Contributed by Cait Porte
It’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know. Boston is a “small” city – everyone knows each other. And when you limit it to the product space, it becomes even smaller.
The BWP (Boston Women in Product) has been thinking about the value of joining the product community and how we can continue to grow and develop the community we’ve created. Below is what we found.
Reasons for Networking
Networking is about making connections and building enduring, mutually beneficial relationships. The relationships are the catalysts for success and typically lead to career advancement and growth.
Networking is free, most of the time! Events can be found in Boston for free or at very little cost.
Events tend to be full of like-minded individuals – and if you find the right network, they can support you not only when you’re job-searching, but when you’re trying to tackle a big problem at work and need an outsider’s opinion.
People need people – there are friendship benefits to networking. Consider finding someone in your network that you can reach out to. Sometimes a different perspective or a set of eyes on a problem can help find the right solution.
By helping each other and by mentoring others you can give each other an unfair advantage in that two heads are better than one.
Evaluating the Value of a Network
This Harvard Business Review article is a great framework for evaluating your network. It covers the four questions to ask when assessing the value of a network.
- Who is in the network?
- How well does the network connect?
- Is there functional communication?
- Who are you talking to?
Even if you feel you’re too busy to attend these events, the benefits are worth making the time.. These types of events are a nice break from being stuck in front of a computer (something we all spend too much time doing!). If after work hours is challenging, try finding networking events during work hours that connect you with folks in similar roles or industries.
Tips for Good Networking
There are several keys to success when networking. After a bit of research, here are some tips for good networking
There are three people that you want to be sure to speak with at an event: the speaker; the event host/organizer; and the person doing registration and sign-in. The person at the front door sees everybody, and knows their name, and also is usually aware where the host is and can point you in their direction.
- Be yourself! No one wants to have an awkward conversation with someone. You’re at the same event, talk about things you have in common
- Carry business cards at all time – this one is huge. I can’t tell you how many times I haven’t had a business card on me when I’ve needed one. And – you can get such nice personal ones on sites like moo.com
- You have two ears and one mouth – talk to people about what you’re doing. Ask questions about what people are doing and working on, and be genuinely interested in the answer.
- Ask for help! If you find someone who seems to have faced similar challenges, ask for advice.
- Create value. Look for opportunities to be of service to the person you’ve just met. A good network is a give and take relationship, remember you should give more than you take.
- Don’t forget to follow up! How many times do you say you’re going to get coffee with someone and never email them?
For an option to connect with other women in product, come join the BWP for the second part of our storytelling series, “Storytelling: Managing Challenges in Your Product Career.” The event is on May 19th from 6:30-8:00pm and is hosted and sponsored by Pivotal Labs in Cambridge (145 Broadway, 3rd Floor, Cambridge, MA ).
We hope to see you there!
Cait Porte is the VP, Product for ZMags, a shoppable content platform that empowers marketing and eCommerce professionals to create engaging digital experiences. She is responsible for being the voice of the customer when structuring the immediate and long-term strategy for product development. She focuses her time in three key areas (business, technology and user experience) in order to create the optimal customer experience. Cait is also on the board of directors for the Boston Product Management Association (BPMA), a co-founder of Boston Women in Product (BWP) and a part-time instructor at General Assembly. She has her MBA from Babson College and has worked in Product Management for small and large organizations in the Boston area. You can find her blog at http://www.PMinHeels.com.
When she’s not working to build products customers love, she spends time in South Boston with her husband and their two dogs.