Sophia Huang – Onboarding as a Product Manager

BY TREMIS SKEETE ON AUGUST 15, 2017

Sophia Huang started her career in the San Francisco Bay Area, and eventually moved to New York City to work with InVision, the makers of the popular InVisionApp software. In her ProductTank NYC presentation, she goes over the challenges of onboarding as a product manager.

Sophia explains that it is extremely rare for a company to have a smooth and proper onboarding procedure. The process at times can be chaotic, and you should work quickly in identifying someone in the organization who can direct all your questions to (especially in the first two weeks of starting your role). In Sophia’s experience, she has directed all of her questions to one team member (a “buddy”), in favour of using the “proper” frameworks and points of contact for onboarding.

Onboarding as a Product Manager

Sophia pulls research from Forbes and The Next Web to find what the first 30, 60, and 90 days of onboarding as a product manager should be about. What she found was that most articles became somewhat repetitive as they discussed things like metrics, iterations, and talking to stakeholders.

However, she did find valuable insights from Ken Norton, based on his experiences from Google Docs, Yahoo, and NBC Internet – specifically, his article outlining tips to your first 30 days as a product manager. His three major areas of focus were people, product, and personal setup.

People

Sophia found that the most important tip was having the right expectations from your CEO. That way, your focus and priorities can be aligned with theirs, and knowing your priorities will make your product and team more scalable. Sophia also gives two important questions to ask when conducting stakeholder interviews. They are:

  1. How do I make your lives better?
  2. How do I work with you?

How do you get Started?

Sophia explains that the easiest thing to do is to start with something small and containable, such as A/B testing and iterations on long-standing products. That way you can test out your team to see how they work. She emphasizes the importance of understanding the culture of your company – does your organization embrace iterations and agility, or are they more focused on large releases that have big immediate impacts?

Available Tools

She references her own company, explaining that they have somewhere around 50 available “tools” for onboarding new product managers. However, her philosophy is to work with as little as possible – she only uses the tools that she needs, as she needs them. That way she can remain more focused on priorities.

Understand your Product

When you understand and are close to your product designers and audience, you will be better equipped to build better products. Her team was able to design a product for their designers, which then helped all of their designer customers worldwide to work better.

Measure Yourself

Sophia explains that in your first 30 days, you should also be measuring yourself and setting up checkpoints. That will help you see if you are making progress towards understanding the product, production, and raising the bottom line.

Breathe

Sophia’s final note was to just breathe and have fun. The first 30 days as a product manager will determine how you like your company and how you work with your team. There is a lot of unknown in product management, especially in the first 30 days, so being calm and adaptive helps to overcome any challenges you may face.

Tremis Skeete

About TREMIS SKEETE

Tremis is a Technical Product Manager at NexTier Innovations, based in North Carolina, USA. He comes from a computer science background and has 15+ years of experience working with design teams that have helped clients such as Zel Technologies, The Altria Group, Barclays Bank, US Department of Defense, and L’oreal, building web sites, applications, intranets, and graphic communications across multiple media. Tremis lives in New York City and he is also a co-organizer for Product Tank NYC. To find out more about Tremis, visit http://tremisskeete.com.

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