Just over a month ago, I moved from a Client Success position to the Product department at SalesLoft. Even with a solid background of supporting our application, working directly with our customers, and decent writing and technical skills, it's still been a really steep learning curve (and I truly don't know how people successfully make this leap if it includes a whole new company and product). So, of course, I thought I'd document this journey, all of the ups and downs and what-the-heck moments, and share it with the world. Maybe it'll help someone else. It'll certainly be good for a laugh later, when I'm a grizzled veteran of The Product World.
Things I've Learned In The First 30 Days Of A Product Role:
- I have no idea what’s going on.
- Print design skills ≠ having a user-centric, interactive design eye. Nobody cares about your kerning, but they do care if the menu symbols don’t make sense. Nothing is static anymore.
- You have to think about EVERY edge case under the sun. What happens when a user clicks off the modal? What if they click the back button in the browser? What if they want to sort by a column that isn’t currently sortable? What if they need three options, and you only gave them two? Be prepared for every eventuality, or have a well-reasoned argument for not taking it into account.
- Engineers attack problems from a completely different view. This is both awesome (they think of things you should have thought of but didn’t) and frustrating (they think of things you should have thought of but didn’t). After awhile, you also start automatically thinking of things from their standpoint, which makes you way better at your job.
- You have to think about every single word and exactly what it communicates. You can’t just indicate "something kind of like this goes here." Be specific. Write vague acceptance criteria, and you’ll get a feature that does exactly what you asked for, but probably not what you intended.
- People don’t like change. No matter what you do with your product, some of your users will love it, but most of them will hate it — at least at first. There will always be users who want the original thing back, even when it was truly terrible and stuck together with duct tape and a prayer.
- Engineers like donuts. They can be bribed with said donuts. Hypothetically speaking, of course.
- Nothing is ever as intuitive as you think it is. Including buttons. Especially buttons.
- Organization and planning are incredibly important to making the sprint run smoothly. And on that note, having the right tools to streamline your process are integral to your success. Google docs will only get you so far.
- Your product does not exist in a vacuum. Nobody is going to use it exactly as designed. In the real world, there is no such thing as a perfect use case. Users are going to do weird shit. And probably they’re doing the weird shit because you didn’t give them a good way to do it properly from the beginning. That’s on you.
- I still have no idea what’s going on. But I'm learning!