December 6, 2022

The Emily Patterson Hypothesis: You're Not Really Learning Product Unless You're Doing It

We sat down with Emily Patterson to discuss why she started In The Lab PM, what her experiences as a mom in product have been like, and how she has built a network despite being an introvert.

The Emily Patterson Hypothesis: You're Not Really Learning Product Unless You're Doing It
Written By:
Holly Hester-Reilly
Holly Hester-Reilly

Emily Patterson has been doing product management work since the '00s. As a tech grad from Boston University, she was a business analyst before moving into product management roles. She's a B2B SaaS product leader, currently focused on cybersecurity. She holds a MBA from UNC Chapel Hill. She has 2 great kids, a weird cat, and a very supportive partner.

In this episode of the Product Science Podcast, we cover why Emily started In The Lab PM, what her experiences as a mom in product have been like, and how she has built a network despite being an introvert.

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Resource Links

Questions We Explore in This Episode

How did Emily make product and motherhood work together?

  • It was really challenging. Without enough support in the workplace after maternity leave, she decided to take a year’s break from the workforce so that she could be with her baby.
  • Getting a job after staying home with her kids was challenging, but going back to work after her second child was easier.

Why and how did she start In The Lab PM?

  • She wants to help younger women and career changers who are aspiring product managers.
  • Through her mentorship, she discovered that it was getting harder for aspiring product managers to get their first job in product.
  • She built the program with a lot of discovery and iterations around the goal of getting the participants practical product experience.

How did she build a strong network of product people as an introvert?

  • Being a nice person on the Internet has been a huge part of how she’s built her network.
  • She likes to give external validation to people who create great content and do great work.
  • The returns of building her personal network come in years later.

Quotes from Emily Patterson in This Episode

And you're not really learning product unless you're actually doing it. So it's not like we're making clay pots or anything, but it's very similar. You can read about making clay pots in a book, but when you're sitting there in front of the pottery wheel, it's going to be very different. You can read about it, but then doing it is different. And product is the exact same way, very similar to pottery.
You can't just meet someone on Tuesday and ask them for a job on Friday. That's not usually what works out, but if you really invest in it, it does grow. And honestly, I just try to be a nice human on the internet and I've got so many people who support and lift me up. So I try to pass that along to other people, but there's no magic bullet besides just be slightly nicer to people on the internet and that'll work out for you.
The folks I really want to help are not in positions to pay $6,000 for a product bootcamp. It's unfair. And even if you say you're inclusive, if you're charging that much money, you're not being inclusive because who has that much money?
We actually have a handful of folks like that in the current cohort now, which is like, "Someone has handed me product manager responsibilities and I have no idea what I'm doing.” It is really common. It's not a good outcome for the product managers. They learn not great habits, they learn not great optimizations, they start keying in on the person who's yelling at me the most is the person I'm going to make a roadmap for.
The reentry was really hard. I wish there was a reentry path. Because you just show up one day after being gone for three months and be like, "Hey, guys, what'd I miss?" And meanwhile life has moved on around you. It was like, "Oh you're back. Do you know anything about what you did?" And then you got to remember it and get back into the swing of things.

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Holly: Hi, and welcome to the Product Science Podcast where we're helping startup founders and product leaders build high growth products, teams, and companies through real conversations with people who have tried it and aren't afraid to share lessons learned from their failures along the way. I'm your host, Holly Hesta Riley, founder and CEO of H2R Product Science.

This week on the podcast, my guest is Emily Patterson. Emily has been doing product management work since the ops. As a tech grad from Boston University, she was a business analyst before moving into product management roles. She's a B2B SaaS product leader currently focused on cybersecurity. She holds an MBA from UNC Chapel Hill. She has two great kids, a weird cat, and a very supportive partner. Welcome, Emily.

Emily Patterson: Hi, Holly. Thanks for having me.

Holly: I'm so excited to have you. So let's start off with how did you make that transition? It sounds like you graduated, you went into being a business analyst, and what happened then?

Emily Patterson: Yeah, so it's actually kind of funny because I abridged the story a little bit. Actually what happened is I graduated with an information science degree from Boston University and I went into consulting as you do in 2000 blah blah blah. And I actually did IT audits for a year for one of the big consulting firms. And I don't really talk about it a lot because it was only a year, but it made an impression on me. But what I saw is IT shops and people who were making software and I was auditing what they were doing and their environments and making sure that their systems controls were up to date and all that sort of stuff. The world of SOX, anyone who's old enough knows about SOX audits, right? Sarbanes Oxley for anyone who was to look it up. I mentioned that to a younger colleague the other day and they had no idea what I was talking about. I felt very old.

But yeah, so I was helping out with the SOX audits and I got to see some of these software development shops and it looked like something I wanted to do. Filling out giant spreadsheets was not super duper engaging for me. So I was able to get a job actually at the American Medical Association, which is headquartered here in Chicago when I moved back to Chicago to be closer to my family. And then I started working at AMA. And anyone who's done product development work in non-profits or non-tech companies knows this, probably, but it's not always the best situation to get into.

Holly: You don't say.

Emily Patterson: It's okay, but it certainly was not Silicon Valley by any stretch of the imagination. And I think it has colored a lot of my experiences actually because that was my first real experience working with developers, working with QA folks. I was kind of running the project/product build and it's, again, the late zero zeroes. It's a slightly different world than it is today. So I kind of got into the business analyst side of things, writing specifications, doing some QA testing, just was a jack of all trades, if you will, helping out, supporting the engineering team on this thing we were building, which didn't go anywhere by the way. It fizzled out and they eventually sold off all the assets after pouring lots of money into it.

Holly: That's unfortunate.

Emily Patterson: Yeah. But what happened is I ended up with a really good experience. So I got to work with all these folks and then I just worked my way around the tech scene in Chicago, which if you don't know, it's a small tech scene, but there's a decent number of companies here, headquartered in Chicago, started in Chicago and it's a decent sized tech scene so there's plenty of opportunity. And I would happen to be in the right place at the right time because the product manager title, people started, the VC companies started telling the companies I was working for, "Hey, you should have a real product team." And everyone kind of looks around and be like, "Well you're sort of doing that, so now you're a product manager." And I sort of rode this evolution that happened where everyone got rebranded in my company basically and I was able to sort of ride that out.

But as I tell people, I was doing the exact same type of work just with that business analyst title because that was the title around here. So it worked out pretty well for me in the long run. I remember too because when we were getting that rebranding, one of my colleagues was just so resistant to it. She hated it. She was so upset. She actually ended up quitting and taking another business analyst titled role at a different company because she was really against this product manager title. And it was just the weirdest thing. She's now a product manager.

Holly: Came around eventually.

Emily Patterson: On LinkedIn. Yeah, she got with the program eventually. But because we all know the money differences that happen too between product managers and business analysts, it's not a small thing. But I was lucky and I took advantage of it. And then I just worked around the Chicago tech scene. I took a little bit of a break to have my babies and got my MBA and then I came back and I'm currently the director of product running a very small product team at a company called Finite State. So I'm actually in that job transition right now so I'm doing all my onboarding next week and very exciting stuff.

Holly: Oh fun. Can I ask you some more questions about the break you took?

Emily Patterson: Oh sure. Absolutely.

Holly: Yeah. So I'm always curious because I'm a mother as well and I also did some sort of non-traditional things along my pathway making product and motherhood fit together as best as I could. And so I'm curious to hear how you did that. What did it look like for you?

Emily Patterson: Yeah, it was really hard. I sometimes have mentoring calls with younger women who ask me the same question. Like, "Oh, what's it going to be like? How do I have my family? How do I have my babies in a safe place? My career's really important to me." I usually end up scaring them so if you're listening to this and you're younger and you're thinking about having a family, this was my experience, it probably won't be your experience, but it wasn't great.

It was really challenging. My managers have been men. I've only had one woman manager in my career. She hired me actually after my break. She was the only person who would take a chance on me after I took a break to have my kids. And thank God she did. She was a 40 year old technology marketing executive woman who was doing product work and she had nieces and nephews, her sister had nieces I think, and she really resonated with my story where I was like, "I'm trying to get back into the job market after this break. Someone please help me." And she was the only one who would after lots and lots of interviews.

But taking the break was hard. It was important and I certainly do not regret it at all, but I came back from maternity leave and I did not have a ton of support. My manager at the time was not super helpful and he had a stay at home wife and that colors how men deal with women returning for maternity leave. I'm sorry, but it does. And it was just a really hard conversation and I felt like I was being excluded and I felt like I wasn't getting the work I wanted. And I'm an ambitious person. I like to work, I like to build stuff, I like to be proud of my job and it felt like I'm spending nine hours of the day away from my precious tiny baby and I'm not being challenged and this is not interesting for me right now and no one seems to respect me and my experience. What am I doing here? Right?

Holly: Right.

Emily Patterson: Gosh. So I probably lasted probably five or six months because I think my first day home with my oldest kiddo, my first baby, was in February 1st or the last week of January or something. So I made it back from that transition for about six months and it just wasn't working. I wasn't happy, it wasn't great. And she was slightly early baby and we had a NICU drama. I had to go to therapy for my traumatic birth experience. Again, we're really probably alienating some of the men listening to this, but it's actually really hard mentally.

Holly: Yeah. But this is all about being truthful. So don't be afraid to tell the truth.

Emily Patterson: It is. Having a baby is really tough on your brain as well as your body. And it takes a while to really adjust to your new life, the way your body looks now, the priorities you have, all those sorts of things. And it's a journey that I don't think anyone super duper prepares you for when you're pregnant.

Holly: Yeah, very hard to adequately communicate to anybody who hasn't been through it what it's like.

Emily Patterson: It is. Yes, absolutely agree. It is really hard to tell people that. And my family was just so excited about the baby and it was like, "Well Emily's health is, she'll be fine probably, right?"

Holly: Oh no.

Emily Patterson: Because it was the first grand baby. Sorry I should preface that.

Holly: Yes. My oldest was the first grand baby as well. So I also went through that experience.

Emily Patterson: Yes. There's just a lot of attention on this tiny, adorable little human and I love that. I love that for her. She's still absolutely beloved by her grandparents even though she's seven now and a pain in the butt sometimes. But it really was. And I was kind of trying to cope with all these issues and then the work situation was not great. The reentry was really hard. I wish there was a reentry path. Because you just show up one day after being gone for three months and be like, "Hey, guys, what'd I miss?" And meanwhile life has moved on around you. It was like, "Oh you're back. Do you know anything about what you did?" And then you got to remember it and get back into the swing of things.

So anyway, for all those reasons I decided to take some time and I'm very lucky that I had the ability to take some time. At that moment in my life I had some stability and was able to take some time because the kid's dad was living with us and we had all that sort of stuff figured out. It was great. So I was able to take some time off, I got my MBA while I was doing that because I like to be busy. Anyone who knows me always wonders how do you get all this stuff done? I just really being very busy all the time. So being at home with the kiddo was fine, but I was like, "I need a project." Because if you make a human your project, you're probably going to wind up with a maladjusted kid in some way. So it's important to have non-human projects.

Holly: Yes.

Emily Patterson: And yeah, I was home about a year, but I really rushed into that second baby. So when I was trying to get back into the workforce full time, I had a two year old and a six month old.

Holly: So they're pretty close together.

Emily Patterson: They are very close together.

Holly: When the second one was six months old, you decided it was time to reenter the workforce?

Emily Patterson: Yeah. The economic conditions had changed a little bit for me so I didn't have as much ability to [inaudible 00:09:56]. I had done some contracting work, I'd kind of picked up a couple of hours that spring or that winter after I had my second baby and tried to get some money, but we really did need a full-time income. We needed another full-time income in the house so back to work we went. It was a lot easier the second time though, I will tell you that. The childcare was down, I had that whole thing figured out. Schedule was hard, it was very difficult. It was physically demanding to go from working in the city. I lived close to the city, the first suburb outside of the city of Chicago limits, but it was still 35 minutes basically on the train to get from pointing to point B. So you got to get home and then you got to run and get the babies and make sure everyone's home from daycare and everybody's good to go. And then dinner and rush and back to sleep. So like I said, getting that first job after that break was probably, it wasn't the hardest job search of my career, but it was definitely the second hardest job search of my career.

Holly: Yeah.

Emily Patterson: I interviewed so much and they were all I was talking to men, men were interviewing me, it was all men. And they just had this vision of like, "Oh this lady stays home with her kids." It's really hard. It's really pigeonhole-y and it's hard to move away from that because yes I did that. I did stay home with my kids, but that doesn't make me less of a product manager. I'm still pretty good at my job even though I haven't necessarily been doing it. And I learned a lot of things in my off time. I did some, like I said, consulting. I was working with some local startups, local small businesses. I was still pretty plugged in. I was still talking to tech people and the tech scene here in Chicago, my network was still pretty solid but it was still very, very difficult. My heart really goes out to women who take longer breaks and then try to go back into the workforce because it is hard. It is really hard. And there's some organizations that are doing work in that area and I think that's awesome.

Holly: Yeah, I do want to mention for anybody who's listening, I'm familiar with one called The Mom Project that does help people get back into the workforce after taking some time off. And my own story, just also for the listeners in case anyone's freaked out, is that I took a different path, which is that I managed to negotiate part-time work when I came back from maternity leave. And I was able to do that because, quite frankly, I was so kick ass at my job that my manager didn't want to lose me and was like, "If it's a choice between losing you or having half of you, I will take half of you." I was like, "Excellent, let's do it." So I was very fortunate and that was with a male manager. But then there was a reorg a year later and I got a new manager and that new manager was told they had to put up with me being halftime. They were not on board with it, and I only lasted at that for three months. Three months into that I was like, "I'm done. I'm not working for this person anymore. I cannot do it." And I moved jobs.

Emily Patterson: It's all about your manager, isn't it?

Holly: It really is. It's all about your manager. And so definitely the story can vary depending on where you are and what your management situation is, but I think the great thing is that you made it back into the workforce and here you are now doing some pretty awesome stuff.

Emily Patterson: Thank you.

Holly: Yeah. So let's talk more about that awesome stuff that came after. Or even before. So maybe we can actually dive into what you're doing now and then go backwards with learning the pathway because I know that in addition to being the director at Finite, that you also have started In the Lab PM and I'm very curious to hear more about that. So tell me about that.

Emily Patterson: I'd love to tell you about it. Yes. So it was born out of this frustration, as all good products are right? You get really mad about something and then do something about it one day. And I do a lot of mentorship. I had a tough time as a woman product manager and I make it a point to make myself available to help other younger, newer career, newer entry career people, women product managers, kind of like up skill, get their first job, troubleshooting, helping folks out, giving people perspective. It's really important to me. I've been doing it for years and years at this point.

Even before I had my babies I was really passionate about the space because I just worked in places where it was just me and maybe one other woman and that was it. If I talk to another woman all day long, it was a noteworthy day. That was my experience and I wanted to make it slightly easier for other people.

So I've been involved in this space for a really long time and what I saw is that some of the women I was working with, I was like, "You would make a great product manager." People who are smart, people who are in adjacent spaces, they tell you to. All the good product manager, all those blog posts are always like, Be in a tangential space, be in a next door space, customer success." And all these women, they had that. Like, "Check. You got it. Yep, correct." And all of a sudden all of my mentees went from, it takes a couple of months, but you got it. I emailed one of them a couple of weeks ago because she's now a product manager and she was interviewing actually one of my cohort members.

But same thing, she was really upset. I looked at her resume, I gave her some coaching and two months later she had her product manager job and she's been there since 2020. And that was really standard for people I was chatting with that they would land within six months max. Folks that I chat with usually are pretty well qualified. And then all of a sudden something changed, something happened, I don't know exactly what, and it became very, very hard. So people would chat with me, we'd talk, we'd do their resume, we'd do the mock interview, we would go through all the things and they have read all the books and they gotten all this stuff and all the training they could and everything and they just could not get someone to take a chance on them. They would get through the third, the fourth, the fifth round of interviews. But no one was willing to commit to that last, "Yep, here's your job." And it was really frustrating for me. So I was like, "Why is this happening?" Because we're product managers and that's what we do.

So I went out and I interviewed and I talked to a bunch of hiring managers. I've won teams before so I had my own perspective on this, but I wanted to hear what other people who are leading teams thought when I heard a lot about, "I just don't have time to take people from zero to one. I can take them from one to 10, but getting from zero to one is really hard and takes a lot of work. And you're not really learning product unless you're actually doing it. Not with your hands because we don't do most typing. So it's not like we're making clay pots or anything, but it's very similar. You can read about making clay pots in a book, but when you're sitting there in front of the pottery wheel, it's going to be very different. How you throw the clay, how do you get your hands in? Do you need water? All those sorts of things. You can read about it, but then doing it is different. And product is the exact same way, very similar to pottery. Not that I'm a pest at all, but [inaudible 00:16:14].

So I was thinking, "Okay, well how do we get people to get hands on experience?" That's the problem, how do we do that? Well you need to be a product manager. Like, "Oh man, okay, so who would like to volunteer out in the community to hire these people, to train them to be product managers?" And nobody wanted to do that. We've all got budgets, we've all got goals to hit, we're all in stressful environments. There are a bunch of APM programs out there, most of them are focused on very early career people. Either people who just graduated or within a year and a half or two years of graduation. So what do you do about the career changer who is a customer support person and very good at it and would make an amazing product manager.? They just need a little bit of help and support and learning and then they'd be great.

And so I set out to solve that problem. This all happened honestly six-ish months ago is when I started. So very new. But I started back in February with a hypothesis, again, what we do as product managers, that giving people this kind of hands on experience was going to result in better job outcomes, people finding it easier to get their product manager jobs. So I came up with this program, I'm a product manager, I've been doing this for a really long time. I know this stuff off the back of my head here so I can figure out what are the things that people need to know how to do in order to land. So I just made a curriculum and then I crowdsourced a bunch of my content because I didn't want to invest too much resources. This was our MVP, if you will, product here.

So I crowdsourced some help from some product professional friends of mine who very graciously volunteered to help out and we had a really small cohort. There were six women who started, we ended up with three that finished with, they built their product. And anyone could look it up. The website is and the curriculum is on the website. You can look at it. But we do lessons every week, we walk through concepts, whether it's customer research, wire framing and UX concepts. Strategy, we cover things like strategic frameworks.

So every week we go through a core product manager concept and then the cohort is building a product. And a lot of it, obviously since it's product work, we do a notion as you would do in a real product job. One of our early volunteers, Jen, works at Grove Collaborative and they have some Amazon influence in their product organization. So she actually shared with us how to write Amazon style PR FAQs as that first step that you do. And that has been so awesome. I am so indebted to Jen forever for helping us and bringing this in because it was something in my small Chicago tech scene, I don't know how I didn't do those. I don't do those as a regular part of my process. That's not something I'm used to doing. And she brought it in and it's just been really helpful.

For one, the cohort's able to talk about it within their interviews and people really take that seriously. That's like, wow, that's a skill that if I was interviewing I would not be able to share that skill. When you have that, you get a little bit of a level up. But also we cover it in the strategy session, which we do at the very beginning of the cohort, because we spend a lot of time in strategy and in problem definition space. That's where we spend the first four or five sessions just in that area.

We just had our check-ins for our current cohort and every single group was like, "I feel really behind." And I was like, "No, no, no, no, no. The amount of work you do at the beginning is way more than the amount of work that you're going to have to do. If you scope it, if you size it, if you validate it, you're not going to have to do a bunch of rework, you're not going to have to create three different apps to figure out the thing that you're building. You'll have already gotten it figured out in the beginning."

So we walk through all these sort of things, we have these PR FAQs, we go through some of these other frameworks and concepts, we just talked about Lean MVPs in our cohort one. And yeah, I think just rewinding a little bit, the outcomes for the beta cohort were really good. We started with six folks, six women, we had three that finished and built their product. Everyone built their product with no code tools. And there's so many free levels of no code tools out there. It's such a help. It's not something I could have done five years ago at all. So it's a program that's very much made possible by our technology surroundings, which is amazing. And I'm very grateful to Softer and Bubble and all those companies for offering really generous free tiers for us. And there were three women who finished and every single one of them now is in a product role.

Holly: Oh that's fantastic.

Emily Patterson: And only one started kind of halfway in product. She was like, "You're a product person," but then not really, right? So we actually have a handful of folks like that in the current cohort now, which is like, "Someone has handed me product manager responsibilities and I have no idea what I'm doing. No one has told me, I've got no mentors, I've got no coaches." They're like, "I'm just out here."

Holly: Isn't it amazing how common that is? It's so ridiculous. If you were to look at a different discipline that's been around a long time, nobody would think that was a sane way to operate. And yet we just throw new people in to being product managers and we're like, "Oh, you'll figure it out."

Emily Patterson: It is really common. It's not a good outcome for the product managers. I actually was just chatting with someone about this. They learn not great habits, they learn not great optimizations, they start keying in on the person who's yelling at me the most is the person I'm going to make a roadmap for. And if they don't have kind of like, "Ooh, I know it's like that at your place, but here's how we do it elsewhere." And I just had someone in my current cohort who's exact situation, she was trying to change jobs and no one she was interviewing with would take her seriously because she had such weird, "Well our current company does it this way and I know that's not right, but that's how we do it here." And she would lose those jobs, she would lose those opportunities because the interviewer was like, "That's weird and not awesome." It's super common. And those are the people that we're really trying to help in addition to people career changing.

And we're now at the first official cohort, the beta cohort was a test, I got good results out of it, everyone really had a great time and learned a ton. We just launched forward or just kept moving. So we're in cohort one now. We're about halfway through. I've got 20 folks in the cohort and so it's really small still. It's super hands on. I'm doing this in addition to parenting and a day job.

Holly: That was totally on my mind just then. I was like, "So how do you that?"

Emily Patterson: How do I do that? I like to be busy. That's what I said earlier in the call, I really meant it. I need to be fully tasked out. Sometimes I feel like I accidentally encourage hustle culture and I do not at all. I want other people to take vacations and laze around on a Saturday reading a book and not worrying about tech and writing blog posts and whatever else. Don't do what I am doing unless you also are really high strung and anxious. If I have too much free time, I go a little crazy and nobody likes it.

Holly: You got to have so direction for it.

Emily Patterson: Which is not my children, right? Again, I don't want to over parent anybody. But yeah, I have very much enjoyed it. So it's not just me helping humans for other people, I get a ton out of it too. I learn a lot, I love hearing other people's stories and backstories. One of the women in my cohort right now is from Chile and just learning her story of how she got from a small remote town in Chile and how she got to Canada and how she got into physical product management and now she's getting into tech product, software product management. I love those stories. I love hearing about it.

All of our career changers. We've got social workers, we've got teachers, we've got medical professionals, we've got marketing folks, we've got legal folks. So just a ton of different backgrounds and they all have the basic qualifications for being a product manager. They're self-starters, very curious, focused, and they love getting stuff done, which is fantastic. So part of the ethos of the program is that I don't chase people. If you don't build your product, you wasted our time. I'm not grading anybody. It's relatively low pressure, I'd say from my perspective. But everybody is just really engaged and really into it. And it's really fantastic to see because just the creativity that comes out of this. We do a bunch of problem space exploration and I did my midpoint check-ins with all these folks and I just heard so much creativity and interesting ideas come back at me.

One of the cohort members actually, she had to drop out of the beta cohort because life happens and she rejoined us for this cohort one and she's building this curated travel application or something along those lines. And it sounds so cool. I'm so genuinely excited for her to build it so I can look at it. And just seeing what the beta cohort built, I can send you the link and you'll get to see what Maddie and Sonya built and it is just beyond cool and I need to update our website so you can see it and everyone can see it. It's just really nifty.

And you get a bunch of other skills. Not only do you have to learn the product skills and do the problem space scoping and then figure out your feature set and then you're confronted with the realities of this no code app you chose and like, "Ah, maybe one of those features that you were in love with, it's just too hard to do on this particular tool," which is so real. That's the conversation we have with engineering all the time, which is like, "I really want to do this. It would be super helpful to solve a real problem." And sometimes your engineers are just like, "I can't do that in less than 18 months." And it's like, "Well, there it goes."

So you get real situations that product managers deal with on a daily basis coming up and just even thinking, like Maddie and Sonya who I was talking about before, they created an application to help people find interesting and different gifts for people that are hard to buy gifts for. Basically they just took the Etsy API and they did a ton of work using the Etsy API making network, getting the products in, doing curation, all that sort of stuff. So they learned a ton about the actual API technology, which one of the cohort members, Sonya, was a little bit more technical, but this was all brand new for Maddie. She was not a technical person and now she can speak competently to APIs and databases and how to use that stuff.

And it's not like she can't go be a technical product manager probably, but what she told me afterwards, "I can talk to my engineers and I sort of understand what we're talking about now," as opposed to it's all going over her head, right? And she wouldn't have gotten that unless she was sitting in the chair working on this thing, working on this product. And it's just been such a joy to watch people flourish and be creative and interesting. And honestly probably 50% of the people I talk to are like, "I want to run this as a business. This is so cool. I want to put this out there and have a little side hustle of this thing that I've built," which I just love because I think entrepreneurship is super fun for me. I think so. And I love other people.

Holly: I agree.

Emily Patterson: Right? When you get to do your own thing and choose the tasks you're most interested in, which is why my marketing is so bad for In the Lab.

Holly: Not your favorite thing?

Emily Patterson: So it's just been a real joy. And the response has just been incredible. Incredible. The product community has been overly supportive, just incredibly supportive of everything I've put out there. I have people volunteering, people cold DMing me saying, "Hey, this is so cool. I want to get involved. Can I help?" It's actually really hard on me because I have to find ways to schedule people in so they can help. And it's one of those things where I've got to block out time to figure out, "Okay, so and so's going to do an ask me anything session this day and then we'll do this and this." And you work with scheduling and everything like that. So it gets complicated. But I don't regret it at all because it is so fantastic to be so supported. It's a free program.

Holly: I was going to ask that. Sounds like it, yeah.

Emily Patterson: It's zero dollars and zero cents. Everyone I've talked to that I've showed the program to said you really should be charging for this. And I get it. I see that. I understand that. I'm not anti-capitalism at all. But the folks I really want to help are not in positions to pay $6,000 for a product bootcamp. It's unfair. And even if you say you're inclusive, if you're charging that much money, you're not being inclusive because who has that much money? And especially career changers who are coming from other positions. One of our current cohort members, she was a New York City teacher, public school teacher.

Holly: Oh, that's awesome.

Emily Patterson: Yes. She's amazing. And she just landed her full-time tech product role. Her title isn't product manager, but she's right there and she'll get to learn and kind of work with the product team and all these sorts of things. And all of my cohort members, and we talk through things, and what they say is you are literally changing lives and trajectories because people are doubling their salaries. Product manager roles, they're doubling their salaries. If you're a Facebook product manager, you're kind of like, "Eh, whatever. All right, great." But when you're making $40,000 a year, it's a big deal to get to $100,000 a year, especially in some parts of the country where that can buy you a really nice life experience and you're comfortable and you've got nest eggs and your kids are in the good school district and all those sorts of things.

So it's just been really fulfilling. I like not charging for it because I do think we get just an incredible expanse of different life perspectives that come through the cohort. People who absolutely would not have had the opportunity. They come to me and they've done the free core [inaudible 00:29:37] course or the $20 [inaudible 00:29:39] course or something and they're like, "Am I a product manager now?" It's like, "Ah, man." But after you go through the process and you build this product, I'll tell you about our final thing that we do because I love it. It went so well for the beta cohort, which did their presentations about a month ago now.

Everyone in the cohort creates a deck, basically a [inaudible 00:30:00] deck. And one of our judges, Tim Elvis, who's absolutely fantastic, he's a CPO and he's doing his own thing on the side. He's got some product manager application that he's building on the side. He came in to judge, and it's not judging, it's giving feedback. So you just kind of listen to the presentation, you look at the product, and then you give product feedback and ask product manager type questions. But his first comment after one of the teams was done was like, "This is basically a VC pitch deck," because he's founding his own thing, he's in the process of all that funding, VC sort of world. And so he's been looking at a lot of pitch decks and he was like, "Was that on purposes?" I was like, "I mean [inaudible 00:30:41]." Because you got to cover the whole thing.

We start with how big is your market, what's your TAM? What's your SAM, what's your SOM? A lot of people don't know those acronyms, they don't know what that means. And so we go all the way from there through who'd you talk to, what the feedback was, what the wire frames were, how the user testing went, the summary of all the activities and then the actual product itself. And my favorite part of it was at the end where everyone was like, "Okay, here's my roadmap for the next thing I would build if I was going to continue on this."

And then we had the feedback session, which I was so grateful for all of our folks who came in to give feedback. Tim, Rich Mironov, who has just, oh my gosh, he is amazing. And he has just been the most supportive human, I swear. And he is like, I just feel like I can drop him a random email at midnight on a Tuesday and he will probably read it, which honestly, it means so much to me. There's only a few people in the world who would do that for you when they're at Rich Mironov's level. So he came in, a couple of other people, Kelly Wong, who's at Capital One now, she's fantastic. She's a product leader. And then we had Jackie, who's also a product leader, I think she's a VP of product is her title.

Anyway, the point is we had all these folks came in and we went through the presentation, we went to the product and just the amount of dialogue around, "Okay, let's take a look at your actual roadmap, let's talk about those assumptions." And the dialogue between the product managers from the cohort and the product leaders, it was just so real. It was so real because it was exactly like the conversations I have at work with my more early career product managers. It was exactly like the conversations I have had as an earlier career product manager with my product leaders where I was like, "Here's all this work I did." And then the product leader's job is to challenge your assumptions, make sure you did your homework, figure out if you're on the right path, and give you advice about the next thing to do or how to make this better and all this sort of stuff. So it was very resonant. And that's the last thing we do before the cohort ends and everyone gets their little badge thingy and gets to put their little badge on LinkedIn. I'm very proud of that.

Holly: Yeah. Oh it sounds like you are just so energized by all this. It's fantastic.

Emily Patterson: It is really great and it's making an impact and I love that. And like I said, I'm just meeting so many interesting, cool people. It's been really fun. I'm an introvert. I do better on Zoom screens than in real life parties or anything like that so it's actually been ideal. I feel like I have way more friends than I did before, pre pandemic here, because it's been great to connect with everybody. It really has. And the response from the applicants has been great. I'm almost up to 700 applicants for the 2024 cohort.

Holly: Wow. You may need to start raising funds and hire [inaudible 00:33:20].

Emily Patterson: I have thought about it. Yes. It's definitely something I have to consider how to scale.

Holly: Yeah. So it sounds like this has been fantastic. And I guess I'm curious, you mentioned these product leaders that are a part of the program. It sounds like you've built up quite a network for yourself and I know that's a big part of progressing your career and product as well. How did you build up that network?

Emily Patterson: Yeah. So honestly that is a great question because like I said, I'm not very good at real life events and networking events, pre pandemic, were always just sources of intense amounts of anxiety for me. I never performed really well. I'm just really bad at it. I'm kind of an awkward human. I'm loud and my sense of humor is a little weird. So I don't do well in in-person situations. So honestly, half of it, I think I personally benefited a lot from the pandemic because it leveled the playing field a little bit for me because I was not missing out on opportunities in the real world. And I have just found that being nice to people on the internet, actually it works wonders. I would highly recommend it.

Holly: It does.

Emily Patterson: It's incredible how just engaging with humans as humans on the internet and being open-minded and having good discussions and being supportive of other people's things, I love nothing more than somebody has put themselves out there and published a blog post and it's pretty good and then sharing that out to people and being like, "This is really good." Because I don't know, it's really helpful having someone that you don't know, who's not your mom, another person in your corner who's promoting what you're doing. External validation is very important, I guess is my point here.

So I spent a lot of years of just spending time on Twitter and product communities and just sharing stuff out, giving advice. Like I said, I do a lot of mentoring and everything like that, and you wind up talking to people and the returns come in years later. So you need to invest in it and then it grows. You can't just meet someone on Tuesday and ask them for a job on Friday. That's not usually what works out, but if you really invest in it, it does grow. And honestly, I just try to be a nice human on the internet and I've got so many people who support and lift me up. So I try to pass that along to other people, but there's no magic bullet besides just be slightly nicer to people on the internet and that'll work out for you.

Holly: Yeah, absolutely. I think you're absolutely right. I know that's how I met Rich Miranov, was just being nice to people on the internet. So it's been such a pleasure to talk to you and I want to know how can people follow you if they're interested in getting more of Emily?

Emily Patterson: Yes, absolutely. I am probably most active on Twitter. My handle is @epatt6, E-P-A-T-T-6. I am occasionally and begrudgingly on LinkedIn. It's not my favorite platform, but I acknowledge that some people are there and not on Twitter. So I do spend some time on LinkedIn. Just search Emily Patterson, I'll probably show up. I am in cyber security so you'll see me a lot in security circles or security conversations. If anyone starts talking about S-bombs, my ears perk up now. That's my day job work is on software bills and materials. So I spend a lot of time in those kind of communities as well, if you're ever by there, if you ever hop into security circles. And yeah, that's kind of the main things.

I try to be active on women in product groups, Slack groups, but probably not as much as I should be. But yeah, happy to answer any questions if anyone.. My DMs, I don't know if I should say this super loudly, but my DMs are actually open, so you can message me on Twitter or if you connect with me on LinkedIn, you can message me. I try to read everything I can and if you want to help out with In the Lab or if you want to apply to In the Lab, or if you want to hire In the Lab graduates, I especially want to talk to you if you want to hire In the Lab graduates. That would be really, really great. I promise they're all fantastic humans. You won't regret it. But yeah, that's the main channels. And yeah, like I said, happy to chat more and make new internet friends.

Holly: Awesome. All right. Well thank you so much, Emily. It's been such a pleasure to talk to you and congratulations on launching In the Lab pm.

Emily Patterson: Oh, thank you so much, Holly. Thanks for having me on.

Holly: The Product Science Podcast is brought to you by H2R Product Science. We teach startup founders and product leaders how to use the product science method to discover the strongest product opportunities and lay the foundations for high growth products, teams, and businesses. Learn Enjoying this episode? Don't forget to subscribe so you don't miss next week's episode. I also encourage you to visit us at to sign up for more information and resources from me and our guests. If you like the show, a rating and review would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

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