Typical Day in Life of a Product Manager

A typical day in life of PM:

  1. Get out of bed, have a cup of coffee, shower, and put on your jeans one leg at a time like everyone else.

  2. Check email; in addition to the standard types of emails that everyone sends, PMs frequently send what I refer to as a “closing, options, and actions” email. You’re generally in charge of two or three complex talks at once, including questions regarding technology, design, what users have stated, what management wants, budget concerns, HR issues, and so on. Everyone makes a contribution. It is not your responsibility to do all of the thinking. On the other hand, the PM does something that others don’t: he notices when a conversation is reaching the point when the amount of information provided is dwindling. You usually come in at this stage to frame and summarise what’s been stated, layout the possibilities, and either recommend or assign actions.

  3. Use Google Reader or Twitter to keep up with what’s going on in the world. Again, you consume news in much the same way that everyone else does, but a few things you don’t do differently fit well into a SWOT framework (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats). You filter out the irrelevant information or of particular interest to you. Anything that can be used to make a decision gets into your processing stream. Suppose it’s evident what needs to be done. In that case, you delegate right away (for instance, I noticed a blog post about upcoming changes in Facebook login protocols a couple of days ago, which affect our in-development FB login feature, so I just forwarded that to our lead devs). It goes into your “thinking hopper” if it isn’t obvious (bookmarks, a quickly scribbled note to yourself like “think about implications of Google announcement.”). This will be delivered to your inbox. Most days go by without incident, but about once a week, a significant or minor item will arise that requires attention in this manner. You don’t have a choice but to go fishing regularly. Every day, I perform short 20-30 minute “market situation awareness” sessions, as well as lengthier “catch up on my Google Reader” sessions of several hours, which I normally do on Monday mornings.

  4. Start your core product management programme. Depending on what component of the project you’re working on, it may be a team to-do list, a formal agile management tool (we use ScrumWorks), or something like Microsoft Project or even an Excel sheet. Your email and paper inboxes are likely overflowing with pending things for which the best course of action is to take action in your product management application. A lot of the heavy work here is simply clarifying and outlining items for product management meetings to consider. This entails taking an email thread strewn with the subject “hey, maybe we should explore integrating with Twitter” and turning it into a list of actionable backlog items to be completed by the relevant individuals later. Often, you don’t have the technical knowledge to explain it yourself, so you provide the best stub you can for others. Budget and resource wrangle sessions look and feel the same.

  5. You’re definitely working on some sort of official messaging/influence effort right now. Anything from a powerpoint presentation to a blog article for a review meeting. Make it/do it.