TL;DR: 3 strategies on the Unique Ramp to a 10-Person Product Org: 1) interview for and document product principles, 2) hire specialists to complement PM generalists, 3) introduce and elevate executive summaries
We hear a lot of talk about the first employee at a startup or on a team. Nikita Dyer Miller has made a specialty of being the fourth product manager.
It may not sound glamorous, but that’s a uniquely challenging — and impactful — space to occupy. She’s found that for a product team, the boom from a couple of PMs to 10 or more is a make-or-break moment. It marks a greater shift and line in the sand: the threshold between early stage and growth stage, old guard and new guard, original and restructured team. It’s a subtle shift in a company’s evolution that can feel dramatic in retrospect. Miller has spent her career in that transition, joining three successful companies as their fourth (and once third) PM.
At startups including Knewton and Pixable — and now as a product lead for Trello (acquired by Atlassian) — Miller has seen teams nearly triple in size in under two years. She knows what it takes to ride that wave and stay calm amid change and uncertainty. In fact, it’s all she’s ever known.
In this exclusive interview, Miller shares her well-honed insights into successfully leading a product team through that unique transition, from scrappy early-stage startup to a company with processes that can scale. She shares the three strategies product leaders must implement to successfully bridge that gap and come out thriving. And she offers advice for both grounding and getting the most out of a rapidly maturing team.