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November 7, 2022

 mins to read

What Does a Head of Product Actually Do? A Week in the Life of Head of Product

Heads of Product. They are in the epicenter of digital product leadership, but they are also the most mysterious members of product teams. They are omnipresent. They are omniscient. They are omnipotent.

*David Attenborough Voice*

Heads of Product are difficult to see in their natural habitat because of their constant busyness and non-public nature, but today you have a rare chance to observe this professional during her work. 

We at Eleken UI/UX agency were lucky enough to talk with Tanya, a Head of Product from an AI-powered video meetings app called Whoosh. The company has recently become Eleken’s client, so we took the opportunity to walk our readers through Tanya’s weekly routine.

Meet Tanya, Head of Product at Whoosh
Meet Tanya, Head of Product at Whoosh

During our conversation with Tanya, we identified four main categories of tasks a Head of Product is responsible for:

  • Project management tasks
  • Strategic tasks
  • Product tasks
  • Operational tasks

Below, we will take a closer look at each category and block the time that Tanya spends on her tasks in Google Calendar. By the end of the article, you’ll have a visual understanding of what the Head of Product’s responsibilities are and how much effort they take.   

Project management tasks

Since a Head of Product is a leadership role, Tanya is often busy with setting tasks for her colleagues and tracking their results. In turn, she reports back to C-level executives — CEO and Chief Product Officer (CPO). Tanya keeps project management activities on track thanks to regular daily and weekly meetings.

Daily meetings

Our Head of Product has three short daily meetings that go one after another in the morning.

  • 9:30 — a daily call with a Business Analyst (BA) and Chief Product Officer (CPO).
  • 10:00 — a daily stand-up with two development streams.
  • 10:15  — a daily stand-up with two other development streams.
Daily meetings in Head of Product’s calendar
Daily meetings in Head of Product’s calendar

Weekly meetings with product team managers

Two Product Managers that are responsible for two development streams each work under Tanya’s direct supervision. Twice a week, Tanya has half-hour meetings with each Product Manager.

  • 11:00, 11:30, Monday — setting weekly tasks for Product Managers.
  • 11:00, 11:30, Thursday — PM’s weekly progress reports.

The Head of Product also has weekly meetings with product department leads:

  • 14:00, Monday — weekly meeting with Art-lead to discuss art content tasks.
  • 15:00, Tuesday — weekly meeting with marketing & sales departments.
  • 17:30, Friday — delivery meeting with a Delivery manager and Tech Lead to discuss the team’s productivity and velocity.
Weekly meetings with product team managers in Head of Product’s calendar
Weekly meetings with product team managers in Head of Product’s calendar

C-Suite weekly meetings

Twice a week, our Head of Product has meetings with her manager, Chief Product Officer.  

  • 13:00, Tuesday — Head of Product discusses with CPO her own tasks for a week. For instance, last week Tanya had to do research on Saas benchmarks on Unit economics. Before that, she examined a psychological problems of Zoom fatigue.
  • 13:00, Friday — based on the information the Head of Product got during the meetings with PMs, BA, Art and Design departments, she prepares a weekly report on the product team progress and issues to be solved.

On Fridays, there is a short meeting where PMs and Head of Product present their results, successes and failures:

  • 15:00, Friday — Growth meeting with CPO.
C-Suite weekly meetings in Head of Product’s calendar
C-Suite weekly meetings in Head of Product’s calendar

Monthly report

Once per month, the Head of Product writes a Management Discussion and Analysis report (MD&A). It includes: 

  • A summary on product development: what has been done during the month from the technical side, in terms of CusDev,  growth hacking, A/B testing, and others. 
  • Product metrics summary: how the KPIs changed when compared to the previous month. 
  • Competitor analysis on web and mobile. Via tools like Sensor Tower and Semrush Tanya checks how much the number of users is up or down in competitors’ apps.
  • Video conferencing news.

A monthly report is a lengthy document that takes around three days to write if you assign two hours per day to this task. We won’t block this time in the calendar because the week we are modeling opens a new month (and because we need some space for the following tasks).

Strategic tasks

When regular meetings are over, the Head of Product gets a chance to tackle her own cognitively demanding product tasks. To win some time for concentrated deep work, Tanya has declared Wednesday a no-meetings day.

She disconnects from operational tasks, turns off notifications and avoids communication with colleagues until a report or research is done. When Tanya is back after an hour or two, she receives a million messages, but such is the price of concentration.

Feature analysis 

As we have mentioned before, Tanya has recently researched a problem of Zoom fatigue. Let’s take this case as an example. 

At first, the Head of Product explored the issue in terms of psychology — why virtual platforms lead to tiredness and burnout, and how to avoid this. Tanya bundled all the information in one document and turned her insights into actionable recommendations for a product team about what they can do to solve the Zoom fatigue trouble in the Whoosh app.

All the work took Tanya about two weeks.

Strategic tasks in Head of Product’s calendar
Strategic tasks in Head of Product’s calendar

Competitor analysis & testing

One part of feature planning is competitor analysis that takes several hours to complete.

For instance, the Whoosh product team has recently worked on integrating private & group chats into video conferencing. Before they started, Tanya analyzed how this feature is implemented by around 15 of competitors, made screenshots, put them in Figma pointing out good and poor choices. Then she concluded how the feature should be realized in Whoosh. 

Several times a month, Tanya has a call dedicated to competitor testing. She meets with a QA team to see some competitor features in action. They record the testing so that it can be analyzed further.

Competitor analysis & testing in Head of Product’s calendar
Competitor analysis & testing in Head of Product’s calendar

Product tasks

Obviously, the bulk of the Head of Product’s tasks falls into the category of product design and development. Let’s get started with a roadmap.

Roadmap update

At the end of each month, it takes Tanya a couple of days to check what has been done, schedule and prioritize features. If anything of the plan is pending, it moves to the next month. Tanya presents the updated roadmap during the C-level meeting with the Tech Lead, Delivery Manager, СТО, СРО, and CEO.

Roadmap update in Head of Product’s calendar
Roadmap update in Head of Product’s calendar

Sprint planning & grooming

Whoosh tech team works in two-week sprints that need to be planned and tracked. That’s why the team meets biweekly to discuss what they are going to do during the upcoming sprint. 

  • 16:00, Wednesday — sprint planning call for the tech team.

A sprint planning session demands from the Head of Product significant preparation. So, earlier this day Tanya takes a time span to think of the list of tasks to be done during the sprint, determine the release version and assign tasks to team members. To decide on this, you need to check everyone’s workload…

You got it, planning before sprint planning requires a few hours of concentration during a no-meeting Wednesday.

  • 12:30, Wednesday — Head of Product’s planning before the sprint planning call.

Another biweekly sprint activity is retrospective (“retro” for short). Before this meeting, all team members fill in an anonymous table where they indicate pros and cons of the previous sprint. On the call, the Head of Product with the tech team resolves arising problems and discusses positive moments.

  • 15:00, Wednesday — sprint retro call.

In the middle of the sprints, the Whoosh tech team has meetings called to keep tasks clear, organized and ready to be worked on. That’s called feature grooming

A grooming meeting brings together only a narrow circle of people who work on a particular feature. For instance, a recent call dedicated to a Google Calendar integration was attended by a backend developer, Flutter developer, Tech Lead and Head of Product. They looked at the task description, added necessary subtasks and requested UI/UX design refinements in cases something was missing.

  • 14:30, Thursday — feature grooming call.

A logical continuation of feature grooming is a feature demo. It’s a meeting where a team that works on a big feature shows the rest of the team intermediate results. 

  • 17:00, Wednesday — feature demo call.
 Sprint planning & grooming in Head of Product’s calendar

Design planning & grooming

Just like a tech team, product designers also require some task planning and prioritization that happens during a dedicated one-hour call. Before the call, Tanya takes some time to think of the tasks she needs to assign to each design team member for the next week.

  • 14:00, Thursday — planning before design planning
  • 15:30, Thursday — design planning call itself

On Wednesdays, the Head of Product has design grooming sessions. It’s a meeting with a design team where they have an opportunity to show how their work is going, ask questions and share the results. After, the results get verified on weekly usability testing sessions.

  • 15:00, Tuesday — design grooming.
  • 17:00, Tuesday — UX user testing + CustDev research.
Design planning & grooming in Head of Product’s calendar
Design planning & grooming in Head of Product’s calendar

Operational tasks

Besides product tasks that move the company forward and happen according to a roadmap, there are also operational tasks. 

Operational tasks planning

Operational tasks are the issues that occur without warning and drag the product back until they are fixed. Such issues appear all the time, and the Head of Product needs to devote about an hour per day to plan some specific steps to the solution, create tasks and assign people. 

For instance, operational planning sometimes happens along with daily calls. This way, Tanya starts solving problems as soon as they are discovered.

Operational tasks planning in Head of Product’s calendar
Operational tasks in Head of Product’s calendar

Random calls

Random calls are unscheduled short hurdles in Slack, needed to clarify a confusing point. Tanya has a huge team of around 30 people, so she has from three to six clarifying calls per day. Sometimes there are even more requests than she can handle.

For instance, on the day when we talked to Tanya, she already had three calls:

  • A clarifying call with a designer;
  • A quick call with a developer to discuss his A/B testing question;
  • A quick call with a QA who also had a question on testing.

Random calls in Head of Product’s calendar
Random calls in Head of Product’s calendar

Let's call it a week

Now, when you are overwhelmed after just reading the list of tasks that Tatiana performs for the week, she wishes everyone a great weekend and closes her laptop. She needs a good rest because in two days she’ll be back to serving the customers' problems, building a great product to ease their lives and dealing with operational chaos.

It took Tanya four years to come from non-technical education and no product experience to a Head of Product leading a team of 30 people. In our upcoming interview, you will be able to read more about Tanya’s career path and Head of Product’s tips & tricks. So stay tuned!

Dana Yatsenko

Author

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