Foundational Skills for the First Product Manager at a Startup

first product manager startup

If you are the first product manager at a startup or any organization, here is a secret – investing time in the Program Management aspects of your role will help to build the foundation for product success.

Isn’t Program Management a big company thing? Why does a startup need Program Management? What is the difference anyway between a program manager vs product manager?

In my career, I’ve worked as, or partnered with, the first product manager at a startup in several instances. I learned from my direct experience that Program Management essentials are uniquely and sometimes even desperately needed for the success of fast-growing startups.

Before having a professional product manager, most startup companies already have engineers and somewhat of a process for prioritizing tasks and release features. What was sorely missed were bigger picture processes and cadences that require a cross-functional approach to establish and maintain. These bigger picture processes are typically defined using Program Management techniques. They include how we align goals and functional priorities, roadmap planning and execution processes, cross-functional roles and responsibilities, and visibilities for faster and better decision-making.

Without this foundation, chaos, miscommunication, and poor product and customer outcome ensues.

Need to build the foundation for your startup product success?

If you’re the first product manager at a startup, I highly recommend you check out this Startup Program Management Playbook:

5 best PM course CTA

Becky Flint

Becky is a product and tech executive based in the Silicon Valley. She has built and scaled product and engineering teams globally for both startups and Fortune 500 companies. Currently Becky is the founder and CEO of Dragonboat with a mission to empower responsive leaders and their teams to build better products faster. Prior to founding dragonboat, Becky has held executive roles at Feedzai, Bigcommerce, Tinyprints/ Shutterfly, and PayPal.
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