One of the best things about working at Government Digital Service was its focus on community. You could go to weekly get-togethers with other product managers working on your product, monthly meet-ups with PMs from across the organisation, or the occasional Product People event with PMs from across government. It was a place to talk shop, share ideas and techniques, and help each other solve product problems.

And if you missed one of those, there was usually some other opportunity to blab about product and design…for work, and for fun.

But since moving to a startup, as the sole product manager, I’m really missing having a community. Don’t get me wrong, talking to our CEO, CTO and other team members about product is great, but a community offers perspectives from people outside your team’s immediate bubble. That’s a huge benefit.

There’s plenty of events to attend – and I’m trying to make time to go to a few – but those don’t have that campfire feeling of getting to know people closely. Or sharing stories safely. Connecting with people in a more personal way.

So I’m looking to start a product circle: a group of product managers who meet regularly to talk about what they’re working on, share ideas and resources, hold each other accountable to goals and set challenges, and generally help each other out.

Tobi Ogunsina, who I worked with at GDS, came up with the idea for product circles or ‘circles for growth’. It’s a lovely idea so I’d like to start one. She outlines some key factors that make product circles successful:

  • A regular opportunity for peer coaching
  • People are partners in accountability
  • An opportunity to leverage the collective network, resources and strengths
  • A shared perspective and language builds trust

She also says:

It’s also very personal, we don’t talk about product management all the time, we talk about everything related to our careers and personal life. It’s like a group of friends.

And when I think about it, that’s really what I’ve been missing. Product friends!

Forming the circle

My immediate network is full of public sector product managers, and a few folks working at large companies, but almost none working at early/growth stage startups. However, if you’re reading this post, you’re likely part of my wider network – either through a contact we share or because you follow my website.

So, if you’re

  • a senior product manager or above
  • working in an early or growth stage startup
  • can spare an hour to chat once every two weeks, and
  • are looking to sit around the virtual campfire with some product friends

please get in touch! I’ll find a time for us to chat and we can get things rolling. (And if I get too many responses to handle, I’ll try and buddy up people who I think might get along with each other.)