🚀 The Art of Reforging Growth — A Reforge Program Review

Most of you don’t know that my maiden surname means “Iron”, in German — but this is not the main reason why Reforge felt like a calling. It’s more about my urge to keep learning, practicing the craft, and looking for new powerful tools and frameworks to apply in my daily work — that made me take the leap of faith, of joining the Spring 2021 cohort, originally funded by yours truly (thanking my boss Karla Palma and Solarwinds Software for reimbursing me after, and investing in my development).

I’ve been following Andrew Chen for a decade now, and still have the emails about the experimental Growth series he and Brian Balfourcreated 6 years ago:

At that time I was in Tel Aviv, working on my startup (R.I.P), and couldn’t dream of participating in offline valley events. Fast-forward to the spring of 2021, I’m based out of NC, USA — PMMing my way through the “Messy Middle” and enjoying the wonders of the pandemic — in normalizing virtual learning across the globe.

In this short #GrowthSnack I’ll review my experience in the intense training that me and fellow ~300 parctioniers from all over the world went through, in the Growth Series spring cohort of 2021.

While I wasn’t new to growth, I felt that this would be a good fit as a “Foundations” program for me — as it includes a little bit of everything, and after going through this one I can choose where I want to focus and go deeper next.

I wrote this post with infinite learners in mind, and if you are like me, looking to take control of your career path and development, by working hard and learning from the best out there, this post might help you figure out if Reforge could be a good fit for you.

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1. The Content

If you’re already coming with some years of experience (and you should), chances are you have been practicing some or even a lot of the concepts and themes covered in the program, to some degree. One of the things I found most valuable was how organized, and deep all the modules were.

The content is structured in short digestible lessons that include instructive videos, text, and images. You can bookmark certain elements, ask the community a question from within the module and of course, complete it at your own pace (you’re expected to complete a module per week — before the live session).

Personal testimonials:

  • I told Helen Sims (Head of Product Reforge) that my first AHA moment (and there were a few), was seeing that I have access to ALL the content of ALL the programs, on-demand, for a year.
  • A few weeks into the live cohort, I was talking with my friend and colleague Orit Levy, who also participated in the live program, but chose the Product Strategy cohort. I remember telling her —

“It’s just beautifully arranging a lot of the methods and practices I practiced throughout my career, in a way that is way clearer and more actionable than I had it in my head…It’s also easier to communicate to others”.

More about this element, in the next section.

In addition, the cohort introduced me to new concepts and methods I was not familiar with, and it was nice to learn about and try new tools that I can, later on, practice and use further as and when needed.

2. The Language of Growth

We all work in teams. Whether we lead a team or not, there are always other stakeholders we need to rally around a new initiative we want to pursue. Reforge helps you acquire a common language you can use to communicate concepts and methods to others — quickly and easily.

By enabling students to share materials from the course with others in their company, they facilitate the practice of the student and the implementation of best practices within their company — once the cohort is over.

For example, I wanted to revamp my team’s engagement and retention tracking, and so I could share the entire concept of building retention cohorts with our lead PM and lead engineer, with step-by-step instructions on how to quickly generate the data points, around a new retention metric I suggested (based on product usage and ongoing engagement instead of ARR).

Another example is the Qualitative Growth Model we were introduced to during the program, which helps align the entire company around a shared understanding of how our business grows — and break those wretched silos :)

As someone who picked up Mandarin and Japanese in her twenties, I know that it’s not enough to go through 6 weeks of intense training to fully pick up and be fluent in any language. This is something that one needs to continuously hone, and practice all the time until your mind learns to think in the new language. Having the community accessible to us for a year-long period is going to play a key role in this ongoing practice.

3. Live Sessions

At the heart of the live cohort program, are the weekly live sessions — each focusing on a different module, with a live guest — either an EIR or an industry veteran, that help unbox best practices and their way of tackling growth challenges.

Our host in this program was Adam Grenier (Ex-Uber), who together with other additional industry experts, invited us to contemplate real-life growth challenges they encountered when working in Dropbox, Hubspot, Gojeck, Airtable, Uber, Substack, Zoom and other companies. They then told us how they ended up experimenting with different things and what worked out eventually.

“Good stuff” as Adam says :)

4. (Live CohortxEvents)^Community

There’s a lot to read and write about the importance of fellowship in one’s intense process of training and practice. From martial art dojos to modern-day school/university/course classes or even study groups — peer pressure and other cognitive biases play a big role in our ability to stay the course.

The Reforge team understands that the community can provide a lot of value during the live cohort and beyond, and also serves as a key differentiator.

Throughout the live cohort, they introduced more and more social communication capabilities or events on a weekly basis. From Slack channels, meet-and-greet events, workshops, to in-platform discussion boards with active EIRs and the ability to converse about the content through the platform/study groups — all of these helped us stay engaged, motivated, and on track.

As I’m thinking of the next 9 months of my membership, I look forward to the weekly events they offer around different concepts, as well as ongoing engagement with members of the community. I am hoping to establish some meaningful connections with like-minded professionals (already scheduled 2 virtual coffee meetings). I’ll try to post another update, around the time of renewal, from a year-long perspective.

5. The Reforge Platform

The Reforge platform serves as a dōjō (an immersive space for practicing the craft — in this case, learning), or a workspace of sorts — where you can engage with instructors and peers, and get access to all the materials you need.

It helps you keep track of your progress, write digital notes, bookmark certain sections and even ask the community questions from within the module.

The platform has been introducing new capabilities several times a week throughout the cohort. From tracking daily engagement streaks to social shoutouts, to improved discussion board updates — I’d notice new enhancements all the time. Kudos Helen Sims and team :)

6. Hard Work

“The beauty of forging is that when the steel is hot, it is able to be shaped into something else. So technically the smith could reforge the old blades into new blades and the steel would retain all of its original potential (assuming it was heat-treated again).”

It wasn’t easy to allocate 4–8 hours a week to the program, on top of my full-time job as a PMM and my full-time job as a parent of two toddlers. Any free time during the weekend or evening/night was reserved for the program — for 6 weeks straight. I’d also squeeze in a couple of hours during workdays — while eating lunch.

As Fareed Mossavat, VP of programming at Reforge (Ex Slack, Zynga) said in our kick-off meeting, “you get from the program what you put in.”

To reforge steel, one needs to bring it to very intense conditions. Likewise, to reforge your growth concepts, frameworks, way of thinking and to acquire a new view of things/language — you need to process a lot of material, and piece it together in a short time. You can spend the rest of the year, practicing and going deeper.

If you don’t have the capacity and discipline for intense self-studying, it will be difficult to maximize your ROI there.

A couple of books that can help you hone this skill:
- Deep Work by Cal Newport
- The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr & Tony Shwartz

🖊️Bottom Line

While there’s always room for growth — I’d rate my experience as 9 out of 10. I sent my feedback via the post-program survey (I wanted to see more examples around B2B, consider longer intervals between modules, adding office hours and the like) and it looks like Reforge is already implementing a lot of what I (and probably other students) had in mind.

I’d recommend all of my peers with 3+ years of experience working the product/marketing/growth fields who are working in companies that achieved PMF — to check out the different programs and find the one that addresses their most pressing challenge this year. There’s no doubt you’re going to get your money’s worth.

Lastly — most students get reimbursed, and Reforge offers some helpful email templates to send to stakeholders within your organization to help articulate its value and ROI (as in my case).

I hope this short review helped you in some way :) There’s a ton of useful content on the Reforge blog you can access for free, and if you’re in my network, I’ll be happy to look into what content would be relevant to share with you from within the platform — while adhering to the Reforge invitation/sharing rules.

I’m looking forward to life post-cohort with plenty of virtual Growth coffee chats, weekly events, and ongoing practice. If you’re around — come say Hi :)

Until next time,

S. 🌸

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👩‍💻 A Tech Lover👷 Product Builder 📈 Growth & Product Marketing Specialist ‍🎓 An Infinite Learner

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Shelly Eisen Livneh

👩‍💻 A Tech Lover👷 Product Builder 📈 Growth & Product Marketing Specialist ‍🎓 An Infinite Learner