact that my Jira experience was non-existent only made things worse. As I had one-on-one meetings with my team, I felt the weight of their high expectations bearing down on me. Though I appreciated their confidence, imposter syndrome began to take hold, causing me to panic.

Desperately wanting to prove my worth, I made the mistake of pressuring myself to contribute immediately. I thought this would be the best defense against my imposter syndrome, but it only added to the stress.

Successful product management is much less a question of titles, tools, or processes than it is of practice. I use this word the same way one might refer to a yoga practice or a meditation practice — it is something that is built up with time and experience and cannot be learned from examples and instructions alone.

— Matt LeMay

Fortunately, I had a supportive network of product manager friends who provided me with valuable advice during this challenging time. They reminded me that the first few weeks were critical for diving deep into the product and gaining a comprehensive understanding of its nuances. They also reassured me that it was perfectly acceptable not to contribute much in the initial few weeks. This advice was a game-changer for me, allowing me to shift my focus to absorbing as much information as possible and familiarizing myself with the product’s intricacies.

In order to gain a better understanding of the business and user goals, I proactively reached out to the CEO and primary users. Their insights allowed me to get a better big-picture view of the product and its strategic objectives. Though the product onboarding is still ongoing, I’m already feeling much more confident than I was just a few days ago.

If you’re in a similar situation as I was, here are some takeaways that may help you:

  1. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed when starting a new job.
  2. Reach out to your network for advice and support.
  3. The first few weeks are about absorbing information, and it’s okay not to contribute much.
  4. Speak with the CEO/leadership and users (if possible) to get the 30,000 feet view in place.
  5. Read ‘Product Management in Practice by Matt LeMay’ and stay away from Marty Cagan books.

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