4 Critical Pieces of Preparation for a New Product Management Job

I write this on a Saturday after I put in my two-weeks notice at my current job.

I have two weeks until I start my new gig, and I want to show up on Day 1 as prepared as possible. Although I have some knowledge (from a user standpoint) about how the product needs to work, there is still a lot of prep to do. 

How should you prepare for a product management role at a new company?

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1 - Read everything you can on the company

Duh. This is pretty obvious, I know. You probably already did this to prep for your interview, but just in case...

  • If the company a startup, what round of funding are they in?

  • Where did their founder come from?

  • What new products have they launched recently?

  • Has the company been in the news?

Do a deep dive into the company website and all related literature, and also search Tech Crunch (and other sites) to read about any buzz - good and bad.

 

2 - Get a test login and use the product

This may not be possible, but if your soon-to-be-boss is willing to give you a test login, get in there and start poking around.

  • Understand user goals when using the product

  • Look for sub-optimal user flows

  • Understand how the product fits into the company's greater product suite

 

3 - Do Some Competitive Research

When I started at Helix, I was already an avid consumer of DNA products. (If you read my blog regularly, you know this.) But there were still a few apps and ancestry websites I hadn’t ever used, or didn’t use regularly. 

  • Download any competitive apps that you can

  • Open accounts on competitor websites

  • Read any news about competitors

This is easy advice for B2C products, but for B2B products, you probably don’t have access to competing products. You may still be able to: 

  • Watch any company demos on YouTube

  • Read Forrester reports on competitors to know where your product currently lies

  • Read up on any news or financial reports, especially if competitors are public

 

4 - Set Goals

What do you want to accomplish during your first month, first year, and beyond?

When you show up at your shiny new job, it's easy to feel exceedingly optimistic about how great it will be. And I'm sure it will be great... but just like you eventually learn about your perfect new boyfriend's baggage a few months into the relationship, you'll also eventually learn about the not-so-perfect stuff at your new company.

It sounds a little cheesy, but writing down what your goals are will help center your intentions when things get crazy during your first few months. Remember why you made a move: Because you wanted to learn new skills, or because the bigger title is an important step towards your career plan, or because you want to learn a critical new skill or piece of tech that this role specifically offers. It's important to revisit these reasons when things get tough - so write them down.