Scratching a PM’s Surface

A PM is an intersection in Venn diagram. A PM should be able to translate business requirement into products while executing the delivery of the said product.

Hey all, hope you guys enjoy this weekend.
How is life? I was traveling to Balikpapan to play with Bonny again last Chinese New Year holiday, yay. Bonny is my dog currently living with my husband there.

So, I said I still owe you a post about my current job as a product manager. To ensure this post is beneficial for you and does not waste your precious 5-7 minutes of time, I’ll structure this post into 3 sections:

What a PM does on a daily basis? Constantly raking through the JIRA tasks? Hmm…not really.

What skills does a PM hone? Excel? Powerpoint? Some of them, yeah, but not even a pinch of all.

What is the future career prospect for a PM? A senior PM? Well, you’ll see.

What a PM does on a daily basis

Daily life of a PM. Photo by MichaƂ Kubalczyk on Unsplash

I took last week Mon-Wed working days as a sample for answering the first question.

> 9.30 am I start checking email
> 11 am I’m on a standup meeting with my squad as a check-in, tracking progress
> 1.30 pm I’m on a product-tech meeting, a standard weekly meeting to track progress and to make sure everyone on the product and developer team is on the same page of product/project priorities
> 3 pm I revise the product roadmap to see which features are yet to be implemented in the upcoming version of my product
> 4 pm I consult the feature roadmap with my Head of e-commerce and continuously revise the plan
> 5-6 pm work on my weekly assignment of a training paid by the company. The training is about business analytics held by Coursera

Tuesday and Wednesday were almost the same.
> 9.30am I start checking email
> 10.30am brainstorm with an expert about a feature
> 11 am I’m on a standup meeting with my squad as a check-in, tracking progress
> 1 pm I create tutorial for upcoming version of my product, ready to be circulated to related parties
> 3 pm I add a user story on one of the features in my PRD
> 4 pm I work on a business analysis requested by my Head

On paper, you wouldn’t see much things to think, right? Oh, it’s just a product roadmap thing, feature thing, or analytics thing. But if you scrutiny the minutes of my daily routine, you’ll look more closely and find out that all those things require deeper thinking.
For example, if I add this menu to my product, what would be the best user experience journey for it? Does it need to be in 2 separate steps or just a single step encompassing all? Of course, all this decision should be weighted together with a UX expert, but a PM should know which suggestions to be prioritized. The responsibility and product ownership are in the PM’s hands.

And about JIRA, it’s a project management tool that makes everyone’s life easier. I have my counterpart, called Project Manager, who makes sure the project is carried on. While my job as a product manager requires thinking and analytics for the released features or upcoming ones, the project manager is the one who makes sure the show must go on. Every task taken by the engineers in the squad he has to track it. He distributes the load across the squad and keeps the track of our resources. There is a feature called Burndown chart in JIRA that people can see how equally-distributed our sprint is.
Btw, sprint is a 10-working-day timeline.

Skills that a PM hones?

Communication is one of the skills. Well, I can sing, too. Photo by Elliot Sloman on Unsplash

A lot.
Starting from my experience in user research:

  • empathy with user’s pain points
  • open and direct communication
  • dig more as people inherently are reluctant to reveal more if not asked

And in business-related skill or skills I use especially for analyzing my product features and convey the result to my stakeholders:

  • analytical thinking
  • good with math and numbers
  • deck or presentation making
  • fluency in spreadsheet and pivot tables
  • fluency in big data mining, for example, using Tableau
  • business communication in writing and speaking
  • top-down communication, as in presenting the executive summary or the headline first, and the details later

Most of the business leaders like to be presented with information this way. So make sure to organise your content top-down.

In technical skills, I work mostly with web developers, data engineers, QA engineers, and backend engineers. So I:

  • take the courses to understand their or your product’s language. for example in my case, I develop a web-based seller platform, so I learn about HMTL, CSS, AngularJS, and Python. Some of the topics have been covered in my college life because I loved designing web back then. But those things are constantly changing, so please keep updated. You will be presented with a case of tech-debt and the least thing you want to do is to catch up with it later.
  • explain the business needs. As a team, or called a squad, your engineers want to know why you develop your product this way and not the other way. Perhaps they have their own idea of how a product should be developed. Perhaps your product roadmap is not strategic from the technology point of view. Talk and discuss with them.
    I found it better to also hear their side of the story, because apparently, I could save time, by killing 2 birds with 1 stone if my product roadmap strategy is smart.

The future career prospect for a PM is…

The future career prospect for a PM is a senior PM (no, not kidding). Or, become your own CEO. Developing a product requires comprehensive thinking and you have to handle it end-to-end, from product brainstorming until it is released to your end-user. Or better yet, you still have to track the conversion rate or any metric you associate with your product’s success.
Becoming a PM is a never-ending process. You practically become a jack of all trades. You learn a hundred ways to convey a message, depending on the audience. But it’s a good learning step if you want to start your own company and products.

So, are you ready to become a product manager?

Feel free to reach me to discuss other aspects of product management, as I love to learn from you, too.

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