We all recognize the importance of networking, but we often think of networking as a “career”-focused activity, instead of part of our “job”. However, what I have gradually learned in my career as a product manager is that, networking is indeed part of my job description, and I strongly believe this is also true for other roles that require collaboration — so most of them.
What is networking?
In the context of “networking is part of my job description”, I think about networking as establishing credibility with the people I collaborate with, by demonstrating my personality and abilities in our interactions. It does not merely mean knowing of each other.
For example, recently I had the opportunity to lead a project at Elastic where we created a new Elastic Cloud signup experience and listed it on AWS Marketplace. As you can imagine, this involved many moving pieces and required me to network with many stakeholders from many workstreams at Elastic. Within the first week of leading this project, I got to know of most stakeholders working on this — but that did not mean I had “networked” with them. In fact it took a few more weeks of working with them before I felt like I had “networked” with the stakeholders to create the right momentum and kicked the project into gear.
In my opinion, one key difference that happened in those few weeks was that, as I started working with them to get the ball rolling, I had the chance to demonstrate my personality and my work, which made our collaboration a better oiled machine.
So why is networking important?
When I think about this recent experience leading the Elastic on AWS project, I reflect that once credibility was established via networking, collaboration became more effective because the cost of communication was reduced, and that continued to compound and pay dividend in future collaborations.
For example, in my first meeting with one of the stakeholders of the project, we were able to dedicate some time to solve a specific problem together. As we go through this 30-min journey together, we were able to observe each other’s passion for the project and ability to creatively problem-solve. As such, credibility began to be established, and the next time we have something we can work on together, we will be looking forward to that meeting knowing it will be a productive one. And it was: with no need to re-establish credibility with each other, we were able to communicate and collaborate more effectively, such as when he quickly agreed to an action plan proposed by me — without having to spend time investigating the plan’s details, we were able to align on the next steps within minutes. Furthermore, this credibility added value for beyond just us: we would advocate for each other’s credibility in front of others, making credibility spread in the network.
All these being said, how do we network? How do we establish those credibility? This can be an article of its own, but in short I believe you can both demonstrate your personality and abilities reactively — whenever you are “given” the chance — or proactively reach out to network. If you are interested in my reflections on these, give me a shout out or a “like” to this article to let me know, so I know to continue this topic in the next post!