Your First 30, 60, 90 Days as a Product Manager [Checklist]: Tips & Tricks for Success in Your New Role

Product Management Feb 7, 2022

Your first 90 days as a product manager can feel overwhelming. A commonly repeated phrase is that it feels like you're drinking from a firehose.

Many of the resources we have here at Exponent are dedicated to nailing your tech interviews so you can ultimately receive an offer. Now, you've made it through the product manager interview path successfully and it's time to get to work!

But what should you do in your first 30, 60, or 90 days as a product manager to set you up for success?

Your first quarter can really set the rhythm for many months (or years) to come.

Here's what you should do in your first 90 days as a product manager.

Talk to Users & Customers: Understand Their Pain Points

Abstract by Oleg Shcherba

Your first order of business as a new product manager should be talking to customers!

Customers are the lifeblood of your business. They should be the center of your attention when you start a new role.

At the end of the day, customers are your rock. They influence everything you'll create and ship as a successful product manager.

How to Schedule Customer Discovery Meetings

Talking to customers doesn't necessarily mean inviting them to the office for a focus group. Instead, you can talk to customers in these ways:

  • Send an email to your mailing list asking for their time in exchange for a discount or gift card
  • Deliver pop-ups to logged-in users asking them to participate in a call
  • Run re-targeting ads on Google and Facebook with a call-to-action asking them to participate in a call

Talk to Coworkers About Their User Knowledge

New PMs should speak with fellow co-workers with deep user knowledge.

Community managers, sales teams, marketing managers, and more could provide much insight into a product's users.

You should try to learn about the following in your first 90 days as a PM:

  • Customer segmentation and user personas;
  • What pain points or problems your product attempts to solve;
  • How your product impacts your customers;
  • What are the potential weaknesses or shortcomings of the product;
  • What user pain points/problems are not accounted for by product features.

Become Deeply Familiar With the Product by Using It

Abstract by Natasha Remarchuk

New PMs should do as much as they can in their first 90 days to become deeply familiar with their product(s).

You can do this by creating good habits in your first 30 days on the job. That means you have to download the app or sign up for the product!

In these first few months, you should spend as much time as you can using your product.

The best PMs understand their products from the bottom up.

Understand what it means to be a new user and how they see your application.

Without this first-hand knowledge and understanding of your product, you won't be able to develop or improve your product as much as possible.

You should be sure to do the following in your first 90 days as a PM:

  • Review all the documentation for your product. Be sure to study the product roadmap, development demos, and anything else that will further your product understanding;
  • If available/possible, complete any product training your organization provides;
  • Pretend to be a first-time userβ€”create an account go through the onboarding process;
  • Consult with the engineering teams regarding the technical architecture of your product;
  • Become deeply familiar with the product vision and strategy. Be sure to learn how the vision and strategy are accounted for by the product roadmap;
  • Know what metrics teams use to measure product success;
  • Deeply understand the primary value proposition of your product, especially as it relates to competitors;

Get to Know the Stakeholders at Your Organization

Abstract by Oleg Shcherba

Another crucial step of a successful 90 days as a new PM is to meet with all the product stakeholders and cross-functional teams as soon as possible.

Product managers who advance their career understand that the entire organization is responsible for a product's success. Spend time getting to know people from all sorts of teams.

In many ways, product management is as much about people and relationships as it is about developing products.

It's likely you'll be invited to many meetings in your first weeks at your new company.

You won't understand everything going on and that's ok!

Try to get to know the people in the room and how they play a part in the bigger organization.

Work to schedule 1-on-1s or meetings with the following people in your first 90 days as a product manager

  • Other product managers;
  • Engineering teams;
  • Sales representatives;
  • Marketing managers;
  • Community managers;
  • Program managers;

Many new PMs may neglect these meetings, thinking that they'll occur naturally. But, remember, first impressions are everything. Considering you will be working with these teams extensively during your tenure, these first impressions must be positive and productive.

Ask Plenty of Questions

You'll likely need some time in your first months as a new PM to get acquainted with everything before you can make any development moves. There's nothing wrong with this; in fact, it would be worrisome if you went in guns blazing without any understanding of the product (more on this later).

As is the case with everything in life, the best way to learn about anything is by asking questions, especially to those with more experience than you.

When it comes to your first days as a product manager, there are two primary things you should learn as much as you can about. These are the product's market/competitors and the product management processes that exist at the company.

Let's look at each in more detail:

Product Market & Competitive Analysis

We mentioned that new PMs should spend some of their earliest days learning as much as possible about their users. However, this shouldn't be the only aspect of their product they should be researching.

It's also critical for product managers to understand the market their products fit into along with their major competitors. Be sure to ask some of the following questions during your first 90 days:

  • What are the primary competitors? What makes their product(s) different? How does our value proposition compare to theirs?
  • What are the overlaps in customers that we share with our primary competitors?
  • What are the limitations of our competitor's products? How does our product measure up?

How Does Product Management Work at Your Organization?

Learn as much as you can about is the product management processes and procedures at your company.

Every organization has a different company culture and way they get things done.

You'll find that some companies may rely heavily on particular frameworks like Agile or Waterfall, whereas others won't use them at all.

As such, new PMs should learn as much as they can about the specifics of product management at their new companies.

Ask the following questions in your first 90 days as a PM:

  • How do product management teams develop roadmaps and determine priorities? How do PM teams manage their backlog? Β 
  • How are bugs handled? How are new features devised and developed?
  • Where do new product ideas come from?
  • Is it possible for customers to directly request features?
  • How is product feedback processed by the company?
  • What are the general challenges faced by the product management teams?

Make a Good Impression Early On

Abstract by Oleg Shcherba

Making a good first impression in your PM role will help you more easily navigate your product management career path.

Meeting with stakeholders isn't the only way to make a good impression early on.

New product managers also should set an example through their actions. Do your best to find something you can make a mark on in your early days.

Look for low-hanging fruit. Look for pain points that your PM team needs help addressing.

Making a good impression establishes your credibility as a PM. It also has the benefit of deepening relationships on your team.

The First 90 Days PM Checklist

Below, you'll find a checklist for your first 30, 60, and 90 days as a product manager.

Within Your First 30 Days as a Product Manager

  • Begin using your product as much as you can;
  • Schedule meetings with relevant stakeholders;
  • Conduct research into users, competitors, and your target market;
  • Become familiar with all necessary product metrics;

Within Your First 60 Days as a Product Manager

  • Decide which short-term pieces of roadmap to prioritize;
  • Meet with the head of Product Management at the company;
  • Begin running product strategy meetings with your team(s);
  • Determine what low hanging fruit can be accounted for;

Within Your First 90 Days as a Product Manager

  • Choose a product feature that can be prioritized by your team;
  • Begin shaping necessary product development processes with all relevant stakeholders;
  • Ship your first feature or product function;
  • Begin work on your next product development priority.

Download a PDF of our First 90 Day PM Checklist here.

Wanna know what a day in the life of a project manager is after 90 days? Read, What Does a Product Manager Do All Day? - A Day In the Life of a Product Manager.

Common Mistakes Made in Early Days as a PM

Don't Focus on the Micro

Many first-time product managers feel anxious in their first 90 days. They feel like they have impostor syndrome.

Changing careers to become a product manager may make it feel like you're a fish out of water. It's awkward to talk to new coworkers!

Many new PMs focus too much on things like paperwork or reading product documentation.

In other words, they spend too much time alone at their desks rather than interacting with others or making first impressions.

It's easy to see why new PMs would do this (it's not as scary)! But staying at your desk in your first few weeks could slow down your progress down the road!

You can't build relationships, learn about the company culture, or establish your credibility as a new product manager if you're glued to your desk.

Don't Change Everything Right Away

Another common mistake new PMs tend to make in their early days is coming in too hot. That is to say, they quickly make big declarations or rapidly push weighty product decisions.

Many new PMs make this mistake because they feel they need to overcompensate for their inexperience.

They're the new person at the company, and they need to make an impression quickly, right?

Yes, new product managers need to make a positive first impression. But the keyword there is positive.

If you come in guns blazin', you'll likely alienate or annoy your cross-functional teams.

It's also likely that if you push sweeping changes without properly getting a lay of the land, you'll step on other people's toes.

This is precisely why we say that one of the most important first things to do as a new PM is to get to know stakeholders and cross-functional teams.

Scheduling meetings and learning first-hand about company norms will show respect for your team.

Even if you can identify major changes to the product or developmental processes, it's best to go slow.

Establish your credibility and reputation as a member of the organization and product manager before making sweeping moves.

Additional Product Manager Interview Resources

If you haven't quite received an interview yet, that's okay! It's well within your reach if you prepare well. If you're looking to get into a product manager career path, be sure to check out some of our interview prep and PM-specific resources.

πŸ’¬ Review more commonly asked sample PM interview questions.

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

πŸ‘―β€β™‚οΈ Practice your behavioral and leadership skills with our mock interview practice tool.

πŸ‘¨β€πŸŽ“ Take our complete Product Management interview course.

Get to the next level in your career with Products That Count. Gain access to proven best practices, over 300,000 PMs, PM leaders, a product role only Jobs board, and a top-rated strategic Product Management course.

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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.

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