Note: This article is originally written by Dinesh Vernekar, Head of Growth – Gaana, Product Manager | Analytics | Mobile
Technology moves very fast. As a product manager, you have to adapt and constantly evolve. Also you need to keep track of multiple threads and be productive at the same time.
In the past 2 years I’ve worked on a search stack for Gaana, a digital asset management system and built out an android app (go check Smartapp, the fastest way to recharge with smart recommendations!). Project management is a big part of product in the initial stages but success is defined by metrics and focus. I believe the job definition constantly evolves. Below is my experience so far.
I try to start out as early as possible so I’m off to work by 7.30 am. I grab some breakfast at work as soon as I come.
My day is broken down into 4 key parts.
1. Email and organisation — Follow-up, keeping track of things.
2. Discussion — Resolving issues, helping the team move forward.
3. Creative work — Defining a requirement
4. Planning — High-level purview
Things I do on a daily basis:
10:00–11.00 am, through the day.
Email and Slack:
I joke that my job is to write emails. But it might not be that far from the truth. Communication is a very important function of a PM.
I start by replying/marking the most important threads.
Daily scrum and JIRA board:
A daily scrum helps everyone chip in with their inputs and identify possible issues. A typical meeting lasts about 20 mins. We use JIRA for project planning. It’s a bit hard to get started with this tool but it’s quite powerful. A functional document is broken down into tasks and a sprint is planned. I do this as I come across ideas.
The actual work:
11.00 am — 2:00 pm
I prefer the Joel Spolsky way of writing a detailed functional specification. It helps us get clarity on the requirement and speeds up dev. Entire days are spent defining and refining a spec. Once a spec is created, it’s broken down into individual JIRA tasks and prioritised in the backlog.
As a PM, the focus is on the outcome.
Setting goals and meeting them matters more than the process. You take a number of small decisions everyday like postponing a feature, trimming something down etc. I’ve screwed up a number of tasks by not defining a task properly, building the wrong thing, being under-prepared. As a PM it’s your job to take responsibility for it all.
Understanding the third-party SDK, testing the APIs, raising questions.
Documentation of APIs, updating them on a timely basis. I think this is very important. If you’ve done the hard work and designed an easy to use extendable API, you should definitely go the extra mile and detail it out.
First level of debug: I’m also the first level of debug for the APIs.
Discussion and meetings: A discussion can range from an optimal UX flow to design of a new payment api. For a typical meeting, you prepare the points to be discussed, figure out possible problem points and communicate before hand if possible. Now with slack, we just post ideas to a channel and team members contribute through the day. Typically we hold a meeting after lunch.
A lot of this is tedious and it’s easy to be caught in the process loop.
Google analytics and metrics: When I worked on the search stack, we spent a good amount of time debating the right metrics to be tracked.
The fun stuff:
I spend a decent amount of my day tweeting random stuff, reading news on hacker news and keeping up with tech news.
A PM has to constantly evolve to keep up with the latest trends in design, play-store eco-system etc. I’ve completed a couple of tracks online. I’m currently learning Android dev.
When I’m not all serious and updating JIRA tasks, I’m goofing around making inappropriate comments and drinking coffee. Hanging out with friends etc.
I’m constantly evaluating what it means to be a good PM. Keeping up with different threads, getting better at strategy, looking at the larger picture, building empathy. I’ll love to hear your thoughts.
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What does a product manager do in a company?
A product manager is responsible for a product or a group of products end to end, at all stages of the product lifecycle, and works on different strategies to maximize its profitability. While that is the general job description, what a product manager actually does in a company depends on a lot of factors, including the position they are hired in. Junior product managers are mostly involved in day-to-day operations and project management work, which includes setting up meetings, creating MIS reports, and so on. Creating strategies and approving budgets is usually handled by senior product owners, who may also have to deal with stakeholders to get their buy-ins for their plans.
Are product managers expected to do coding?
It depends on the industry, and the job description. Most product managers only have to work with teams of developers who do the actual coding. In some companies, especially in the IT/ITes space, product managers may have to do some coding themselves, or manage teams of developers. However, all product should have some understanding of coding or technology, especially if their jobs involve digital products so that they can translate the requirements to the actual product developers, and understand any technical issues that may occur. This is the reason why many people with a non-technical background prefer taking a course in product management to equip themselves with the necessary skills.
Do product managers work long hours?
Product managers do not necessarily work long hours. But it also depends on various factors including the industry they are in, and the work culture of their organisations. Product managers in tech-based start-ups work extremely long hours, just like everyone else since the company is just starting, and they have to handle a lot of work in order to meet their deadlines. On the other hand, product managers working in large firms with access to a lot of resources can get the work done quickly within business hours, and so do not have to work long hours even if their product is on the verge of release.