"Be a sponge"... and other advice for the first 30 days of a new job

Starting a new job can be tough.  I recently started a new job and some of the basic advice I learned years ago still applied.  I figured I'd share the information living in my head, and also all over the internet:

Your first day
  • Wake up early and have a great breakfast, and dress for success!
  • Arrive 10 minutes early, but no earlier than 20 minutes – play it cool
  • Give yourself some time to get settled
  • Take notes, say hello and smile!
  • Learn your co-workers names quickly
  • Ask questions and ask for help
  • Don’t be the first person to ask about lunch – see what everyone else does.  Take the opportunity to go to lunch with your boss and co-workers
  • If you’re asked out after work, try to say yes – you may be tired but it’ll be worth it in the long run
  • Update your LinkedIn and other Social Media, and connect with your new colleagues

Your first 90 days
  • Learn about your boss – how does she like to assign work? What’s her communication style (email, in person, phone)? What does she expect from you in the first 30-60-90 days?
  • Start showing the rest of the company why you got hired
  • Balance relationships and results – you want to make friends, make sure you establish yourself as a reliable team player who delivers results
  • Keep the past in the past – don’t reference your old job too much, it will get old fast
  • Avoid office politics and gossip
  • You have two ears and one mouth for a reason – listen more than you talk
  • Stay organized and set goals for your first 30-60-90 days
  • Find your go-to convenience store and lunch spot – just in case!
  • Exercise!  Not just in the first 30-60-90 days, but well into your career.  You’ll be fresh, more alert, less stressed and happier.  Take care of yourself first!

But make sure you don't... 
  • Ignore the culture – come in early and stay a little late just to observe how people behave.  When do they get coffee? What time is lunch? How do they wrap up their day?
  • Act arrogant – take time to understand the company and how things work
  • Hide out – Take time to network with your new co-workers, what do they do outside of work?
  • Rock the boat – get buy-in from others before you implement changes, and make sure you fully understand the current processes and procedures before suggesting your changes

Learn more:

The Value of Networking

It’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know.  Boston is a “small” city - everyone knows each other.  And when you limit it to the product space, it becomes even smaller.

There are several keys to success when networking.  After a bit of research, there are three areas that are important: understanding why you should network, evaluating the value of a network and a few tips for good networking.

Reasons for Networking
  • Networking is about making connections and building enduring, mutually beneficial relationships.  The relationships are the catalysts for success and typically lead to career advancement and growth.
  • Networking is free, most of the time!  Events can be found in Boston for free or at very little cost.
  • Events tend to be full of like-minded individuals - and if you find the right network, they can support you not only when you’re job-searching, but when you’re trying to tackle a big problem at work and need an outsider's opinion.
  • People need people - there are friendship benefits to networking.  Consider finding someone in your network that you can reach out to.  Sometimes a different perspective or a set of eyes on a problem can help find the right solution.
  • By helping each other and by mentoring others you can give each other an unfair advantage in that two heads are better than one.

Evaluating the Value of a Network
  • This Harvard Business Review article is a great framework for evaluating your network.  It covers the four questions to ask when assessing the value of a network.  https://hbr.org/2012/06/assess-the-value-of-your-network
    • Who is in the network?
    • How well does the network connect?
    • Is there functional communication?
    • Who are you talking to?

Tips for Good Networking
  • There are three people that you want to be sure to speak with at an event: the speaker; the event host/organizer; and the person doing registration and sign-in. The person at the front door sees everybody, and knows their name, and also is usually aware where the host is and can point you in their direction.
  • Be yourself!  No one wants to have an awkward conversation with someone.  You’re at the same event, talk about things you have in common
  • Carry business cards at all time - this one is huge.  I can’t tell you how many times I haven’t had a business card on me when I’ve needed one.  And - you can get such nice personal ones on sites like moo.com
  • You have two ears and one mouth - talk to people about what you're doing. Ask questions about what people are doing and working on, and be genuinely interested in the answer.
  • Ask for help!  If you find someone who seems to have faced similar challenges, ask for advice.
  • Create value.  Look for opportunities to be of service to the person you’ve just met. A good network is a give and take relationship, remember you should give more than you take.
  • Don’t forget to follow up!  How many times do you say you’re going to get coffee with someone and never email them?  

Even if you feel you’re too busy to attend these events, the benefits far outweigh the (negatives - another word?).  These types of events are a nice break from being stuck in front of a computer (something we all spend too much time doing!).  Try and find networking events inside of work hours that connect you with folks in similar roles or industries.

Product Management at General Assembly

I just wrapped up teaching a 10-week Product Management course at General Assembly in Boston, and it was an amazing experience.  When I graduated from high school, I planned to be a math teacher – I didn’t follow that path, but have dreamed of teaching ever since.  The 24-student class had people in Product Management roles, people launching products of their own and people hoping to get into Product Management.  It was the most rewarding 10-weeks of my life. 

The course covers the most important aspects of Product Management, and I encourage those of you looking for a foundation in Product Management to enroll in a course like this. 
  • Basics of Product Management
    • What is a Product Manager?
    • Introduction to the Product Development Process
  • Getting to Product/Market Fit
    • Customer Development
    • MVP’s – Minimum Viable Products + Product Management
    • Business Models
    • Market Research
  • UX Design
    • Personas + Customer Journey Maps
    • Features + User Stories
    • Wireframing + Storyboarding
  • Metrics + Pricing
  • Roadmaps + Communication
    • How to create a roadmap
    • Project Management for Product Managers
    • Technology for Product Managers
The course combines the Product Management basics with hands-on activities, which students found to be the most beneficial.  This is the first course that I’ve seen that applies directly to the role of Product Management. While we covered a lot of material, it’s very similar to the role of Product Management.  I always tell people that for Product Managers, no two days are alike.  Depending on where you are in the life-cycle of a product or feature, you could be doing market research, writing user stories or testing features before they head out into production.  The art of Product Management is figuring out how to balance all of the different streams of work that should be managed.

Please reach out to me if you’re interested in taking the course or learning more! I’d love to share my thoughts and answer your questions.

Boston Women in Product

The Boston area is home to some of the country’s top tech companies – AkamaiWayfairTripAdvisorHubspotIROBOT and most recently, GE decided to relocate the company headquarters to the Boston Seaport district. In 2014, Boston was 4th in the nation in total venture capital funding (coming in behind California and New York). Last year, employment in the product sector grew 8.5%, compared to a measly 1.5% for overall job growth. And yet, with all of this growth, there was nowhere for female product professionals to connect, learn and share.
Late last year, I co-founded the group when two of my colleagues when we realized we wanted a way to connect with other product professionals in the Boston area to address the challenges of working as a woman in a product role. With the support of the Boston Product Management Association (BPMA), myself, Sarah Ptalis and Vanessa Ferranto built the BWP group with the goal of bringing together product-focused women.
The BWP is a community that empowers women to be influences in their role, inspiring them to make a difference and grow in their career. Our mission is to inspire, equip and help advance women in product by encouraging career leadership, development, support, mentoring and building relationships with like-minded women.
We've kicked off a three-part storytelling series. This series features women in product roles from Boston-area businesses sharing their experiences in leadership. Our next event is Thursday, May 19th from 6:30 - 8:00pm at Pivotal Labs in Cambridge. The event will feature a panel of talented product managers including Ellen Chisa VP Product for Lola Travel, Nicole Mace VP Product for Zipcar, and Amisha Thakkar Product Manager at Wolters Kluwer and is sponsored by Pivotal Labs.
I encourage all of you in the Boston area to join us and participate in the ongoing conversation!
Group and Event Information:

The Anatomy of The Product Brief

With all of the Product Management roles I've held, it's been tough to get the Product Roadmap process just right.  Employees and clients want to see the roadmap, and once a quarter might not be enough; some people don't know what to expect with a feature that's listed on the roadmap; others don't understand what goals each of the features or themes align with.  I've tried several ways to do this in the past with no luck - and then recently, my boss and I came up with something great The Product Brief

A Product Brief is a stable, widely shared, "one-page" document describing the goals and benefits of a feature as well as the scope of a project. 

The Product Brief is broken into 6 sections. (How to write a product brief:)
  • Release Notes Summary: Describe the project as if writing release notes or a short press release. What are the key features? Why are they exciting? What is the benefit? (Like at amazon.com; here's a suggestion)
  • User Problem Statement(s): What problems are we trying to solve? Be sure to define which users these problems effect as precisely as possible.
  • Project Rationale: Why should this project be a priority? How does it drive revenue, cost reductions or customer-happiness? What research have we done? How wide-spread is the problem?
  • Project Scope and Scale: What's in and what's out? 
  • Measuring Success: How do we measure success?  How will we know when we are successful?
  • Dependencies: Do customers need to upgrade?  Are other features dependent on this one?What do we need from partners? What do we need outside of engineering?
  • Key Links: Links to requirements documentation, wireframes/mock-ups, research, etc. 
What do you use to community each of the features on your roadmap?  Do you give your current customer a detailed view of what's coming?  Do you think the Product Brief could be helpful in your organization?


  • http://www.deviant9studios.com/blog/?p=474
  • http://productdesignmanagement.com/how-to-write-a-product-brief/
  • http://www.webdesignerdepot.com/2011/03/7-basics-to-create-a-good-design-brief/
  • http://justcreative.com/2008/09/26/how-to-write-an-effective-design-brief/
  • https://designschool.canva.com/blog/effective-design-brief/