Diary of a graduate trainee: Learning about product management

Hi everyone, Gemma here. So, I’m now one month into the Zaizi graduate programme and it still feels like I’ve only been here a week; it’s flown by! There has been a LOT of information to take in, but I’m feeling pretty settled and getting to grips with everything. 

My first week was mostly spent meeting everyone and understanding the company. I had intros with our CEO and internal teams like sales and marketing. It was a nice way to find out more about Zaizi’s history current business plans, and values.

Theory and practice

I’ve been learning about product management by shadowing different members of the product team and by also taking courses.

Shadowing is a great way to see how the techniques I learn about in training applies to actual projects. The interactive aspects of the role are the most insightful, like retros, show and tells and sprint planning ceremonies. 

It’s really interesting to see how different teams approach Agile working and how they adapt to make it work with different projects and clients. On one of the project’s I’m working on, the team is using a ‘missions’ approach. It essentially means the team focuses on achieving high level outcomes, aligned to clear business objectives. We identify the problems preventing the desired outcomes, then tackle them in whatever way fits best.

For example, one outcome was to improve the reach of a website, and a mission within this looked at accessibility — assessing the site to ensure compliance with new accessibility legislation. No new features were added but the overall outcome is that the site is more user friendly and can be accessed by more people i.e. it has a greater reach. 

Other projects I’m working on have tight deadlines, to provide support during Covid-19. So there’s a heavy focus on prioritising key features to get a product up and running.

Developing a product community

I’ve been working with the product team to develop a product community. This will help us improve in our roles, both individually and as a team. We will share knowledge, support each other during projects and think about longer term strategies for ‘how we do product’ within Zaizi. 

We kicked off with a vision planning workshop and decided on some key goals and metrics. The aim is to translate these into a roadmap of tasks to grow the community. 

Creating and maintaining a product vision is important as a product manager. It keeps the team on track and means everyone has something to work towards and get satisfaction from. So it made sense for us to apply that principle internally when designing the community. 

So far, it’s been great to get some practice facilitating meetings and I’m looking forward to working on the next steps. 

Working on projects

I’m already starting to get more involved in projects. We kicked off a new project two weeks ago and I’m helping to manage the backlog and write the user stories.

Next week I’m joining another new project that’s in the discovery phase. I’ve never worked on this part of a project before. I’m keen to see how it works, get involved in research and get my analytical, information gathering hat on! It’s a project with a wide range of stakeholders but a very specific user group, so it should be a really interesting one. 

I’m sure I’ll have lots to update you on that next month!

Next blog in the series — Getting involved in projects

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