Building Confidence as a New PM
Group Product Manager at Box
When I joined a new company as a PM I initially thought it was going to be pretty straightforward as the team already had an existing roadmap. Plus, most of the engineers in my team had more than ten years of experience. I still found myself in a difficult position. Why? The reason is that I soon realized that just because we had a roadmap, didn’t mean it was the right one. I initially assumed that the engineers knew what they were doing. To pinpoint the problem, it was: how would I know what to build? Plus, how do I gather the confidence to talk to and convince somebody who knows much more than me?
In terms of action, I did not hesitate to talk to our VP about how I should deal with the situation. The outlook that he gave me was something that will always stick with me. He said, “We hired you precisely because we wanted to bring in a new perspective.” This boosted my confidence and I started visualizing the product from my lens instead of what had historically been there.
Next, I spoke to as many stakeholders as I could. Starting from other product managers, engineers, support team, QA, sales, etc. Needless to mention that I also communicated with our customers. We talked to customers about issues they were facing and gradually iterated on the roadmap we had. That’s all I did for a month or two; I gathered information and perspective from all sides.
The third action was identifying small areas of the product that needed change and improvement. Intrinsically, identify small areas of strengths and weaknesses, make changes, and measure the impact as we proceed. You don’t have to make big sweeping changes to make an impact. This was crucial in bringing the team along with me and building my credibility.
- Know your strengths as a PM. PM’s have a breadth of knowledge that no one else in your company has. Always understand and leverage your individual talents.
- Never be afraid to try new things. Try to be as transparent as you can. Be cognizant of the fact that things may not happen precisely as you planned them. If you already have an existing roadmap that you have no idea about, it does not mean you have to execute it.
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