August 29, 2016

A Day in the Life of a Product Manager

I’ve read day in the life type posts in the past and find them fascinating. I thought I’d start a short series of them from the product managers at 3Pillar. As no day for us is ever the same, I thought it would be a fun exercise to really see how broad our skill sets are. Moreover, my hope is that it helps our customers understand what product managers/strategists do and how they can contribute to your business.

Working at 3Pillar has its perks. It’s a family-friendly, relaxed environment filled with wicked smart people. However, don’t confuse relaxed with slow. Because of what our Product Managers do, no two days are ever alike. In general, we’re typically working with two different clients in addition to helping support our sales team with opportunities that may be on the horizon. There’s always a lot to get done in one day, but that’s part of what makes it so exciting. I thought it would be interesting to outline what a typical day is like for me.

Many mornings I have early calls so I actually start my day working from my home office. This happens quite a bit. We split our days between our home offices, client offices and of course 3Pillar headquarters. Here’s a timeline of what a typical day goes like for me.

7:00 AM – The day starts with an early morning grooming call with my off-shore team in India. We’re reviewing the stories that they’re going to be working on in the coming sprint. This often leads to a few hours of follow-up writing/amending user stories (although I try to do it while they’re on the call so I can have their buy in). The key part of this call is that our client product owner is on the call with us, too, so they are contributing to the stories and are made aware of what is going on in the team.

9:00 AM - Stand up time! This is just a quick check in with the team where we review what they did yesterday, what their plan is for today, and if they are blocked by anything. There are generally a few follow-up conversations that spin off of this meeting, but those don’t happen until we’ve finished the stand up.

9:30 AM - Time to update the release plan for Client A based on our conversations this AM. We’ve had to adjust our approach based on limitations with a vendor technology, so the team is going to push through on another set of features while we wait for the vendor to resolve the issue. This happens pretty regularly and because we both maintain a release plan and review it with every sprint (daily for me), we’re able to see how those changes will affect our overall plan. Moreover, we can communicate those impacts effectively to the client.

10:00 AM - Second stand up of the day, this time with Client B. Team was in and out this time with no carry on conversations. This is a rarity, but I’ll take it. This group is just plugging along as they’re in the middle of an iteration.

10:15 AM - Sit down to review the latest designs and feedback for Client A. For this team, I end up needing to call an impromptu meeting with the UX team to make some updates so that the development team overseas can get working on it tomorrow. The meeting with the UX team takes a while because we end up virtually whiteboarding a number of different options before settling on one.

12:15 PM - Forgot about lunch – oops. It’s a good time to head into the office anyways.

1:00 PM - Call Client B’s product owner to discuss the outstanding questions the team had about the next set of stories. I also arrange our next grooming session and realize that we need more design time based on feedback from the client. We really try to get ahead of the development team by at least 1 sprint in order to give us enough time to test the designs with users.

3:00 PM - Take a quick social media break and browse the tech blogs and update my 3Pillar social posts. It’s important to stay abreast of what’s changing in the industry. Since I’m working with two separate clients in two polar opposite spaces, I have twice the work to stay up to date. But, it also means that I learn twice the awesome stuff! I’m a riot at parties - I can hang with just about every crowd (except the sports time for sports sadly).

3:30 PM - Prepare a trade-off analysis for Client B to help them decide on whether to build or buy their next piece of software. They have a very specific need that could be filled by a COTS product but it also may be overkill and I want to help them understand the benefits and drawbacks of the options. I pull in the in-house tech team to get a sense of effort for a build option and then build out the matrix.

4:30 PM - One last pass at my email and make sure any loose ends are tied up before I have to jet out the door.

5:00 PM - Sign off, head home.

Once at home, things don’t just turn off. The blessing and curse of being able to work remotely is that you can and will check emails even at 10 PM. 9 times out of 10 it can wait until the morning, but when working with an India team you soon realize that late night emails are actually their morning and I am compelled to respond.