A Day in the Life of a Product Manager… With No Product
I joined SentryOne a few months ago and took on a pretty awesome job as the Platform Product Manager. This is a unique role because technically I am a product manager without a product. I do not manage or own any of the products we sell; instead, I focus on all the platforms and shared services that support our products. You know, the important bits that keep our products running, such as licensing, cloud marketplace presence, Customer Portal, authentication, and integrations. (Spoiler alert: you helped me prioritize our integration strategy if you took my recent survey.)
I have a rather high-touch position and collaborate with stakeholders across our entire business, typically working in the office four or five days per week. Now that I'm working from home full time due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I thought it would be fun to take a peek at a typical day in my new operating environment.
Removing the morning commute means I get to wake up 30 minutes later than usual… so up by 0530. (I was in the Army and use military time, that’s 5:30 a.m. for everyone else.) I take 30 minutes to wake up, eat something small, and scan Slack, Teams, Outlook, and LinkedIn. Then, I hop on my bike (hooked up to an indoor trainer) to ride for an hour. A lot of people hate working out indoors, but I love it! No distractions, precise control over the effort, and I get to watch bike racing. My wife and I even got to talk about this on a recent Good Morning America segment!
After my morning workout, I toss down a recovery drink while I make smoothies for my wife and me. It is packed with superfoods such as spirulina, chia seeds, kale, and flaxseed powder, with bananas and blueberries to make it palatable. Then, it’s time for a quick shower, and I am ready to carpe diem!
As with most organizations practicing some form of Agile development, my workday starts with a “stand-up” meeting. The engineers I serve take turns describing what went on yesterday, what they are on today, and anything they need help resolving. This is important information for a product manager. We're pulled in a lot of different directions throughout the day, and the stand-up meeting lets me know where I might be needed in engineering up front. We have fun huddle rooms where we normally get together in the office but right now, we meet exclusively on Teams. Ironically, everyone is sitting during our stand-up. <facepalm>
The new capabilities that I manage and deliver are unique because they typically span diverse skill sets and team responsibilities. For instance, our platform engineering team might build the foundation of some new functionality, but a feature development team will complete the implementation. One of our core values is Agility, and this is a perfect example of how we put that into action.
By the time stand-ups are wrapping up, our internal engagement team has likely posted the “Question of the day” on Slack. These are lighthearted and fun questions to inject some socializing in our day. My favorite so far has been, “Who is the most famous person you have met?” Who knew we had so many well-connected teammates?! 😊
OK, back to work. I use data to inform nearly all product decisions, so I take a few minutes each day to review our key performance indicators (KPIs) on various systems. It is so important to measure the right things to understand what is actually driving business value and not just a pretty chart. Here are 10 tips on how to choose the right KPIs that might be helpful to you. Product management is about helping our business build the right things and build things right. Building the right things is determined through the analysis of qualitative and quantitative data, so this morning data review is paramount to my day being successful.
As an amateur bike racer, I need to eat a lot of food, and it needs to be the right food to fuel my efforts properly. But I’ll be honest. I find myself eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches a lot during lunch now that I am working from home full time. Call it a guilty pleasure or simply a small token that puts a smile on my face during these stressful times.
Breaking up the day during lunch is important for a mental recharge. If you find yourself constantly working through lunch, try keeping a lunch date with yourself each day for a few weeks. You will likely find that it helps you focus and get more done in the latter half of the day.
We are on a two-week sprint cadence, and we have a lot of our recurring Agile meetings in the afternoon, such as grooming and retrospectives. I am routinely impressed with the level of collaboration and cooperation among our teams to develop high-quality features at consistently high velocity and quality.
I spend a lot of my focus time evaluating the value of ideas in our pipeline. The work we prioritize must deliver value to our customers first and foremost. It also needs to work for our business and strategy. Our entire Product team meets with executive leadership to present our research on those ideas routinely. The right ideas eventually turn into new features or products. The rest go into the backlog until it makes sense to implement them.
I spend time each week focused on training. As a life-long learner, this is an important aspect of my day. It is also important to the future of our organization. Lately, I spend my training time learning more about the Microsoft data platform and the people that use it. Our mission is about improving quality of life for data professionals and their customers, and spending time to understand and empathize with them helps me make better decisions for their sake.
My team has organized social functions on Teams every day so that we can “see” each other. This helps us all stay connected and gives us a reason to talk about things unrelated to work. Most of these are “coffees,” but on Friday, they become happy hours! What a great way to wrap up the work day.
Like many others who are staying home for COVID-19 reasons, my wife and I are taking this opportunity to go through boxes of stuff and purging. It feels great to digitize old documents and photos so that we can declutter our lives.
We generally close out the day with some reading. I go back and forth between fiction and professional development. I am currently reading "Inspired: How to Create Tech Products Customers Love," but I am also a huge fan of the Wheel of Time series.
It seems like a bit of rinse and repeat right now since we're not going out to engage with others much right now. What are you doing to stay sane during this time?
As a Senior Product Manager, Pete is responsible for platform technologies and services that support all SentryOne products. Pete has a diverse background, delivering high-tech B2B software, as a federal law enforcement officer, and serving in the U.S. military.