Discover more from Mind the Beet
✏️ My Experience of Upskilling with Reforge
Practicing product play with a learning platform
I recently purchased a year Reforge subscription (company sponsored) and want to share my experience with the platform as a product. This was a fun post to write because it allowed me to practice playing with products as a user and reflecting on it as an inspiration for my day-to-day work at Guild as a product maker.
Reforge is a membership-based learning platform that offers content, live courses, events and a community. In their own words, here is the segment they are after:
We welcome experienced product management, marketing, engineering, and other tech professionals to apply to our worldwide community of operators. If you’re working to solve critical business problems and unlock extraordinary growth for your companies and careers, we think you’ll tap into the most value Reforge has to offer.
I am getting a ton of value out of this platform and highly recommend it to early product managers, career transitioners into the discipline as well as seasoned leaders and their organizations. This post is not sponsored and all of these opinions are my own. At the end, I’ll share some tips if you are considering joining Reforge as well.
The unique value prop of Reforge lies in its content library richness (sheer amount, quality, and diversity it) and the influences who build and teach the content. The community that Reforge manages has potential but like so many communities, has a way to go to add value or differentiation. Let’s dig in.
📖 Content Library
💪🏻 Asynch Content, Live Lessons, Events and Artifacts
Asynch content - Quality and quantity of content are expensive to produce and maintain and Reforge is nailing this piece. I can really see the pride in craftsmanship in the course materials - standard decks and format, audio narration with good video playback options for all of us needing a 1.5x speed, and well-edited materials - clean and easy-to-understand charts, no typos, etc.
I also appreciate that the content goes beyond the 101 level (though they have that with courses like “Product Management Foundations”) to deeper learning topics like Product Led Growth, Monetization and Pricing, etc.
Live learning with cohorts - My actual introduction to Reforge content was through a live course that I took on Product Strategy with a cohort of about ~200 people.
I was expected to read/consume 2-3 hours of content asynchronously a week and then join a 2- 1/2 hour live session where the materials are applied to a live case study. Discussion was led by a practitioner and there was a guided back and forth that happens with the attendees. The whole course lasted 4 weeks with four AM/PM live sessions. They are also recorded for consumption afterward. Upon completion, I got a certificate - which was a nice touch (also stored in my profile as part of my course history).
I kept notes in Notion on what I was learning and how it applied to my day job and I was able to attend 2 out of 4 live sessions and watched the others ones as recordings after. I really liked the accountability of having a class to attend as it forced me to do my homework. For me, it worked to do a concentrated month sprint sprint-focused learning.
Events - Reforge also offers frequent webinars that are hosted and recorded for consumption later. Recently team really enjoyed “Cracking the Code of Effective Annual Goal Setting” and had an ongoing conversation about it in our work Slack channel.
Artifacts - This is a new feature added by Reforge- a library of real-life examples of roadmaps, briefs, funnel analysis, etc. It has also been interesting to browse various “AI roadmaps” and see how other companies are communicating their Now/Next/Later investments in a fast-evolving space. Since these are real examples, they are a lot messier than the perfectly crafted slides but this slice of life from other product makers, marketers, and technologists has been helpful to see.
💡 Product Manager Musings on Feature Ideas
The content library is hard to navigate - figuring out the difference between a course, library, and collections is hard cognitively. I eventually found a Loom video teaching me how to navigate the collection but it’s hidden and feels like a shortcoming of the UX if you need a video narration. Having said that the search experience is intuitive and fast - I like that it supports both problem statements as well as traditional keyword input. Just as most other companies right now, search boasts that it’s AI-powered.
Curating the learning plan is a feature gap - I thought it was a surprising choice to not have an intake quiz/process to better organize the library specifically for me. I would have loved to go through the process of building out courses for myself for the next 3-6 months through a guided experience.
Limited social proof - I was expecting to see some kind of “helpfulness" or “likelihood to recommend signal back from people who have consumed courses and I did not see it. A testimonial or some indication of the quality of the course from people like me or who have taken similar courses to me, would help me zoom in on what’s next and stack my learning.
🪅 Influencers and Case Studies
I really like that Reforge has experts in the field who both create courses as well as moderate live discussions and it’s based on their lived experiences. If the discipline of product managers had the notion of influencers, the execs in residence at Reforge would be part of that club. The ability to learn and analyze real-life problems in retrospect from experienced leaders has been really valuable for me.
I wonder what it would look like to leverage influencers to inspire additional learning stacks. If people see themselves becoming a CPO like Casey Winters - could they provide an endorsed curriculum that people can easily bookmark and then use.
Personally, I’d pay one of the Execs in Residence some kind of fee to get their wisdom on either a business problem I’m working through or to spend time honing my product thinking in a 1:1 setting.
When I joined Reforge, I got access to the Slack community - not too dissimilar from the product communities I’m in for Lenny’s Newsletter, Women in Product, and Mind the Product. Other than using the Slack channel for discussion with my cohort during the live learning sessions, I did not get much value out of the community in its current instantiation. It has all the pre-requisite introductions, ask for help, and job post channels that the rest of the communities have but engagement is relatively low and I don’t feel like I’m getting unique value out of this community vs. the other ones.
I’d engage more with the community if I had a way to talk to some of the instructors in a 1:1 or a 1:many forum. Whether it’s office hours, a more informal “ask me anything” or even a way to schedule paid sessions, I think there is an opportunity for Reforge’s community and I can’t wait to see how it evolves.
💬 Tips if you are thinking about signing up for Reforge:
As I said at the beginning of the post, I highly recommend Reforge as a learning platform. Buying it for a year is a no-brainer, though I’m not sure if the ROI will be there to renew (a problem I’m sure Reforge is thinking about in terms of retention). Here are a couple of tactical tips:
Check to see if your company will pay for this out of their education or learning & development budget. Reforge has a whole section in the FAQ of ideas on how to pitch to your company to get funding here. If multiple people are interested, reach out for group pricing
At my company, we got enough people together who were interested, where we are running our own cohorts with curated Reforge content to create connections and community around learning.
If you are learning on your own, think about what topics are interesting to you and use search to find the right courses/learnings. If you are interested in a specific product-maker, you can search for them in the directory and see their upcoming hosted events, as well as past highlights.