What Does a Product Manager Do All Day? - A Day In the Life of a Product Manager

Product Management Aug 29, 2022

Product Management is a dynamic and diverse role with various responsibilities and duties.

If you're interested in becoming a product manager, you undoubtedly would like to know what a typical day looks like.

Truth be told, there really is no typical day for product managers.

They wear several hats and perform dozens of functions throughout a product's lifecycle.

So, one day could look very different from the next.

Nevertheless, we talked to a few of our product manager friends to help do our best to outline a typical day in the life of a product manager.

Different Days for Different Stages

Transistor by Marina Mogulska

A product manager's job and ongoing tasks on a day to day basis may differ depending on what stage of the product lifecycle they are working in.

Your First 30, 60, 90 Days as a Product Manager [Checklist]
What should your first 30, 60, or 90 days as a product manager look like? Use our checklist to establish credibility and hit your KPIs.

For instance, in the "Initial Discovery Stage," a product manager's day may be spent brainstorming with their teams or collecting user feedback.

Or, if a product is in the "Product Definition Stage," a product manager may spend their days fleshing out a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) or, as the name suggests, defining the fundamental features of a product.

Finally, in the "Execution Stage," product managers will work closely with the engineering team to put it all together and build the product.

๐Ÿ“š
Note: The Initial Discovery Stage, or simply "product discovery," is the first phase of a product's lifecycle. This is where product managers must communicate with customers and users directly, gather customer feedback, and analyze how users use products developed by the company's competitors. This phase aims to understand what features users really want and value the most to implement this understanding in the final product.

With that being said, let's take a look at a potential day in the life of a product manager:

Morning

Checking & Responding to Emails

Transistor by Elisabet Guba

Like most white-collar workers, many product managers start their days by checking their emails, texts, Slack messages, etc.

Product management is a role that requires working extensively with cross functional teams.

Communication is vital for product managers. Most of this communication will occur via emails or messages, especially given how widespread remote work has become for many.

Some days, a product manager may find urgent messages in their inbox requiring immediate attention.

Other days, emails may be from upper management communicating new deadlines or from one of the dozens of teams that a product manager will routinely work with.

Monitoring Product Health

Transistor by AlexManokhi

From there, product managers will typically check on product health in some way.

In many cases, PMs will have some sort of dashboard or analytics at their disposal to help them do this.

Of course, monitoring product health is a very data-driven process. As a result, a product manager will often work alongside data analysts and data scientists to ensure that a product is performing as it should and driving customer success.

When it comes to a typical day, a product manager will likely check on the product's North Star along with supporting metrics.

๐Ÿง 
A "North Star" metric is the primary metric used to gauge and predict the long-term success of a product. What constitutes an appropriate North Star depends on the company and the product. For example, Spotify's North Star would be User Time Spent Listening; Amazon's would be Number of Monthly Purchases, etc.

For most product managers, monitoring product health will likely occur at the same time or soon after checking/responding to emails. The reason is that, depending on what the metrics look like, the product manager may need to contact specific people or teams.

For instance, if the North Star metric or other key performance indicators appear to be trending downwards, a product manager will need to quickly flag this issue to the appropriate party - whether that be the data science, engineering, or design teams.

Attending the Daily Engineering Standup

Transistor by Elisabet Guba

At this point, it is probably a little later in the product manager's morning. Chances are, they've settled in, checked some emails, reviewed some metrics, and are now ready to really start their day.

Many product managers we've talked to start their days with a Daily Engineering Standup.

This is a short "Agile" or "Scrum" meeting that gets everyone on the same page about product requirements or helps the team overcome any "blockers" they may be experiencing.

Agile vs. Waterfall: Which Methodology is Right For Your Project
Product managers, technical program managers, and software developers will need development methodologies like Agile or Waterfall to develop their products. But, how do you choose which to use?

Daily standups are designed to be short, usually no more than 15 minutes. As the name suggests, team members conduct these meetings while standing, which naturally keeps things brief.

If there is still time after everyone in the development team gets up to speed on goals, requirements, etc., a product manager may share product updates, if there are any, with the engineering team during these standups.

๐Ÿ“š
Note: Agile refers to a set of project management and software development practices hugely popular at tech companies today. Agile teams will build their products in small pieces over time, rather than making the entire thing and releasing it all at once. Product requirements and plans, along with the results of the work done thus far, are continuously assessed as they go, allowing development teams to adapt and change as necessary.
๐Ÿ“š
Scrum is a part of Agile practices that involves development teams breaking their work into smaller goals that can be completed within set times, called sprints. These daily standup meetings, which are almost always very brief) are called daily scrums, where team members evaluate the progress of everyone's respective goals within the sprint.
๐Ÿ“š
Finally, a blocker or "impediment," in Scrum-speak, is anything that is stopping or slowing down progress on these goals.

Hosting a Usability Meeting

Transistor by Elisabet Guba

A typical day for a product manager, after the Daily Standup, may include hosting a Usability Meeting.

While developing and shipping product features, the engineering teams will likely test them along the way. However, product managers are usually tasked with acting as another set of eyes in this regard.

So, a product manager may decide to host a Usability Meeting to do just that. These meetings involve soliciting customer feedback on product features and looking for any bugs.

Lunch

As you can imagine, lunchtime for product managers isn't all that different from most people.

No complex explanation necessary here, really.

Unless they are slammed with urgent work, you'll likely find a typical product manager eating alongside their co-workers in the company cafeteria or breakroom.

If they're working from home, they will, of course, be eating lunch at home or eating out.

Afternoon

One-on-One Meetings With Product Team

Transistor by Elisabet Guba

Once lunch is over, product managers may begin their afternoons by conducting one-on-one meetings with their team members.

As we mentioned, product management is an inherently cross-functional role, and product managers routinely work alongside people from dozens of different teams.

So, these one-on-one meetings could be with the sales team, product marketing team, machine learning, or data science departments.

Of course, product managers could also spend this time meeting with product-related teams, such as product designers, UX designers, or their associate product managers on their teams.

These one-on-ones allow product managers to check in and share updates with these respective team members throughout the product life cycle.

Other Ad-Hoc Meetings

Transistor by Elisabet Guba

Besides these one-on-ones, the typical afternoon for a product manager may include ad-hoc or as-needed meetings with some teams.

For example, product managers may be called into unexpected meetings if there is something specific a team member wants to discuss at length or if there is an urgent problem that has arisen.

Solo Work

Transistor by Elisabet Guba

At this point, the work day is beginning to wind down. So, any meetings that a product manager needs to have or attend are likely over and done with.

So, for the rest of the day, a product manager may spend their time on solo work.

Depending on the day, this could include anything from writing Product Requirement Documents, responding to comments on shared documents, replying to any other emails, or writing status reports for upper management or leadership.

๐Ÿ“š
A Product Requirements Document or PRD is a guide that outlines a product's requirements. This document will define a product's purpose, features, functionality, and behavior.

PRDs are meant to outline product vision and help guide the development of a product and ensure that the final product covers all the bases it was meant to, such as target users, go-to-market strategy, etc. Product managers are typically the ones responsible for writing PRDs.
How to Write a Product Requirements Document (PRD)
Want to know what a PRD is? Or how to write one? If youโ€™re new to writing PRDs, here are some tips to help you make the most out of the process.

Now, a day in the life of a product manager may look a little different than this. Product managers have many responsibilities and duties and must wear several hats throughout the development cycle.

Nevertheless, as you can see, product managers spend a ton of time in meetings with different people, especially the product team, sales team, customer support team, and engineering teams.

But, at the end of the day, the goal of every product manager is to help facilitate progress in product development, share a product roadmap, unblock obstacles, provide essential product updates, and provide crucial input to their respective teams and colleagues to ultimately ensure a product's success.

And it is in these product management meetings where this occurs.

Of course, much more goes into product management than can fit in this article.

For example, product managers are routinely responsible for basic data analysis, conducting A/B tests, producing user stories, developing product strategy, and more - all while working with various cross functional teams.

The product manager role can be both a highly lucrative and exciting career choice for those who want a creative and impactful career.

If you're excited by the prospect of playing a critical role in developing new products, business technologies, and software platforms, you may thrive in a product management position.

Luckily, we have you covered!

Be sure to check out our other resources on how to become a product manager:

How to Become a Product Manager: The Ultimate Career Path Guide
Many tech professionals follow a product manager career path because it blends responsibilities. Take a closer look at product management as a career from APM to Director of Product.
How to Get Your First Product Manager Job: A Guide
How do you get your first job in product? Anton Kravchenko, a former Director of Product at Salesforce, breaks down how he broke into tech.
How to Write the Perfect Product Manager Resume
Your product manager resume can help you stand out from a crowded field of applicants. Learn what you should and shouldnโ€™t include in your resume to help it stand out.
4 Reasons You Shouldnโ€™t Become a Product Manager
The product manager career path isnโ€™t for everyone. If you need structure and predictability in your role, being a PM may be stressful!

Product Manager Interview Prep

Before you can ultimately become a product manager, you'll need to ace the product management interview!

Be sure to check out all our product management interview prep here at Exponent:

๐Ÿ’ฌ Review more commonly asked sample PM interview questions.

๐Ÿ“– Read through our company-specific Product Manager interview guides

๐Ÿ‘ฏโ€โ™‚๏ธ Practice your behavioral and leadership skills with our mock interview practice tool.

๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐ŸŽ“ Take our complete Product Management interview course.

Tags

Anthony Pellegrino

I'm Tony, a freelance journalist, writer, and content marketing strategist. I write about interview prep and career planning for Exponent, but I also write about climate change, tech, and, politics.

Product Management Today