Excelling in Your First Product Management Year in Africa

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Congratulations! You just got that PM job after months or possibly years of a countless number of courses, youtube videos and applications. 

Getting your first product management role can be a daunting experience especially if you have no prior tech or industry knowledge. Settling into your new job is no less challenging as you are faced with the task of navigating a world where all that was taught in the books may not exactly apply. 

No matter how good the team or how efficient the methodology, if you are not solving the right problem the project fails.
Woody Williams

Product Managers discover and build valuable, feasible and usable solutions. Innovation is a keyword for PMs. Like Thomas Edison, this may mean failing to discover 10,000 (or less) ways that things may not work. 

I got into my first PM role over 4 years ago and noted some lessons that helped me excel in the first 2 years of the job. Having spent 3 weeks on a new job, I find these tips very useful and valuable in settling in and succeeding on the job. In this article, I share these lessons which are by no means exhaustive to get you started and excel on your job.

  1. What you have is sufficient to get you started: I will never forget these words from my first product management buddy. A lot of people are quick to doubt their abilities and zoom in on what they do not have. If you got the role, then it is because some value was seen in you. While this does not negate the need for self-improvement, an understanding of your strengths will help you contribute quickly to the organisation
  2. Courage matters: In line with the first point, your level of self-confidence is proportionate to how successful you will be on the job. Showing confidence on the job implies that you will trust your decisions and instincts which is very key on the job. 
  3. Stay humble and teachable: It is a new job and there will be a lot of unfamiliar things about the product, processes, people and organisation. Teachability means keeping an open mind to embrace your new colleagues, the culture and also their approach to product management.
  4. Don’t take failures and mistakes personally. As with every other thing in life, you will make mistakes and do things wrongly sometimes. If you are like me, you dread moments like this and would rather have things perfectly done. Life doesn’t work this way and you will definitely fail at some things.  Embrace your mistakes, pick the lessons and move on. 
  5. Give yourself some credit: We live in a society that magnifies ills and doesn’t celebrate the little wins. It is easy to dwell on what doesn’t work while ignoring what works. Making a habit of recording and celebrating your small victories and successes on the job will help boost your confidence hence giving you more motivation to do better at work.
  6. Community: Who doesn’t need a safe space? Lol. Being a part of a network where you feel comfortable sharing your struggles and talk about your wins is a necessity. There are several tops and growing product management communities you can join where you can find other people at your career stage. Some of the best product management groups for early-stage product managers are Product Dive and  Treford product management groups.

Please share your experiences, lessons, tips and hacks that have helped you excel on your job.

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Treford is an EdTech startup focused on empowering African youths with digital skills they need to thrive in this digital economy.