Jeffrey Inscho

February 18, 2022

One Week Out: Some Thoughts Approaching Day One at a New Job

I can count on one hand the number of new jobs I've started in my adult career. Four, to be exact, since entering the post-grad workforce in 2006. It's important to me to build lasting professional relationships and work on complex problems, so I tend to stay with employers for a long time. For better or for worse that's how I roll.

In a previous note, I mentioned I will be joining product management team at REI at the end of the month. Since giving my notice at Giant Eagle, I've been visualizing the first few days and weeks at REI. The excitement around taking on this role is certainly there for me, but so are the nervous butterflies. Will I fit within the team dynamics? Will I be able to provide value out of the gate? Will my technical chops be adequate? Will my product chops live up to expectations?

In an attempt to make the early days a success for all involved, I'm going in with a few key tenants I hope will guide me as I figure out the lay of the land and help me as I dive deep into the work.

Become a sponge. The role I'm taking is equal parts technical and strategic. It will require me to absorb as much information as possible from the start. I will soak it all up. I will acknowledge that I don't know what I don't know. I will seek out as much context, documentation or background that I can find related to my areas of work. I will listen more than I will speak. And I will take time each day to structure my thoughts, highlighting key questions or areas in which I need deeper understanding.

Foster key relationships. I've worked in several large organizations throughout my career and I've learned that cross-functional relationships are the backbone to delivering successful products in matrixed orgs. I presume that REI will be no different, however the COVID-era remote work angle will present an interesting challenge for me. Casual coffee-talk just doesn't happen these days. Everything is a pre-scheduled video call. With that in mind, I will explore ways to grow strong relationships with my new peers both within the context of Zoom and apart from it.

Embody the values. REI is a values-based organization. That's a main driver for my move because it's important that I believe in the work I'm doing each day. I need to feel good about the things I'm putting out into the world. It was very evident throughout the interview process that everyone on the team believes in the co-op's mission and honors the co-op's core values. To this end I will always start from a place of respect and empathy with my colleagues. I will work to elevate and center marginalized voices through my work. I will do all of this to help make the outdoors accessible for all.

Learn out in the open. This will be a great learning opportunity for me and I will work to share my experience with those who might find it valuable. I've learned so much from #prodmgmt Twitter and practitioner blog posts over the years. If I can pay something forward for the product management community, I will surely do that. While learning transparently out in the open exposes my vulnerabilities, it also forces me to think deeply about the ideas I share. The benefits of that deep thinking greatly outweigh the risks in my mind.

So, one week out from my first new job in 5 years, this is where my head is. If you've changed jobs recently, I'd love to hear about some tips or techniques you've employed to make your first days as productive as possible.

-- J