When a year ago I was offered the opportunity to join an amazing martech startup as a fully remote product manager, my first thought was:
“Fully remote product management? With a fully remote design and dev team? Is that even possible?”.
I love challenges, so of course, I said yes, and what an amazing adventure so far! This year has been full of challenges, funny, hard, exciting moments. Back then, when I had to make the decision to join the project, I found out that there was very little content on the web about remote PMs, experiences, best practices, etc. So I just wanted to share my experience with other PMs that might be facing similar challenges today.
1. Communication, communication, communication
Definitely, if you want any project to succeed you need to make sure communication flows transparently. In remote teams, communication is even more important, because it is very easy for everyone to be isolated doing random tasks that won’t contribute to the success of the project.
In order to have everyone on the same page, we have to double-down on communication. We have daily stand-ups with the dev team, daily CEO-CTO-PM product sync-ups, biweekly company wide All-Hands, I hold monthly product feedback sessions with the sales and customer success team to get their input about how the products are performing and resonating in the market, and then I share a monthly product update with what was released that month and what will be implemented in the following month.
Lots of meetings every day? Sure. Too many? Not at all! Without this, the lack of focus and cohesion as a team would be terrible. There’s no such thing as over-communicating!
2. Remote product design?
I was used to having long exciting discussions and product ideation sessions with the super talented product designers I have had the chance to work with in the past. In those sessions, we always ended up painting tons of square meters of paper and whiteboards as a way to communicate ideas, user journeys, interfaces, interactions, etc.
So when I was lucky enough to start working with awesome Mr @angelcreative, I didn’t know how that was going to work. It was working remotely with him that I realised how important it is to have a design system, UX guidelines, a microcopy guide (and of course the usual suspects such us Invision, Slack and Hangouts) to be able to have meaningful conversations, good product design sessions, and be super productive defining new product experiences. And it works! 🙂
3. Talking to customers around the globe
As I’ve written about several times before, N.I.H.I.T.O. (nothing important happens in the office)…well, at home in this case. Doing market visits and customer interviews is one of the most important tasks for any PM who wants to be on top of things that really matter (determining what problems your target prospects have) and being remote isn’t an excuse to be doing them. AT ALL. Actually, working with international customers in many countries, it doesn’t matter at all where you are. Whether you are in a fancy office in London, an apartment living room in Paris or somewhere in the middle of the mountains in southern Spain (these examples are real!), the person at the other end doesn’t care! Making that part of your weekly or monthly routine as a PM is extremely healthy and crucial for the success of your products.
4. Getting personal
At a personal level, being a father of one and waiting for a second baby to arrive very soon, being at home is a blessing. Being able to spend time with my family when it’s needed, organizing my schedule and not wasting two hours every day on long commutes, allows me to be present and enjoy my family. I am very thankful for that.
On the other hand, even in spite of being constantly in conference calls, meetings, etc, from time to time, I feel lonely. Sometimes I miss the ambiance of the office, the personal chat while having a coffee, getting to know each other, being able to give a real high-five when something worked fine, etc.
Might that be the biggest challenge for remote teams? Maybe. The way we try to stay closer to each other as a product team is by having quarterly meetups to sync up, work together, and share some beers hanging out! It definitely helps develop good relationships and empathy to see the world as my team sees it.
To sum up…
Overall it’s been an amazing experience, working with the most talented and agile product team I’ve ever had the chance to work with, and I wish this adventure lasts for a long time. So, would I repeat the experience if I was given the chance? YES!
Are you considering joining a remote team as a product manager? I encourage you to give it a try! You’ll find challenges for sure…but isn’t that the fun part of life?! 😉
Written by Juan Fernandez
Juan Fernandez is Head of Product Manager at Audiense.