Championing Product with a 6 Week Onboarding Program

Adrienne Tan

An Interview with Phil Koziol, Product Manager at Good Pair Days

What is the longest onboarding process you have experienced when starting a new role? A few days or maybe a week?

More often than not, a Product Manager starts a new role and is immediately bombarded with tasks and responsibilities. And though most Product Managers are qualified and ready to take on that challenge, lacking proper knowledge of a business’s goals, processes and customers rarely leads to success.

The executive team at Good Pair Days identified this problem in the onboarding process of companies they had been a part of in the past and decided to create a six-week onboarding program for all new team members.

Good Pair Days offer new Product Managers six weeks to learn about the company which is essential for achieving success in their new role. No distractions, no items to mark off a to-do list; your full day is dedicated to immersing yourself in the company, its people, and its customers.

Of course, we were intrigued to learn more so we sat down with one of the Good Pair Days Product Managers, Phil Koziol. Phil had recently gone through the company’s lengthy onboarding after joining the team three months ago and was more than happy to share what he described as a “true commitment to the onboarding experience.”

First, can you tell me about the customer problem Good Pair Days is solving?

“Good Pair Days is a wine retailer. It’s a subscription service that delivers wines tailored to your palate. At the individual customer level, the platform learns about what your tastes are through a quiz. It learns whether you like a lot of butter on your toast or just a little, or if you love vanilla ice cream or fruit more, and it maps this all back to wine characteristics.

A lot of people love to drink wine, but they hate to buy wine. People go to the bottle shop and look at a wall of wine and pick a wine based on the prettiest label or the right price point because they don’t know anything else. Good Pair Days completely solve for that mystifying buying process.”

And what is the Product culture like at Good Pair Days?

It’s really been very refreshing. The founders have a real passion for Product Management. Our CEO has a background in investment banking and he oversaw many different investments in his early career. He saw the difference between companies that do product right, and the ones that don’t. He educated himself heavily in the world of Marty Cagan, and all the other fantastic examples of how to do product well.

I work as the Product Manager across the experience team, which is everything from the point of subscription through to the point when somebody leaves. We are really customer focused. It’s just all about solving that problem and making sure that people are having an amazing experience with wine.

Good Pair Days has a really in-depth onboarding process for new team members. Can you tell me about that?

As I mentioned, the CEO, Tom Mellencamp, has a passion for product. For the onboarding strategy, he believed that a product manager needs to come on board and learn the business deeply. They need to understand a range of different aspects of how the business has got to where it is today.

So, as a new Product Manager, I came on board and I was given about six weeks to immerse myself in the business. Tom was running the team that I now lead and for six weeks I was able to sit on the sidelines and observe.

I got to know the team. I was having one on ones with everyone and able to learn things like, what’s the number one thing that you think that we should solve next? What’s your biggest challenge? All of those key critical questions. I was able to stay in a really curious state, for the longest time. I hadn’t ever had that experience in the past at a new role and it was such a game-changer.

I didn’t have that stress of having to immediately demonstrate my value. I was also able to meet all the different stakeholders and heads of departments across the business. It was the standard introduction plus I had the opportunity to ask them lots of questions. And that was excellent.

Then there was a more specific Product Manager onboarding that Tom created an entire board for, which involved actual tasks. For example, I had to organise and conduct 15 customer interviews. I got to know who our target customer is and gained so many insights that really helped me as a Product Manager down the track. Another was to read the books Inspired and Empowered by Marty Cagan. Tom read both himself and felt stronger in Product Management and Product Leadership as a result so he wanted me to experience that as well. I got to incorporate reading as part of my workday which was great.

Then there were the basics; understanding the attribution model, going through the marketing reporting model, looking at KPI analysis, financial models and so on. If I had questions, I could come back to Tom or the team and they would confirm or point me in the right direction.

How great. And how did your onboarding process set you up for success in your product role?

“Being able to take that time to really understand the problem space and to connect with customers. Not just one or two customer interviews, it was two a day for a few weeks. It really set me up with a deep understanding of some of the limitations of the business. Some of the constraints. How to validate risk effectively and how to assess risk.

I was able to look through a lot of the existing ideas and a lot of the aspirations of the business that predated my journey. This allowed me to then tie that to the vision and strategy. I found in the past, I had to create this myself but this was more simply joining the dots. It’s meant that I’ve been much more confident to take the reins and hold that accountability.

I had that space to immerse myself in the learning and the curiosity rather than the doing. So it’s been a lot more effective.”

Had you ever experienced any onboarding process like this in the past?

”No, it’s almost normally you start the job, and they’ve got you working before you’ve walked through the front door. You’re given accountability almost immediately as a Product Manager and it’s now on your shoulders to make the right decision. But your chance of success is so low because you’re missing so much backstory, insight, empathy, stakeholder connections, and customer-centricity. It becomes a rapid struggle to get things moving whilst trying to learn everything. Whereas with Good Pair Days, the six weeks upfront process was a commitment to learning. After that, I then hit the ground running and I actually took accountability for the team. The team built their trust in me as well.”

Good Pair Days’ extensive onboarding process is Product practice done right. Phil’s immersive onboarding experience, specifically catered to Product Management, resulted in Phil being armed with the knowledge he needed to deliver success. Throughout our hour-long chat, Phil continually expressed how much value he found in the six-week program and believed it to be a huge contributor to the continued success at Good Pair Days.

Looking for help introducing a pragmatic, no-nonsense Product-Led Transformation Program? Learn how Brainmates can help.

Adrienne Tan

Adrienne Tan | Author

Adrienne is Co-Founder and CEO of Brainmates and Co-Founder of Leading the Product. She has been championing Product Management since 2000, earning international recognition for raising the profile of the Product Management profession. In this capacity she regularly consults to the Asia-Pacific's top businesses and speaks at business and Product events around the world.

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