A Product Manager’s Daily Life
I often get asked what a typical day looks like for a Product Manager at Mighty Bear Games. That can be a tricky question, as different studios have different definitions for the role.
“What does a PM do, anyway?” “What’s the difference between a product manager and a producer?” “Why do you have a Product Manager AND a Project Manager?”
At Mighty Bear Games, a Product Manager is defined as the person in charge of articulating and driving the game’s vision. The Product Manager is also tasked with translating said vision into requirements and tasks, and then communicate them to the team and oversee development. In other studios, this particular role could be called by many different names — Producer, Lead Producer, Product Owner, Executive Producer, Lead Planner.
For a product manager, objectives and tasks vary depending on the stage of the development lifecycle. There is a wide range of responsibilities and functions, but I’d like to share with you what a typical day looks like for me in the studio right now.
8:00am — Rise and Shine
Most of the team has been working remotely since March. I’ve found myself having much more time in the morning to myself now that I don’t have to commute to work, so I’m able to be a bit more mindful in the mornings. Working from the comfort of your own home has its advantages, but it can be challenging to stay productive and focused throughout the day. I’ve found it really helpful to start the day with a regular routine and some breakfast. I also continue to take early morning showers and change into a fresh set of clothes to get out of “relax” mode and transition to “time to work”. This is also usually the time where I prep my coffee and listen to some podcasts.
I typically start the day catching up with emails. We work with many partners across multiple timezones, so I often get emails throughout the night. It’s usually easier to draft better responses and stay focused on clearing emails when you’re undisturbed early in the day. I often use this time to also catch up on any team communication that I might’ve missed on Slack.
9:20am — Jira and GTD check
Our team uses Jira to track tasks and bugs during development, so I often do a quick check on the progress of remaining tasks in the sprint on Jira, and also to review high priority items that need to be addressed for the day.
I also quickly go through my GTD list on Trello (Simon, our CEO, wrote an excellent guide on how to set up a Getting Things Done list). Attention to detail is one of the most essential traits of a being a good product manager, so keeping the list well maintained and making sure nothing is being missed is crucial.
9:45am — Hiring Sync
Hiring is one of the biggest priorities for the studio at the moment, so every morning, I have a quick catch up with the other leads and founders to discuss any updates related to potential candidates and interviews.
On that note, we’re hiring! 🙂
10:00am — Team Standups
The team starts the day proper with the daily standup. Every studio does standups a little bit differently, but at Mighty Bear, we actually run multiple standups in the morning. We have different standups for different projects and teams, but we also have a studio-wide standup at the start of the day where the leads and founders can give company-wide updates and announcements. How we structure our standups can be a whole other medium article by itself.
10:30am — GTD Check
After the flurry of standup meetings at the start of the day, I quickly go through my GTD list again and catch up with any team members who I might need to check in with. I also often browse through our community and Discord channels to get a pulse on how the game’s community is doing.
11:00am — Design Review
During a design review, I meet with the design team and review a feature or system that’s due to be implemented in a future update. Typically, the designer who worked on the feature will go through the crucial points of the design, and the team raises any questions and concerns we might have. We dissect the documentation to make sure that we cover all the bases and that we have a solid first pass at the design.
Designs frequently change during development, so this is also a chance for the team to align on the changes. This step is often repeated with different team members and stakeholders until the designs have been finalised and approved.
12:00 — Lunch!
It’s vital to block time out in the day for lunch, as this can often be easily overlooked and meals might get skipped. I try to take a short screen break for lunch and sometimes go for a short walk outside, but sometimes I eat while finishing up some of my other tasks.
1:30pm — Jira cleanup
After lunch, I often do a quick check-in on Jira again to update or comment on cards or tasks that are being worked on. Often, team members might get blocked or need feedback on a particular item that they are working on, and keeping the board as up-to-date as possible helps with that. At Mighty Bear Games, we also have a Project Manager attached to every game project, to help assist with this. The Project Manager’s role is to make sure that the team delivers the game on schedule, maintain the Jira Board and ensure that team members are focused on tackling the right milestone objectives.
2:00pm — Team Playtest
Twice a week, the team gets together for at least half an hour to playtest the game. We feel that the team must play our game regularly. Having frequent playtest sessions helps the team give rapid feedback on new features and improvements, and also makes sure that we find and tackle bugs found often. Scheduling time during the week for the team makes sure that everyone gets a chance (and no excuse) to not play the game often.
This can also be a good indicator of whether or not a prototype or a game is actually fun. A good gauge of whether or not a concept is successful is when the team looks forward to these playtests and don’t find it a chore or routine.
2:30pm — Sprint Planning and Retrospectives
Every week, the team sits down to review the work that’s been done during the past week. We also start to plan the work that’s to be tackled for the week ahead. Typically, a day or two before sprint planning. I sit down with some colleagues to prioritise our backlog of tasks, and to make sure that everyone is aligned on what the focus is for the coming week, even before the sprint planning meeting. This is important as everyone should have come into sprint planning already prepared, and have some idea of what the goal for the following week will be.
We also spend some time reviewing and going through any process improvements during sprint or milestone retrospectives. This allows us to continuously refine our processes, and it gives the team a formal way to bring up concerns or thoughts about how we can be more efficient at our work and improve quality in general.
3pm — Documentation/Roadmap Planning
Often throughout the week, I sit down to document and plan the feature roadmap for the game. I consolidate feedback from our players, team, and stakeholders and turn them into action points and features. I also will take a look at the backlog of tasks and decide on which features to prioritise working on first.
All stakeholders and leads review the roadmap regularly, and this is shared with the team frequently so that everyone understands what the upcoming objectives are.
4pm — Screening call/Interview
As mentioned earlier, Hiring is a critical pillar of growth at Mighty Bear Games. Before screening calls or interviews, I often spend some time to prepare for the interview by going through the candidate’s resume, and also to do a bit of research on their past work.
I often take plenty of notes during the call and make sure that they are well documented. Due to our regular hiring syncs, we typically don’t take more than a couple of days to respond to candidates.
5pm — Metrics and Data
Every day, I do a quick scan on the performance of our games and take a look at some key performance indicators. I take a look at metrics like downloads, retention, engagement, crashes to see if there are any takeaways or action points that need to be addressed. I also take a look at player analytics to see if we can derive any action points or problem areas within the game.
6pm — End of Day Syncs
At the end of the day, I have a quick sync with the product team, which includes designers, QA, and the project manager. This end of the day sync allows us to reflect on the work done for that day and is also an excellent way to make sure that nothing is left out that needs to be addressed urgently. It also allows us to decompress and plan out what we want to achieve for tomorrow.
There are, of course, plenty of other tasks that a Product Manager is responsible for, including running 1 to 1 catch up meetings with my reports, handling specs or pitch decks, talking to players and company strategic planning. At times, I’ve even had to represent the company and do podcasts or interviews, and host a live stream where we play the game together with our players.
There’s a lot that a product manager has to do on a day-to-day basis. Most successful PMs are excellent communicators and decision-makers. They are also great at being able to apply their analytical skills to turn questions into actionable improvements for both the game and the studio.
Hopefully, this has shed some light on what a typical product manager’s roles and responsibilities are in a mobile games studio.
A Product Manager’s Daily Life was originally published in Mighty Bear Games on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.