Growing Into a Big Title When I Was Short On Time

February 10, 2020

l

Racheli Nehemia

0 Comments Comments

AaBb

It took me 20 years and two times of searching for my PMing ticket to get to this point. And I knew that the game was on.

 

 

After 20 years in software development, I got a chance to fulfill my dream and become a product manager.

I had first to grow, get comfortable in what I do, get hungrier, and enthusiastic about becoming a PM. And then, when the opportunity presented itself to me, I grabbed it instantly.

It took me 20 years and two times of searching for my PMing ticket to get to this point. And I knew that the game was on.

I was hired as the only PM in a small company, with the big title and challenge of being VP Product.

The main challenge? Switching hats. Imagine wearing the same developer hat every day for a long time and then? Putting it aside and wearing the most beautiful product fascinator.

It’s lovely! But it takes time to know how to wear it right.

So there I was, teaching both the company and myself how to build products that our users would love. We are talking about moving people that were working together for many years in a small company and doing everything themselves into updated role definitions, about setting boundaries, and even about introducing new work processes. The game was definitely on.

I had to set clear boundaries (mostly to myself) and focus on defining what we should do, rather on how we should do that. I had to guide us all on how to focus first on organizing features and priorities, what needs to be done. Oh, and did I mention I was the first formal product manager in the company?

Until my arrival, my boss, one of the owners, had this role, as typically happens in small companies. He prioritized and set schedules; he worked with the R&D team as the outbound PM who knows everything about the market, so he used to play a key role in the position I was stepping into. So we had to work out our work division and adopt new habits, which wasn’t easy on both sides and this process continues until today.

So my first two years into product management? A real challenge.

All these I-don’t-know-hows drove me to look for all the assistance I could get. Right after signing my new position with the company, I started reading. A lot.

Now I had to focus on the what, ask questions rather than giving answers, learn the process as I go, and even build the infrastructure for my role in the company.

So? How do you do that?

I interviewed product managers from my former positions on their job and drew as many tips I could from them.

I started going to meetups.

I read blogs and articles and looked for help on my ongoing tasks in Facebook forums and Whatsapp groups. All of these resources were great, but did not fully cover my specific needs — I wanted more.

It was then when I found the mentoring project of Product League. I instantly fell in love with the idea and rolled myself into the next batch, hoping I would get accepted.

Luckily, I got in. Twice!

The amazing thing here is that I enrolled twice and got to have a meaningful experience, different experience, every time. To me, this is why this program is better than any curriculum anyone could ever create, as it evolves with you and offers you something that is way bigger than the mentor or the mentee. After all, mentor+mentee=league. Big time.

 

 

 

My experience with my first mentor, Benny Reich, in the program was invaluable.

How invaluable? Beating down the My-First-RoadMap-Building-challenge precious 🙂

At that point, I already knew how to gather all the requirements and understand the vision of the company. What I got to learn with Benny was how to prioritize so everyone will get it.

How to set the goals and initiatives based on how many resources we have? What can be achieved? And how to share the process and outcomes with the team?

We discussed how to add things to the roadmap and how to account for what needs to be excluded. Following these discussions with Benny, my first roadmap plan approval by company management.

I formalized the roadmap updates into a quarterly process that includes collecting stakeholders feedback, prioritizing requirements and publishing the result as a yearly roadmap plan to the entire company. I learned not to commit to delivery dates… and how to say no to customers when needed.

Another vital lesson Benny taught me was that it is all my business. I learned that if I have a product bottleneck due to a lack of resources or even financial issues — although none in my direct control, it is all my business. So that I should do whatever I can to drive the product forward.

Inspired by this idea, I pushed for enhancements to the development lifecycle process (trying not to step on anyone’s toes and with the cooperation of R&D). I tried to contribute to the product advancement wherever I could, even in things that weren’t fully in my domain. And it worked for the whole company’s benefit.

It may be that my most significant challenge during this batch was jumping on the road to getting our users not only to love how the product works but also how it looks and feels like.

At that time, our web management interface was in bad shape. It was the result of years of the piece by piece additions by developers who didn’t focus on the end-users. Customers were willing to forgive us for this due to the high value they get from the product, but it wasn’t going to last for long.

I knew I had to push for a new UX design, but I wasn’t sure how to “sell” it to the management. Benny and I discussed it in length. We spoke about the reasoning for such a big move and how I can present it to the relevant decision-makers. I had to put it all into a presentation and argue strong cases for achieving what I wanted.

This preparation assisted me in articulating what I felt in my gut into an organized and well-built case, and I was able to persuade and bind the whole team to the project. It wasn’t a cheap project, and execution of it is still in progress today, but it was an excellent lesson for me on how to pitch for things I believe in and achieve desired results.

At the end of my first Product League batch, I realized I gained so much from the program, that I immediately rolled into the next one.

I was assigned to work with Tal Ben-Simon, and I was so excited. Our first meeting was set to take place in the Product League Batch Opening event in Tel-Aviv, where we introduced ourselves, mingled, and got into the League spirit.

Our second meeting was more formal but not less fun, where we jumped right in and immediately discussed planning for the next calendar year we were both working on.

I had to get the roadmap plan for 2020 organized, and it wasn’t less challenging than it was the first time.

But then, having my draft presentation discussed with Tal much helped me in preparing my final revision. Tal suggested adding cost vs. value, feature examples that would demonstrate what I aim for in each of the product’s primary goals. And even to make sure that everyone understands what’s not included in the next year’s plan. It was precious, and once again helped in getting my plan approved by management. I can not take this for granted: they said Yes!

And then? Then we got into KPIs. As (almost) all companies, we have KPIs to follow. But I made up my mind that I want to push for product usage data collection and getting into the numbers.

We discussed how to push this project forward, how to set objectives and measure them, and how to get product data. As part of this discussion, he introduced me to the OKR method, which I tried to use for the yearly goals setting on my domain.

This day when I am writing this post, we are just halfway into my mentoring adventure with Tal, but I can already see the difference.

I am getting ready for 2020, and what could before look like a big challenge is now a process I take off with data, focus, and high motivation as my superpowers. And this is all thanks to my mentoring experience with Tal.

Apart from working on the Q1 release plan, I’m also busy setting key metrics to look at and finding more ways to get data collected from the various projects so that we can obtain insights from it.

You know, productizing the smart way.

Every meeting so far with both Benny and Tal was precious, offered me insights and great tips. It contributed to my growth as a product management professional.

I still have a lot to do and much to learn, and I feel this program is an enormous booster to this process.

It is an excellent opportunity to say thanks to all people involved, Benny, Tal, and of course, Moriya and the team behind this beautiful program, Product League.

Oh, one of my goals for 2020 is to grow my team! I can’t wait to see how I am going to put everything in learned (and still do!) in the League into this process — getting one step closer into becoming #the_best_PM_I_can_be!

 

 

Written By

Comments

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to our newsletter. No spam. Product goodies only.