I’m overwhelmed — can you help?

I’m overwhelmed — can you help?

I’m asked questions about product management from time to time. Here’s one I’ve answered recently:

Hi Jock,

I’m 4 weeks into a new job, having moved states for it, and I’ve recently become a parent for the first time. Currently, I am feeling overwhelmed.

I had interviewed to come on as a product manager focused on existing user experience, but right before my start date, I was told I’d be instead leading a brand new team focused on growth and early adoption for our B2B user base.

I’m a self-taught product manager for the most part, but at my old job I at least had other experienced PMs to mentor me.

Here, there is no backlog/roadmap. There is no seasoned product leadership to mentor me. The industry I’m now in is still alien to me, and the company has recently closed a large funding round and is moving at the speed of light.

I am usually a calm and confident person, but am having panic attacks and feel lost. In two weeks, my devs will be done with their existing work from prior teams, and they’ll be looking to me for tickets. Help!


Read on for my reply!

Hi P,

Thank you so much for getting in touch. You have a lot going on right now, and I’m grateful for the trust you’ve put in me by sharing. First and foremost, many congratulations on becoming a parent – this is by far more important than anything else in the world. As a relatively recent new parent myself, I do understand a little of what you’re going through.

If you are anything like I was, you’ll be sleep-deprived and a bit emotional. Starting a new job at the same time is a whole other bunch of stresses and worries on top.

So I’ll try to keep my advice short:

1. Ask your company for help and support – I’ve had a look over your company’s website and they seem to be reasonably family-friendly. At the very least, let them know the pressures you’re under and talk it through.

2. Almost every great product manager I’ve met told me they became one by accident, and had to spend their first days on the job Googling what they were meant to be doing. This is fine.

3. Your background is an asset – everyone comes to product management from different disciplines and background, and product management as a practice is all the better for diverse approaches and thinking.

4. Product managers are not the people with all the answers – they’re the people who know who to ask about the questions.

5. Picking up a new product in a new company in a new market sector inevitably means you need to learn a lot. Don’t worry, you will, in time.

6. Get your dev team around you and be open and transparent with them. Tell them about what the business is asking you to do around growth and early adoption with your B2B customers. Ask them for their help to achieve those goals.

7. Collectively figure out your uncertainties (there will be lots early on) and the questions you need to answer to start moving forward, then as a team come up with ideas for finding out answers as quickly as possible.

8. Start by defining the problem you think you’re going to solve for which set of people. This is your opening assumption that you’re going to have to test out and probably adjust as you learn more.

9. Talk to real users. If you don’t know who these people are, then that’s your first question to answer. Don’t guess, ask the users.

10. Don’t fall into the trap of starting to build the thing too early. It’s a lot of investment in something that will not be right first time. Quick, throwaway prototypes and mock-ups to test with real users are the place to start.

A lot of this is called “discovery” and this article I wrote may help to provide a bit of context: https://imanageproducts.com/59-find-the-tipping-point-in-your-research/

I hope that’s of some use. You’re not alone in this – check if there’s a local ProductTank meetup in your city.



P.S. Keep breathing :-)

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The Practitioner's Guide to Product Management book cover

The Practitioner's Guide To Product Management

by Jock Busuttil

“This is a great book for Product Managers or those considering a career in Product Management.”

— Lyndsay Denton

Jock Busuttil is a freelance head of product, product management coach and author. He has spent over two decades working with technology companies to improve their product management practices, from startups to multinationals. In 2012 Jock founded Product People Limited, which provides product management consultancy, coaching and training. Its clients include BBC, University of Cambridge, Ometria, Prolific and the UK’s Ministry of Justice and Government Digital Service (GDS). Jock holds a master’s degree in Classics from the University of Cambridge. He is the author of the popular book The Practitioner’s Guide To Product Management, which was published in January 2015 by Grand Central Publishing in the US and Piatkus in the UK. He writes the blog I Manage Products and weekly product management newsletter PRODUCTHEAD. You can find him on Mastodon, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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