The Commons Digest (12/15/2022)

The COmmons Insider Newsletter

This week's discussion...

AMA with Jonathan, Growth Product Manager at Noom

Learning at The Commons

Only a few seats remain in our January 2023 Sprints. Apply or secure your spot asap!

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Your Weekly Level Up

🔥 Hot topic: Dealing with Anxiety at Work

✏️ Career Resource: Get a Free Coaching Session!

✅ Community Reccos: Use Up Your L&D Budget!

💭 Thought Starter: Rejected for What?!?

💡 Brain Teaser: 👦🏻 👧🏻

🚀 Community Share: Thinking outside the box

AMA with Jonathan Sendsen, Growth Product Manager at Noom

One of the (many) awesome things about the community is the rich network that you become part of. We're sharing a snippet of that here - an asynchronous Ask-Me-Anything (AMA) session we ran with Jonathan, a Growth Product Manager at Noom and mentor at The Commons. Members asked Jonathan questions on career success, his role, and everything in between.

Here are highlights from the chat with Jonathan (shortened & edited for brevity)👇 Check out the full post here.

You're (relatively) new to Noom - any tips for a great (remote) onboarding?

For me, as a PM I think the core things that help me onboard best were (not prioritized):

  1. Build strong relationships with co-workers you will work closely with. The benefit of remote work is you can now book a full 30 minute chat with a coworker and really get to know them. Understanding the problems they are facing or how they envision a strong partnership between us are usually my go-to questions. However, I really like to learn about them too.
  2. Learn about the customer journey and market. What is their experience like? How does it compare to competitor experiences? What are the market segments you are targeting?
  3. Data is key. Start building funnels, a dashboard, or even just play around with data based on the customer journey. Empathize with drop offs and start formulating hypotheses. [PS - want to get better at working with data? Join the Strategy + Operations Sprint]
  4. The business model. Learn about the revenue and cost drivers because once you understand this and the customer journey you can really start to formulate some strong hypotheses to go validate.

How do you learn about the product/space when you join a new company as a PM?

I generally need to understand how the company defines various product behaviors (acquisition, activation, retention) as well as how these product behaviors drive business value (typically revenue, sometimes profit). Personally, I always conduct general qualitative research and speak to users. Quantitative data can only paint half the picture and never really tells you why users do the behaviors or actions you are seeing in the product. General qualitative research always helps me develop stronger hypotheses since I am going in blind and I have a lot of assumptions about the users. Qualitative research helps foolproof my assumptions and allows me to make bigger swings and bets.

You've worked for a lot of diff tech companies! Any advice for succeeding as a Product Manager?

About 2-3 years ago I was at a point in my career where what I was doing as a PM and what I was learning about PM were totally different. My motivation went downhill and I was not inspired at all. I began looking for a mentor who has “been there, done that” to help learn more about product and hone my craft. Working at early stage startups, I cannot emphasize this enough: find a mentor... I can truly say my mentor has taken me through a personal MBA and having a mentor has exponentially improved my craft.‍

Do you have any frameworks for building trust and solid relationships with your team (UX, Eng, etc) as a new PM?

Engineering cares about the “why”: “Why are we building this over that?". This is where you as a PM need to have strong conviction in your hypothesis that A vs B is better for the business AND customer because of X. The thing about product management is you want to build cool products that customers will use but at the end of the day you represent the business and you will always have to trade-off one of these. I find that the engineering team really respects being looped in early in ideation. Bring them along in your customer interviews or brainstorming sessions.

With design, they are my partner in crime. Some of the best relationships I have built are with designers. They care about the customer experience and how they will interact with it. Some designers love heavy, long-term design projects while others thrive off of quick iterations and experiments. You will need to know which designer you are working with to contextualize your partnership. With design, I find helping them understand the customer problem and helping them conduct the necessary qualitative research has always been super helpful. Setting up collaborative brainstorming sessions and setting the expectations of your portfolio will help. I find you need to allow design to run with their creativity and not be on top of them.

At the end of the day I always found that if I provided enough air-cover for my team to work without feeling heavy pressure from the business they always respected me and worked towards the vision I set out.

What's your go-to advice for people interviewing for Product roles for the first time?
Rocketblocks will help with typical fermi (estimation) questions, Exponent is also a great product that is super helpful for product interviews. Exponent helped me think about various product questions and how to approach them. [Get a discount when you sign up for Exponent through The Commons here!] They have a YouTube channel with strong PMs answering typical questions that you can leverage. Reading reviews on Glassdoor of how interviews were conducted helps as well. Making sure you get the necessary requirements from the recruiter about the expectation going into the interview always helps as well.

This might be a cop-out answer but authenticity is important and it took me a really long time to figure this out. The more I tried to be like “other” PMs the more I found I failed. Lean into your strengths - whether it's customer empathy or business acumen. There is a reason why that recruiter chose you. Imposter syndrome is real and I battle with it everyday. But you need to make sure you have everything you need to feel successful going into that interview. That’s where your recruiter will really help.

Finally, with recruiter calls I find those are more feeler interviews and maintaining a solid dialogue and highlighting your experiences and empathizing with your failures always helps. Once you get in front of another PM or the hiring manager you need to work with the recruiter to understand the expectations so you can succeed.

There's so more to unpack in the full article. Check it out below to learn about how "Growth" Product Manager roles differ, what daily PM task Jonathan would like to remove and his take on whether or not Noom works. ⬇️

Read the Full Interview

What’s happening at The Commons

Upcoming events

Toronto Tech Holiday Happy Hour

We've partnered with Andrew Yeung (mentor at The Commons) and Saturday, The Peak, Techstars, Founder Institute, and Adbloom to put on an after-work happy hour for those looking to meet the other brilliant minds in the Toronto tech and business community.

December 16, 5-8PM ET | IRL
*Sold out! We're excited to see those who registered!
More info

12 Days of Giveaways

We're running 12 Days of Giveaways in collaboration with some of our awesome partners through the month of December. Be sure to follow us on LinkedIn for a chance to participate! The fun kicked off on Monday and there's another giveaway running today.

Congrats to Moiz for winning Monday's giveaway!

All are welcome to participate
Follow us on LinkedIn and find today's post!

Past events

ICYMI we recently hosted these events. Members can find recordings on our platform.

  • Mentor Office Hours | Two of our incredible mentors, Rachel (VP of BizOps at Zelis) and Tiffany (Product Manager at Uber), hosted Office Hours with an AMA-style Q&A, covering everything from breaking into tech to excelling in your role!
  • Weathering Tough Times & Job Search Chat | Tackling a job search or dealing with change at work isn't easy. Tack on the recent headlines and it feels even heavier. That's why we brought together three expert community voices for a chat on weathering tough times at work and in the job search: mentors Shane P. (Head of Ops @ KOHO), Rohan S. (Strategic Ops Manager @ Super) and Saumil S. (Growth & Chief of Staff at SafeGraph).

We're *finally* enrolling new members!

We finally opened up admissions to new members! We'll only remain open for a limited time and seats are dwindling, so act quickly.

  • If you received an acceptance, start your onboarding
  • If you're on the waitlist - stay tuned for an admissions email
  • If you're not yet on the waitlist, apply below

Join the January 2023 Sprints

We're currently reviewing applications for the following Sprints in January 2023:

We're also now accepting a limited number of Community Only members. If you're interested in joining the community only (instead of participating in a Sprint), you can also apply via the waitlist below.


Explore Sprints // Join the Waitlist


All 2022 Sprints are now closed!

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HOT TOPIC - Dealing with Anxiety at Work 😕

Imposter syndrome. The never ending race to do more. Eating lunch at your desk. Missing another friend's birthday dinner. Blinking at a clock that now reads 12:04AM.

So many of us have been there. But hardly anyone talks about it. Like really talks about it.

We're grateful for community members who are willing to be vulnerable and seek out ways to grow together - and for all of those that share advice in return. Here's a great thread from last week ⬇️

Below are key themes from the thread. But do yourself a favour and read all of the advice shared by the community here.Huge s/o to Shushant, Michael M., Chris D., Noah, Holly, Lauren T., and Armin for your advice. 💚

Align Expectations:

  • "In your 1:1 with manager, just put “things done last week” and “focus for this week” — this helps make sure there’s no misaligned expectations and actually gives your manager the opportunity to say 'hey you should also be doing this, or more'."
  • "Study the social norms of your company. Does your manager have coffee chats? Do your peers have personal calendar holds? Chances are yes! It sounds small, but looking at other people's calendars helped me 'normalize' taking time for myself."
  • "If you're comfortable, it might be good to share some of this with your manager. There are a few members of my team who struggle with some of the same things that you outlined and I do my best to explicitly 'release' them from work - ex. please don't log on, do not respond to this tonight, I will text you if I need you so no need to check Slack, etc. Letting her know how you're feeling (or if you have a clear idea, letting her know how she can help you) might help her create the space you need!"

Plan Ahead + Time Block:

  • "Review and plan out the week every Friday. I follow the GTD method with this. It helps me see everything I accomplished for the week + I feel more prepared coming into work on Monday."
  • "Time block your days based on similar activities. Context switching can be a HUGE factor in burnout. Try to bucket similar activities together instead of jumping from one thing to the next. Also, find a good balance of meetings vs focus time. Set boundaries around protecting your time."

Audit Breaks:

  • "Not to view things solely through a career lens but there are benefits to taking a break in this aspect too, not just for 'output'. In my experience, frequent breaks help give you a different perspective, usually a more strategic one - taking breaks has been essential for my professional development as my role now requires me to think more strategically vs. operationally. An eye opening moment for me was when I was struggling to get a huge project across the line last summer - I took a 1-week vacation and then, poof! I came back, made some necessary changes that had become obvious to me upon revisiting the workstream, and got the project across the line quickly after that. Both me and my manager were pleasantly surprised by the impact that the break had. Next time you take a break, consider auditing how you felt afterwards - you may find some benefits that you didn't know existed."

Find What Gives You Energy, Reflect + Action:

  • "There are a lot of ways to take breaks - reflect on what breaks 'give' you energy vs. 'consume' your energy. For example, my partner gets a lot of energy from a mid-day workout - these (sadly) completely drain me, but I get a lot of energy from social conversations. Because of this, I schedule recurring midday 1v1s with my ex-colleagues. This not only helps me keep in touch with them, but also to add a fun (and recurring) boost to my work weeks!"
  • "Be grateful that you have this awareness with your body. It is clearly telling you something and you are listening to it. Most people don’t have this awareness and a lot of the people who you think are high-achievers, are wreaking havoc on their body without knowing until they get really sick, or injure themselves, or burn out."
  • "I would reflect on what you as an individual need to feel like you are 'doing enough'. One thing that helped me was looking around at people that I perceived were 'doing enough' and noting the differences between us - Is their role more strategic? Do they work more closely with leadership? Are they a team leader? At a previous job, these questions helped me 'map out' what I was looking for and build a path to get to a team & role that suited me better."

Honor Your Own Pace:

  • "Everyone is different in their capacity and your capacity changes every day based on so many factors. I would be careful with comparing your output and energy to someone else."
  • "It’s important to honor your new pace — whatever that is. Don’t compare it to the pace you used to have. Take sometime to assess and figure out your new pace. What boundaries do I need to set for myself to help feel more calm day-to-day?"

Plan For Downtime + Fun:

  • "Take some time to wind down after work. See if you can set a time everyday where you stop work. I tend to stay revved up at the end of the day so doing some yoga, going for a long walk, anything to calm to get the heart bumping and move the body to release the energy from the day."
  • "Shut it down 2 hours before bed. This is important. Stop making decisions or checking messages at night. Read a book, watch a tv show, but shut down tech at least 1 hour before bed."
  • "Book something fun in the evening a day or 2 during the week and just ping your team that you’ll be offline for that but will be on after. Then you can have a no-guilt enjoyment period without worrying that you’re not being available enough."

Other Reminders:

  • "Delegate. Delegate. Delegate."
  • "Remind yourself that you are good enough no matter what. Some mantras I like to use:
  • I am good enough
  • This is not a crisis
  • This is an old feeling and not about now
  • It’s not what I do but who I am that everyone loves"

Check Out The Full Thread

Your weekly level up

Looking to Deliver More Impact in Your Role?

We're running 12 Days of Giveways on LinkedIn this month, and today's giveaway is geared towards those who want to hone a really critical skillset - communication. We partnered with  Speakwell for something awesome ⬇️

We are giving away a private, 30-min coaching session with public speaking & communication experts Speakwell 🙌 All of our Sprints at The Commons focus on building both critical hard skills and soft skills - like stakeholder management and communication.

This is a great opportunity to double down on your communication skills through a private 1:1 coaching session with Speakwell founder, Jordyn Benattar Menkes.

You can focus on nailing your elevator pitch, honing general public speaking skills, or building confidence!

ENTER HERE before midnight tonight!

Use Up Your L&D Budget!

Did you know that most L&D budgets go to waste 😱

Don't throw away that opportunity! There's still time to join The Commons before the end of the year. You can even leverage this template to request support from your employer to cover all, or part, of your tuition. Here are the ways you can put your L&D budget to good use:

  • Join a Sprint ➡️ want to level up on key skillsets like SQL or Product Strategy? Check out our Sprints here and apply. Unsure which one is right for you? Apply here and we'll help you out!
  • Join a Sprint + The Commons Community ➡️ Same as above, plus 1 year access to the full community. Apply here. [most popular]
  • Join The Commons Community Only ➡️ For those who may be short on time, or are focused on building their network. You won't take part in a Sprint, but you will still get the benefit of full community access. Apply here.

So what do I unlock by joining The Commons community?

  • Private Community Access: DMs and discussion boards on Slack with 1,200+ members & mentors in business and tech. This is truly the most engaged community of business generalist tech professionals out there.
  • Curated Networking: curated connections for you to effectively build 1:1 connections, through our biweekly coffee chats and other socials (IRL and online). It's a great way to build relationships and gain perspectives outside of work, so that you can be a better thought leader on the job. The Commons team is always there to help you find the right person to speak with - just ask!
  • 100+ Events + Workshops: virtual and in-person events ranging from topic-focused workshops like how to optimize operations with GSheets, to speaker series with top operators, to monthly mentor office hours and so much more. Every week, you'll have plenty of opportunities to level up.
  • 1:1 Mentor Coaching: access to our mentor coaching directory to book personalized, 1:1 coaching across a variety of topics like context-specific career advice or guidance on tackling a problem you’re facing on-the-job.
  • Learning Circles: join live discussion group topics like FinTech, building confidence at work, and data analytics. New topics drop each month and they fill up fast!

💡Tip: Seats are filling up quickly, and we're prioritizing those referred into The Commons or those that submit payment directly, as this indicates a high degree of interest and engagement. Be sure to submit your payment information on the final page (right after your application), so that we can expedite your application and get you a receipt to submit to back to your company!

Rejected for What?!?

Have you been given an odd reason for a job rejection?

Have a funny rejection to share? Add it to the thread in here.

A boy and a girl are sitting on a bench. “I’m a girl,” says the child with brown hair. “I’m a boy,” says the child with blond hair. If at least one of them is lying, which one is lying?

Check out the answer here.

Thinking outside the box 😉

How an e-commerce bike company reduced their damage rates by 80% by thinking about the actual box, instead of just what was in the box...Read the article via Shane's post!

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