Remote Onboarding as a PM

Melissa Chenok
4 min readOct 11, 2021

Its been a few months (….8) since my last Medium post. I’ve been in the process of transitioning organizations and am lucky enough to now be on the product team at Lattice, a company that I’ve dreamed about joining for the past 3 years. I love the people that I am working with and products that I’m working on.

The engineering manager (and an exceptional leader and person) on one of the teams that I am part of has motivated me to, in addition to a number of other skill building activities, get back into sharing my thoughts and experiences. With that, the item top of mind for me over the past few weeks has been my experience onboarding remotely. I’m excited to share some (hopefully) helpful tips based on my time over the past month and a half at Lattice.

Everyone that I talked to over the past year and a half who transitioned jobs told me that it was really tough to do remotely. I brushed most of this off because I was primarily remote in my first job and have been remote for the last year and a half during the pandemic. It shouldn’t be that much different, right?

Lattice has an incredible onboarding process for both in person and remote onboarding. Even still, not being able to have quick conversations in the office kitchen or look over the designers shoulder (when invited!) is tough, especially in a new environment. Here are some of the tactics (in no order) that I found helpful over the past month and a half. Would love to hear any additional things that have been successful for you!

  • Spend a full week (seriously) up front reading through the help center, operating procedures, team manuals, playing around with any new softwares, and learning the ins and outs of the products. At least from my past onboarding experiences, I’ve found that if I don’t make time to do this up front, I won’t end up doing it. When you don’t get the chance to really dive in, you can miss out on key information that will end up paying dividends down the line.
  • Get to know people in concentric circles. If you spend the entire first month getting to know everyone you can at an organization, you won’t have time to add up front value. I got to know my core team and the other product managers in the first two weeks, and have subsequently moved slowly outward in concentric circles to meet other key stakeholders (engineering, design, customer success). This lets you understand the organization and begin to build relationships while also saving important focus time during the day.
  • Understand the long term vision, team mission, strategy, annual OKRs, and business metrics. Making decisions about what you should prioritize in your work and time and also in feature prioritization is much more effective when thinking about the higher level organizational strategy.
  • Imposter syndrome is real. My colleague recommended doing a quick end of day reflection on “what I did today, what went well, what could have gone better, and whether I had feedback for anyone”. I’ve only been doing this exercise for a week but it is already helping with some of my fears around not onboarding “quickly enough”.
  • Get quick wins to deliver value. How can you help one of your teammates, how can you improve a process, how can you take work off of someone’s plate, how can you deliver small amounts of end user value?
  • Find more than one onboarding buddy or person who you can go to to ask silly questions like what does company acronym XYZ stand for and what is the role of that guy talking in the All Hands.
  • Create your own (if it’s not made for you) 30–60–90 day plan that you both hold loosely but also refer back to weekly. Outside of the plan, set a few goals for yourself that you know you can hit and point back to.
  • Send weekly updates to your manager about what you have worked on over the past week and core goals for the upcoming week. This gives you something to reference during reviews and also gives your manager the opportunity to make sure that you are prioritizing the work that you both think is most valuable.
  • Start video calls that are not scheduled with folks for 5 minutes to chat or ask questions as you would if you were in an office. A colleague did this with me and initially I thought “ugh another video call” but these 5–10 minutes ultimately helped me to feel more connected to them and to the organization.
  • Learn about why processes are set the way that they are before making recommendations to enhance/change them. Don’t be stuck in your process or previous way of doing things just because it is familiar.
  • Ask questions but first leverage documentation that has already been created. Spend 1 minute doing a keyword search in slack/teams and in your orgs documentation repository so that you aren’t asking questions that are easily discoverable.
  • When you’ve been at an organization for 1+ years and know how most things work, you can (I could) end up working for 15 hour days and not feel burnt out because much of it was mindless work. I tried to do that a few days in my first few weeks and started to feel burnt out. I realized that I was drinking out of a firehose for 15 hours a day is much more challenging than sipping water throughout the day for 15 hours a day. Don’t burn out before you’ve even started!

Would love to hear any additional things that have been successful for you!