On Dec 9, 1914, Thomas Alva Edison‘s manufacturing unit was razed by a major fire destroying much of his work. When asked, he said “I am 67, but I am not too old to make a fresh start”. Not as serious as Edison’s situation, but I feel that the “Fresh Start” situation is very evident when a Product Manager moves to a new company / new domain, or when a person moves to a new city or country in search of a job.
The people are new, the environment feels hostile and cultural practices are different. The previous good will and clout that you held no longer apply here. The best part is that your mistakes from the previous place are not there too. It is a reboot of sorts. You can start afresh. It is the perfect time to shrug off some old practices that you were not happy with earlier. Since you do not have much of a reputation or a baggage, you have enough liberty to experiment with yourself.
The Product Manager will initially take value out of the system and later on start adding value to the system. One would have to understand the existing setup and interact closely with the Engineers, Leads, Managers, other internal and external stakeholders to get familiar. (S)He has to identify the subject matter experts, learn from them and get his/her hands dirty. Constant interaction with people at all levels also serves the key purpose of understanding the existing processes / practices and in building a strong rapport with the team members with whom the Product Manager will be working with in the near future. Their support will indirectly determine the success of the Product Manager and his product. I know of product managers who were able to strike this cord early on and taste instant success. I also know of one who did not make enough efforts to establish this bond and struggled for 2 long years.
Remember that you have entered foreign territory which you want to make your own. The only way to get familiar and win over the detractors is to experiment, fail, shrug it off, recover fast, move on, deliver and remember to smile in the end.
Good luck to those of you who have made this move. Trust your instincts, keep going and you shall emerge victorious. And for those of you who have been thinking of making that move, but are scared of the uncertainties, just weigh your options and take the plunge. Life is definitely worth taking a few risks.
(credits: Edison Pic from Buzzle.com)