36hrs in the life of a Product Manager

Hello! My name is Bas van Helvoort. I’m a Digital Media graduate from 2012 that started off as a user researcher on the agency side but slowly became a Project Manager when I started working on digital products. 

Today I work as a Product Manager for Volvo Cars in Stockholm where I manage 3 teams that all work on improving the customer support and onboarding experience for our customers.

As a product manager, I am responsible for the strategy of our support & onboarding products as well as the day-to-day execution of what the team is working on. For the strategy part, I work with setting the vision for our part of the products and evangelising it in the team and wider organisation. The more operational part is about working with the team to plan, prioritise and refine the backlog. And of course, meeting with users and stakeholders all along the way. Stakeholders can be any employees from the Headquarters or one of the 100+ markets we sell and service our cars to.

Monday has a little bit of everything: meetings with various groups including users, stakeholders, the dev team and the legal team.

We have our daily team stand-up in the morning along with conversations with the team throughout the day. Since most of us sit in the same area, spontaneous conversations are pretty frequent. We often discuss ideas or chat about issues as they come up. I also try and start each day looking over key metrics and reviewing anything that may have happened the previous day.

Our UX designer and I meet to review some feedback that have been submitted in order to get a better understanding of what our drivers were trying to do and why they were having some issues.

All of these kind of meetings include myself, our UX designer, and typically an engineer depending on the topic. I also meet with a member of our legal team to discuss a new feature for our app and then a small group of stakeholders to address some questions that came up in the previous weeks.

Today is packed with meetings, most of them with the development team. We start the day with an hour refinement session. We use this time every other week to review upcoming priorities and share knowledge. I’m responsible for getting the stories in our backlog, but my main purpose is to make sure that we have a shared understanding of the context and desired outcomes. So most of the items in the backlog aren’t surprises (since we try and have members of the team involved in discovery), but refinement gives us a chance to discuss as a team and begin to think through scope and implications.

Time for a roadmap meeting with key folks within the department as well as across the business. The main meeting is set for the following week, so I use the afternoon making sure that everything is up-to-date and ready for discussions that might happen.

Online working session with a group of users to determine what people find most important when learning about their car. We identified key problems in order to start to prototype some solutions for the next phase of development.

Since we just finished a large rollout to over 75 markets, I met with one of our stakeholders to review how our communication went and determine things we could do better for the next time. A mini retrospective.

Besides planning for the coming week I like to spend some time reviewing reports that I use regularly. They show a variety of usage stats as well as feedback and happiness. I also needed some additional information for our roadmap discussions, so I reached out to a few folks to gather that.

So that pretty much wraps up the week. ​Hopefully it’s helpful in describing a week in the life of a product manager. You are involved across the board in many discussions and on many initiatives. It is fun but can be stressful. Ultimately though it’s not important how many things you ship but to create more value for the company and your customers in the most efficient way.




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