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Product

We use product management best practices to help teams deliver sustainable outcomes.

We have a wide range of skills, including:

  • Leadership. We are experience leaders who are comfortable helping our teammates navigate ambiguity and uncertainty. We empower our teammates, and know when to step back and let someone else take the helm.
  • Vision setting. We help people reconcile program goals, user needs, and technical constraints into a coherent and actionable vision for the future. We ensure that we are delivering the right product to the right people.
  • Product strategy and roadmapping. We help people go from a high level vision to a concrete, but also flexible, plan of action.
  • Execution. We lead teams through the software development process, ensuring that everyone stays aligned as we build.
  • Mentoring and coaching. We help our partners build the skills to take complete ownership of their products, so that they aren’t dependent on us in the long run.
  • Relationship Management: We provide a clear point of accountability and ownership for project delivery and client relationships. We ensure projects are delivered within budget and according to the terms of the agreement, build trust-filled relationships with our partners, and spread 18F’s culture.

Documentation

Communication

Find us on Slack:


Joining the Product team

Welcome to the 18F Product team — we’re happy you’re here! We’ve compiled a set of helpful tips to get you started.

First week

You probably won’t be assigned to a project in your first week or two. That’s okay and expected. There are some general government onboarding tasks that you will have to do, which the onboarding lead from Talent will guide you through. We also have some internal reading to help you get up to speed with TTS, 18F, and the product team. You should also take this time to get to know your teammates, by scheduling 1:1 video calls (known as “virtual tea”) with people.

If you’ve completed your onboarding checklist and still don’t have an assigned project, you may be able to shadow a product manager on a current project or work on an internal project. Talk to your supervisor to get more information about how you can get involved with pairing or an internal project.

Who we are

The 18F Product team consists of experienced product managers. We come from a variety of backgrounds, including government, non-profits, consultancies, and corporations.

Structure

As per the org chart, the product chapter consists of three subteams. Each subteam is led by a supervisor, and you will be assigned to a subteam during your first week. Supervisors work part-time on projects, and provide a first level of managerial support for the product chapter. Your supervisor is your first point of contact for support, project advice, and career discussions. They also support the chapter director with staffing, hiring, training, and cross-chapter initiatives. Supervisors are selected through a nomination and review process that is open to anyone in the chapter.

Members of the product team are also assigned to facilitation groups. These groups meet regularly to discuss work in progress, share learnings across projects, and collaborate on chapter level initiatives. Facilitation groups are aligned with supervisory groups; all PMs in a facilitation group share the same supervisor. Facilitation groups can also include people outside of the 18F Product chapter who want to participate in 18F’s product community.

What we do

Product managers at 18F have four primary objectives:

  • We do product well. We are skilled product managers who deliver the right outcomes to the right people in the right ways.
  • We uphold 18F’s values. We help our teams follow best practices like iterative development, user-centered design, continuous delivery, inclusive design, and working in the open. We also ensure that both our work environment and our products are inclusive and compassionate.
  • We help our partners do product by themselves. A product that dies when we walk away is a failed product. We make sure that our partners are able to successfully run their products long after we’re done collaborating.
  • We turn our skills inwards, to uplift 18F and TTS. We use our leadership, strategic sensibilities, and project management skills to improve our own organization. This doesn’t necessarily mean starting new initiatives; often we are most impactful when we help our teammates carry internal projects across the finish line.

How we work

Rituals

Most of the product team works on a mix of partner projects and internal initiatives, so everyone’s weeks look a little different. However, we make time to get together regularly.

  • Wednesdays: Every other week the product team meets for an hour starting at 10:30am PT / 1:30pm ET. The product leadership team shares reminders, announcements, and internal project updates. Members of the product team also take turns presenting things they’ve learned or facilitating conversations with the broader group. On alternating weeks we shorten the large group meeting and break out into facilitation groups for the second half of the product team meeting.
  • Bi-weekly: Meet with your supervisor. Bi-weekly, you’ll have a 1:1 meeting with your supervisor at a time that works well for both of you. This meeting is both administrative and personal. It’s one of the main ways that the chapter leadership team tracks ongoing projects. It’s also a time for you to work through any project concerns, figure out how to wrangle the federal bureaucracy, and talk about how to make 18F work better for you.
  • At least once a month: Meet with the chapter director. You’ll have regular skip-level 1:1s with the director of product. This is an opportunity for you to talk about chapter initiatives and organizational events. It’s also space for you to discuss opportunities and share your opinions.

Communication channels

The product chapter communicates primarily in Slack. 18f-product@gsa.gov is a low traffic Google group for all members of the product chapter. The chapter director will add you to this list —- no need to worry about registering.

Tools

The TTS handbook lists the tools we use the most. If you can’t find what you need, reach out in the #product or talk to your supervisor.

And one more thing: before you start using any new tool that asks for access to files/browser data, see the Software page and assure the tool is approved. If what you want to use isn’t there or not approved, you’ll need to ask #infrastructure first.

Here are a few particularly useful essentials:

  • GitHub: We use GitHub for source code management, version control, and project management. If you’re not familiar with GitHub, let your supervisor know and they’ll help you get up to speed.
  • Google Docs, Drive, and Slides: We often need to collaborate on documents and slide decks, and we do that through Google’s productivity apps.
  • 18F templates: You can get our document and slide templates through 18F’s Visual Identity Guide. Please don’t make major changes to the base templates; start a conversation in #18f-branding instead!
  • Mural: We use Mural as a collaborative whiteboard and sticky note tool. It’s a particularly useful tool for brainstorming with distributed teams.

Suggested reading

Questions?