Day in the Life

A Day in the Life: Product Manager

For our Day in the Life series, we look at the daily work habits, schedules and routines from people in a variety of roles and careers around the world.

Yana Yushkina, Product Manager at Google

Yana Yushkina is a San Francisco-based Product Manager at Google working on Chrome.

Some of her launches include: Chrome’s 10th birthday: New Tab Page redesign, background customization and custom short cuts, Neural Machine Translations for Chrome Browser, Chrome on Android Language Settings and plenty more.

No two days are alike. My job makes me responsible for the overall user experience. This means that I work with software engineers and UX designers to build the right solutions for user pain points and needs.

But that also means that I evangelize the product across the company to make sure that leadership is aware of any bottlenecks or staffing needs, and that other stakeholders are in the loop.

That also means that I partner with other product teams, work with legal, marketing, privacy, security and accessibility stakeholders. All of this amounts to a lot of meetings.

In meeting-free time, I do strategy and feature work: build and amend product roadmaps that match our product mission and the vision for how to accomplish it; write PRDs (product requirements documents) that detail solutions for specific user problems; shepherd features through launch experiments; and eventually lead them to launch.

Alex Reeve, Product Manager at LinkedIn

Alex Reeve is a San Francisco-based Product Manager at LinkedIn, where he is currently leading enterprise identity, authentication, and integrations for LinkedIn Learning.

I’m up at around 6am most mornings. The first two priorities are usually exercise and commute, the order of which depends on whether I’m spending the day in San Francisco, or commuting to South Bay.

Every day is a little different. I’m usually at my desk by ~8:30am, with a typical day involving 4-5 hours of meetings, a lot of communication (verbal, Slack, email), and a couple of hours of focused work and/or thinking time. Where possible, I try and pre-schedule my day and batch certain activities (e.g. email).

Some context on the product management (PM) function is probably helpful: while it differs across companies, product management within modern tech companies is often characterized as a “quarterback” role that sits at the intersection of engineering, design, marketing, data science, and any number of other functions. PMs help their team figure out what to build, why, and act as the “connector” that helps them ship successful products.

This materializes as a combination of strategy, prioritization, and execution. In day-to-day practice, this actually involves hundreds of things, but there are some consistent themes: collaborating with other functions, helping create the vision for the product, prioritizing the roadmap, defining product requirements, project management, analysis, meeting with customers, giving presentations, greasing the wheels for your team, and the list goes on.

Owen Wallis, Senior Product Manager at Atlassian

Owen Wallis is a Senior Product Manager at enterprise collaboration software company, Atlassian, where he works in the Platform group on the Media team.

Every day is different. Roughly it starts like this. Woken up by son sitting on my head. Play LEGO together. Leave home just before 8am. Jump on the train and check Slack and Emails. We have many offices around the world at Atlassian.

I haven’t found there is an expectation to stay online 24/7 (unless you want to). So asynchronous communication is a big thing here. I get into the office and eat. Then try and clear out email and Slack before the ‘normal’ day starts at 9am. Usually I’ll start with team meetings to align on priorities.

Then I’ll carry out similar meetings with teams in the US. I’ll try and do some interviews with internal staff members. There is so much to learn from people here. Then I’ll do interviews with external customers. To build empathy and learn pain points. I have a standup with my tech leads and dev team to run over any blockers or issues we’re facing.

If I’m feeling a bit ‘peopled out’ I’ll grab lunch then defragment in a quiet room. In the afternoon I try and block time out to work on strategy and vision for my Product. I’ll usually finish the day with 1-1s with peers. I try and head out the office at 5pm. I aim for making sure all Slack messages and emails are dealt with before I go home.

Get home, play with child, glass of wine with wife and chat about the day. Then relax with a computer game or brainless TV. I’m ashamed to say I became addicted to a show called The Bachelor.

Raffaela Bethke, Product Manager at Hyper Anna

Raffaela Bethke is a Product Manager at Hyper Anna, an Australian startup that taps into business intelligence and delivers real-time insights from natural language requests. 

There is a famous quote from Mike Tyson that I find describes most of my days as a Product Manager so well: “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.”

I’m a morning person, which means I usually get to the office before 8 am (pre-Corona lockdown). This helps me get stuff done before it gets busy and all the distractions of being in an office kick in (my home office distractions? my dog?). I normally start by going through and getting an overview of my day ahead and then come up with a plan and a to-do list.

From then on it becomes a mixture of sticking to the plan and the to-do list and adjusting according to what needs my attention, i.e. the getting punched in the face part. 

As dramatic as that sounds, this part is actually one of my favourite parts of being a Product Manager as it keeps me on my toes, forces me to make quick decisions, collaborate with my team and think fast.

Once one of the hectic periods is over, having the to-do list to come back is useful – it helps me refocus.

Luke Hefson, Product Manager at GitHub

Luke Hefson is a Product Manager at GitHub, the world’s leading software development platform, working on product discovery and direction for GitHub’s flagship code review & project management tools.

I work from home and have young children. This means I haven’t had to regularly use an alarm clock for a long time now! They wake my wife and me up at 6.30ish, and then we all slowly get ready for the day. If I’m not taking the kids to school, then I’m usually sat at the desk in my office-room by 8.30.

At one point I had kicked caffeine – but unfortunately, I fell off the wagon a couple of years back – so I’ll need a cup before I can properly function (I feel sorry for my West Coast USA-based colleagues who do lots of video calls at 9am with Europeans as I rarely have to look fresh that early!)

By 10am, I’ve hit my groove and will be working through my day’s goals/tasks.

As I start early and finish late often – I try to use lunch to take a decent chunk of time off. It’s a great opportunity to go for a run, do some gardening or even go for a surf if there are waves.

I have a hard stop at 6.30pm, but oftentimes I finish up at about 5.30pm. For the most part, I try to avoid looking at work notifications on my phone during the evening.

Daniella Corricelli, Senior Product Manager at VMware

Daniella Corricelli is a Brooklyn-based Senior Product Manager at VMware, leading projects to improve developer experience for enterprise customers migrating to the cloud.

Every day is different, but usually meeting heavy. I kick-off every day with 9:30 am ‘stand-up’ to sync with my team’s engineers. 

Then for example today, I had two user interviews, wrote a go-to-market strategy for a product we’re planning to release in a few months, met with a customer to help unblock them through an issue, and shared great feedback to one of my reports.

Around 12:30 pm is when I break for lunch. This usually means grabbing something quick to take up on my building’s roof. I’m based in Brooklyn, New York so outdoor space isn’t particularly common, but rooftops with skyline views are coveted. 

Taking my eyes off the screen for that hour has become more necessary now, so I’m lucky I get to enjoy a beautiful view when I do. By 6:00 pm I try to shut things down and start cooking. On most days I’ve stepped away from work and am eating dinner with Jeopardy at 7pm.

Oleh Zaychenko, Senior Product Manager at Splice

Oleh Zaychenko is a Senior Product Manager at Splice, a New York-based platform for music production offering access to millions of the best royalty-free samples, loops, and presets

Product management is a lovable but weird job! You need to ensure the success of your product without having direct control over it. They say we lead by influence, which is kind of like being Princess Diana – you have no real power, but if you do a good job, people will listen to you. RIP.

This means every day is very different. Typically though, my days consist of getting a download from my team on what they’re working on that day, meeting with my stakeholders to ensure they’re aware of upcoming changes, and meeting with company leadership to ensure they’re aware of the same thing. I have to be able to switch between micro and macro focus on a dime.

If there is ever a production issue, I need to be able to help the team quickly decide how to handle it and ensure we communicate with everyone impacted. Communication can mean the difference between a hiccup and an outage.

And then, of course, I’m constantly planning an iteration, a quarter, and a year ahead. I do this slowly, and it doesn’t happen every day, but without thinking ahead, my team will hit a dead end.

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.