The First 90 Days

About six months ago, I decided it was time for a change so I went ahead and looked for a new job. After interviewing at a few places and getting a few offers, I chose the one I liked best and joined the team.
I wanted to be better at owning my career, so I started looking for resources to learn from before my start date. That’s when I found “The First 90 Days,” among others - I’ll review other resources later.

The title of “The First 90 Days” really says it all - this book delivers! It’s guaranteed to help you out during the challenging days of settling into a new role. So, if you’re struggling and need advice on strategies for success during that crucial first trimester, then get your hands on this book! It’ll take care of you.

Imagine you’ve joined a new company in a leadership position - whether it be technical, people or strategic - What’s your plan? What are you going to do? One might say, “Can’t you rely on your experience to do that?” or even make a cynical remark like, “Isn’t that why you were hired for?”.

The key to answering both responses is understanding that every situation is different.
Every organization, team, or product that you are joining to lead is vastly different from the one you led before.

One of the most common and fatal mistakes made by newly joined leaders, Watkins says, is acting on their urge to make a change to establish their presence right away. In doing so, they lean on their “experience” and come in with the answer without taking time to learn and properly understand the situation, resulting in inefficient strategies, alienation of key people and allies, and irreparable damage to the leader’s credibility.

Early on in the book, Watkins sets down the foundational mental model to assess your portfolio: S.T.A.R.S

  1. Startups, where you can build everything from scratch
  2. Turnarounds, where you need to save a dying business, product or team
  3. Accelerated Growth, when you are expanding a smaller business, like IPOs
  4. Realignment, where you need to adjust course and make sure your organization, product, or team is on the right path, and finally,
  5. Sustaining Success, when you need to keep what’s working and maintain the current status

I was very excited at this point as my brain was racing through my memories, finding interesting matches. The author doesn’t stop there though. For each of the five situations mentioned above, he lays down a complete map - You’ll learn how to make sure your diagnosis is correct, what steps you need to take and what risks were involved in each situation. It’s astonishing how Watkins puts all the missing pieces of this puzzle together so wonderfully!

It doesn’t matter if you’re joining as a VP, a staff engineer, or a product manager; we all need to understand our STARS portfolio.

The First 90 Days is the map I always wanted - and needed, but never had. It’s like Waze or Google Maps for your career. Not only does it help you navigate the new waters with clear and actionable plans, but it also helps you prevent making those easy-to-avoid yet deadly mistakes.

Should you read it?

I’d say Yes if you:

  • Want to take control of your career
  • Are joining a new company, taking the lead on a new team, or product
  • Want to understand the unspoken organizational dynamics

If any one the above applies to you, then give this book a shot.
You’ll be amazed by the insights and the transformation it brings.
Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

10 out of 10