How to Best Utilize Your Product Community by former AMEX PM

Jonathan Lai has advanced a lot in his product career thanks to the network he has built over the years. Learn how to improve your communities with his advice.


Jonathan Lai began his tech career in finance, working for Goldman Sachs as Business Analyst and then as Vice President for Technology. He then became Product Manager for American Express, working in digital-first banking products. Then, he joined Compass as a PM, where he focused on building better real estate experiences. He is currently a Founder of Tribe of Five, a habit-building app that has been accepted into YCombinator Startup School.


How Can You Benefit from a Product Community?

Every PM has one specific skill they are brilliant at. Data Analysis. Knowing their customers. Conducting amazing experiments. They do not need to cover it all. There is, however, one thing that all PMs need to know: utilizing their product community to the fullest. We’re not talking just about job opportunities here. Jonathan Lai will detail how to avoid rookie and advanced mistakes and tell you about a couple of things you can do to extract the most from your network.

Jonathan Lai’s Insights on Building Your Product Community:

  • Every master was once a disaster
  • “The more you try to be interesting, the more it works against you. Be interested

A Product Manager’s Approach to Networking

  • A community has common interests. That is, PMs, for instance, are defined by their common goals to understand and improve products.
  • These shared values lead to trust-building. Helping each other is only possible where trust is shared among participants.
  • We belong to multiple communities based on our different interests. They can be online, or offline. There can also be sub-communities within larger groups of similar people.
  • A network, by definition, is your particular reach within a community. That is, your position and ability to extract value from your shared interest group.
  • This is not the same as your LinkedIn count!
  • Every time you try something new, you follow a process. First, you suck. Then, you make mistakes. Suddenly, you manage to do something right! And that’s when you get better.
  • A common rookie PM mistake is neglecting your network. Try with a better way to do things. For starters, think of adding value for your network.
  • Don’t go crazy, keep it small and sustainable. For example, why don’t you share a good article with someone in your network tomorrow?
  • Once you begin sharing and helping others in your network, you might be tempted to do too much. Remember, quality beats quantity.
  • This is because real connections are the secret. You should be doing simple things and playing the long game, focusing on relationships rather than transactions.
  • Some examples include: inviting someone to an event, and limiting your meetings to 1–2 people. This will allow for meaningful interactions.
  • The more you try to be interesting, the more it works against you. Don’t force it!
  • If you’re interested, people will notice. By keeping stakes low, you risk no disappointments. This means that you should respect the journey from stranger to friend.
  • Of course, remember to be actually interested by putting in the work ahead of time: research your network, read what they read about and speak in their language.

This article was originally published on The Product School blog. We teach product management, data analytics and coding courses in 16 campuses across the US, UK and Canada and the world. To learn more about our upcoming courses and how to apply, visit our course page.

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Product School

Product School is the world's first tech business school offering certifications in Product Management, online and in 20campuses across the world.

Carlos G de Villaumbrosia

Written by

Founder of Product School — offering certifications in Product Management, online and in 20 campuses worldwide.

Product School

Product School is the world's first tech business school offering certifications in Product Management, online and in 20campuses across the world.

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