The Commons Weekly Digest
Welcome to our Weekly Digest. Think of it like a TL;DR of the massive group chat that happens in The Commons community every day.
In this week's issue:
- Meet Thaigo! One of the Product Sprint mentors at The Commons who dives into his personal journey in product, how to be a contributor at an early stage company and his advice for those looking to break into the role 💡
- Events & Sprints at The Commons (last call for the Product Sprint!)
- Your Weekly Level Up
- ✏️ Practice Interview Question: Why do you want to join [X company]?
- ✅ Community Reccos: Chrome shortcuts
- 💭 Thought Starter: IRL meetups?!
- 💡 Brain Teaser
- 🚀 Resources: Cold outreach template & a creative subject-line
An inside look with Thiago, Product Lead at Planned and Product Sprint mentor at The Commons, on career paths in product, how to be a contributor at an early stage company and how to break into your first product role
Quite often, someone in The Commons community is tapping on Thiago's shoulder for advice on how to pivot into Product. Not only is he generous with his time, but he's candid, thoughtful and has built a breadth of experience through four different product roles across four different companies.
Since we thought you could benefit from his wisdom, we sat down with Thiago for a discussion on all things product.
Here are the sneak peeks ⬇️ Stay tuned for the full mentor spotlight here later this week.
Hey Thiago! What's your current role & location?
📍Product Lead at Planned, a corporate event planning software company based out of Montreal, where I oversee product and growth.
What is your Product Management origin story? How did you first break into product?
I'm originally from Brazil and when I was younger I moved around a lot, living in India, Portugal, Venezuela, and then back to Brazil. Through these experiences I started to realize that technology brings the world together and there’s just so much you can do with tech. So I started teaching myself how to code and how to build very basic applications. I ended up building an app that sends alerts in real time, based on your location, to help avoid areas of danger in Rio. The goal here was just to make sure that if you were at the wrong place at the wrong time, you’d get notified so you could get away from there as fast as you could. We had over a million downloads for a product that could help keep people safe - that's when I realized that I loved product. I learned that I like building products and solving real user problems.
After that I went off to school and since my parents wanted me to get a “real job” I eventually landed a role at a bank. But, I'd always wanted to join a startup. It was what I cared about the most because that's where I was able to see the highest impact I could have. My ultimate goal is to have the largest venture fund in South America. In order to achieve that, I need to be able to learn how to build teams and products at different stages. So after a year, when my parents moved to Asia, I decided to join an early stage startup in Montreal called Unito, as a Product Specialist.
You’ve held product positions at companies of all stages - what was your experience like at an early stage company?
At Unito, I was one of the early employees at the time. It was really cool because I joined as a Product Specialist and I was talking to users all the time, understanding their pain points, and giving their feedback to engineering. Through this I learned about the importance of both qualitative and quantitative data, and how important it is to look at a problem from both angles in order to create great products.
I was also always optimizing for revenue because at an early stage company, it was crucial to achieve our revenue goals in order to be able to raise our next round, and keep the business running.
From your experience, what are some of the things product people can do to add value at early stage companies?
One of the things you can do to add the most value to early stage companies is learning about your user and knowing them better than anyone else. Another important thing that people underestimate is to do things that don't scale. Lastly, you need to be able to communicate very clearly and precisely.
As a product manager, you have access to so much information, and you need to decide what is relevant and what isn’t, and how to communicate it. If you're talking to stakeholders across different departments, you want to make sure that people leave the meeting bought into your vision and knowing exactly what they need to do.
On the other hand, what are some common pitfalls to avoid?
Solving for “vitamins” rather than “painkillers”. “Vitamins” are nice-to-have features, but what you really need to identify are the “painkillers”, i.e. the most important problems that will make a difference for your users.
Another one is not killing ideas that don't work fast enough. Don’t get too attached to one idea if it isn’t getting the traction necessary.
And one more pitfall is building something very, very well but you're not able to bring it to market effectively and people don't know how to use it. I see this happen quite often when people don't think about the go-to-market execution and experiment properly. Go-to-market has become increasingly difficult, given that there are so many channels to acquire users and so many ways to let people know what you're building. Rather than striving for perfection, a good approach is to launch something scrappy, learn from your users, get feedback and iterate.
How did your experience in banking set you up for success in tech?
You learn so much in your early career roles, and I’ll add that much of this isn’t just exclusive to banking. You learn how to execute. You learn how to work under pressure. You learn how to estimate your work and commit to things you can actually accomplish. People often over-commit to things that they want to deliver, but that can be very difficult to manage when you are working with tight deadlines, like you do in banking. Timeboxing at work in order to be able to get things done is perhaps one of the most important work skills that you can develop from consulting, banking, or honestly, any other job.
Another important skill to develop is how well you can listen, how well you understand what people are trying to tell you. Have you gathered clear enough action items so that you can deliver your best work?
How can someone leverage The Commons to land a role in product?
Product can be very vague, and there's never a concrete answer to probems you’re trying to solve. By joining The Commons, especially through the Product Sprint, you're going to be given real case scenarios of what the day-to-day could look like for a Product Manager and it’s going to help you develop the ability to tackle ambiguous problems and break them down into modular pieces.
We - the Product mentors at The Commons - also help you understand what kind of products you want to build. For example, do you want to build a B2C product or a B2B product? Do you want to focus on enterprise or consumer?
I think a lot of the time people don't even know what kind of product roles make the most sense for them based on their experience, whether it's a growth product manager, core product manager, technical product manager, or product operations manager. We give that guidance. So you're not starting from nowhere. You're starting from somewhere and this somewhere isn’t a bunch of different articles online. You're leveraging knowledge from people that are in the field, doing the job that you want to get to. And having direct access to all of these mentors and learning to problem solve beyond a framework is a gamechanger.
Last question: why are you personally excited about The Commons new Product Sprint?
I think the most exciting part about the Sprint is that in addition to getting to work with amazing mentors, from companies like Google, Uber and Tonal, you get to learn exactly how to see a product through end-to-end, from coming up with the right strategies to then executing them. Being able to tackle both product strategy and product operations and see the product from ideation to execution is super exciting - and a great skill to build if you want to dive into a career in product.
...stay tuned for the full post on our website soon!
➡️ Exploring a career in Product? Or are you new to your Product role and want to make sure you impress your new team? Join the Product Sprint to learn directly from mentors like Thiago. Applications for the August Sprint close tomorrow (Friday) and there are only a few seats left.
Apply here & see you at Monday's kickoff 🎉
🪂 What's happening at The Commons
Upcoming events at The Commons:
- Async Resume Review | Thursday, August 4th (pairings) & Monday, August 8 (feedback). Community only, sign up here.
- Vancouver IRL Meetup | Friday, August 5 @ 5PM PT | Community + friends only, sign up here
- Speaker Series with Amanda Swim, Director of BizOps at ZenDesk | Tuesday, August 9 @ 8PM ET | Community sign up here, non-community members reply to this email if you want an invite
- San Franscico IRL Meetup | Thursday, August 11 @ 6PM PT | Community + friends only, sign up here
- Mini Interview Case Workshop | Sunday, August 14 @ 11AM ET | Community only, keep an eye out in #general to sign up
Recent past events - community members, you can access the recordings on the platform:
- Product Primer with Kaiz (PM at Google)
- Making the move from Individual Contributor to Manager with Ryan
🚨 Application Deadline Alert! 🚨
We're currently reviewing applications for the following Sprints:
- 🚀Core - The summer cohort is officially closed. Secure your seat in advance for the September or October cohorts (here). You'll unlock your access to the community as soon as you enrol (even ahead of your Sprint!)
- 🖥 Product - only one day left to apply! Starts August 8th
- 📈 Revenue Growth - starts late-August
- 💰Strategic Finance - starts September
What the community is talking about...
Discussions in The Commons are prolific. Here’s a top one from this past week: tips for onboarding remotely. 💻
Prompt: Hi everyone! I start a new role tomorrow, and I will be onboarding virtually. I wondered if anyone had tips on onboarding and getting to know team members (i.e., good questions to ask?) Building rapport virtually was something I struggled with in my last role, so looking for advice/tips! Thanks in advance :)
Here are our 6 favorite points from what community members shared:
- Be proactive & set up 1:1s with people you might interact with (tip: be sure to ask all of your 1:1s how they foresee your role interacting with theirs and what their key focus areas are - take notes! This will help you down the line if you're collaborating or if you need their support, as you'll be able to frame your approach in the context of what they care about and uncover ways to help them) - Aya M. & Alex P.
- Find out what working styles people prefer. Some want to know what's going on with verbal updates, others prefer written. Some want questions as they come up, others prefer they be grouped together. Sometimes not aligning on working styles can make it feel like you're just not clicking with that person, when it's actually a super solvable issue! - Craig T.
- Clearly define your KPIs / deliverables with your manager. Understand their KPIs as well and what they need to deliver, as this will help you unlock ways to contribute and align to their end goals as well as yours. - Shawn W.
- Push yourself to be more open in your conversations. Building rapport can be tougher in a remote environment therefore share more details than you instinctively would. For example, when someone asks how was your weekend give a real answer rather than defaulting to "not bad, how about you". - Michael A.
- Ask about things that didn't work: "Have you tried things that weren't successful in XX project before?" - teaches a lot about people dynamics and obviously what not to implement right away. - Rachel N.
- If you're diving into a BizOps role, get to know the data and processes intimately and quickly (but don't get too bogged down in materials, as the company will evolve and documentation too will likely change quickly), be execution-focused and talk to real customers. - Albert N. & Alex P.
Missed the discussion? Community members, hop into Slack (below) to check out thread or check out a top-ten summary here. 🌟
Your weekly level up ⏫
✏️Practice Interview Question
Question: Why do you want to work at [company]?
What They're Testing For: They're looking for some level of cultural fit and a whole lot of passion.
🤓 Be well researched enough to get specific. The interviewer has likely heard the same responses a million times - generic lines like "I'm excited to be part of a growing startup" or "I was tired of advising our clients on go-to-market strategies and I wanted to be part of the execution". These are ok to be part of your response, but they shouldn't be your whole response, as you could say these about pretty much any tech company. They want to know why you want to work at their company, not any company.
📍Reference the role. For large companies - like Uber or Google - it's great to articulate why you want to join that specific team (as well as the company). Oftentimes, hiring managers at large companies are interviewing people that just want to land a role - any role - at the company. Yet, these managers are likely responsible for small teams and they want to make sure their team members are also super passionate about the specific role they're interviewing for - especially since BizOps roles can vary dramatically even within an org.
🌟 Bonus: be specific about your word choice so that you can carefully fold in nods to why you'd be great in the role. For example: “I’m excited about this job opportunity, as it would allow me to … ” or “I see this opportunity as a way to contribute to an exciting/forward-thinking/fast-moving company/industry [add in specifics], and I feel I can do so by/with my … ”
✅ Community Reccos
This week we're talking shortcuts! ✔️ Here are a few community favorites:
Option + Shift + Command + V - paste without formatting
Command + Shift + T - open recently closed tabs
Command + Shift + A - Search tabs
Command + L - access the URL bar. (Fun fact: Works in Spotify too!)
Ctrl + Command + Space - for emojis!
Spectacle or Magnet - apps with keyboard shortcuts for window management
Bonus: Love functions and want to learn the most important ones in SQL for BizOps roles? Apply to our Core Sprint - the next cohort kicks off in late-September, but you'll be able to join the community as soon as you enrol. Apply here.
💭 Thought Starter
Hey community members 👋 Have you met up with any other community members in person yet? If not, we encourage you to join one of the #commongrounds Slack channels (Toronto, NYC, SF, Montreal, Vancouver, UK, or Chicago) or check out the #intros channel to find members from your city!
We love hearing about community organized IRL meetups like this one from last week 👇💚
🧠 Brain Teaser
We've heard this one is popular at Google and other tech companies, so let's see how you do!
Let’s say that you have 25 horses, and you want to pick the fastest 3 horses out of those 25. In each race, only 5 horses can run at the same time because there are only 5 tracks. What is the minimum number of races required to find the 3 fastest horses without using a stopwatch?
For the sake of clarity, let’s assume that each horse’s speed doesn’t change regardless of race conditions, fatigue or good ol’ fashioned determination.
You can consider the horses as mechanical, and programmed to run the same speed each time they race. With that said, the horses will come in the same place every race. You can never know their times, only what place they finish in.
How many races will it take to find the top three horses?
Check here for the answer!
The Commons community is filled with tidbits of advice and interesting shares. In case you missed it, here's a popular share from last week 👇
Link for the above HERE.
Thanks for leveling up with us!
If you want to chat about The Commons, text us at +1-416-619-9042 or jump on a call HERE.