There’s a culture now of not really wanting to take coffee conversations. Whether that’s pure laziness, or the proliferation of shitty conversations bestowed upon “busy” folks, here’s a script that will increase the likelihood that you’re going to get a high quality conversation.
A “warm introduction” in this case means you got introduced to a party that you want to talk to through a mutual connection. There’s reputation on the line for both sides, which means the introducer and the person you want to talk to think you’re worth it, so don’t fuck it up.
Awhile ago, I was trying to make a switch from a more data-oriented role to a product-focused role. This meant I had to go out and talk to product folks actually in the industry to figure things out. I was introduced to K by T.
Nice to e-meet you! I'll be sure to thank T for helping me make the connection.
I'm a data scientist pursuing a transition out of the healthcare space and from data to product management. The ideal end goal is to strengthen my product intuition to successfully build user-facing decentralized finance products and eventually build a business of my own in the next 3-5 years.
I'm currently doubling down on additional PM duties at my current job, and putting together user feedback documents and PRDs for several external mid-size companies to hone the skills of being a PM.
I was hoping to grab a brief conversation with you to dig deeper on what else I could be doing to accelerate my transition. This blends nicely into your narrative about being a PM and where you decided to take your career after the fact.
T said you were slammed this week, but next week would work great for me. Some of my availabilities:
M 4/30 (morning & afternoons) @ XYZ Cafe
W 5/02 (morning - 2pm) @ XYZ Cafe
F 5/04 (all-day) @ XYZ Cafe
I'm flexible with my schedule so if the above doesn't work, feel free to throw out some times of your own!
After I sent this email, I follow up with 4-5 research questions to help prepare them for what kind of information I’m interested in. These aren’t bullshit questions. It shows that you’re highly prepared and are serious about their time. Your preparation doesn’t just come off as impressive. It is impressive. By controlling the conversation with research, you’ve 10X’ed the chances you’ll get valuable information. It’s up to you to make sure you’re asking real questions that you don’t have the answers to.
Before we meet, I wanted to throw up some additional questions that I'm hoping to get some thoughts on. This will help drive our conversation and help you mentally prepare!
1. I’ve taken to heart your advice on your site about picking an industry you’re truly interested in and "doing the work". In the case that the industry is very nascent and there’s really no rulebook, what strategies would you use to “pave the way”?
2. What's the trade-off between switching companies and switching roles, versus moving horizontally within your current company, despite not being as interested in the product?
3. I’ve received advice to "apply broadly", but am opposed to this shotgun approach because I think your interest in a product peeks out during an interview. What is your opinion of such an approach?
4. You've talked a little about your work history on your site. What about investment banking turned you off from that, and why was product the next transition for you?
5. I see now that you’re not a PM. What changed and what made you decide you wanted to become a VC?
After you’ve set your time and sent follow up questions, all you have to do is show up. I recommend taking notes. Don’t forget to thank them after the fact. I usually do this with a recap of what we talked about.
Thanks so much for coming out yesterday and chatting with me. I really appreciate the hour you set aside to chat about my interests and product management.
From our conversation I got a lot of actionable steps:
1. Don't overlook the transition to a more product oriented role at my current position, despite it not being a full-time product position.
2. These types of transitions take time, so patience and small steps is key. Expect it to take as long as six months to a year to build your network and industry knowledge.
3. I appreciate how you broke down your method on tackling side projects and prospective company interviews. This will definitely help me organize and augment some of my own processes.
4. I'll be keeping up with my side projects, and diving deeper into interesting projects in the space I'm moving towards.
5. I'll be checking out how to tweak a few things on my resume.
Some Googling on our conversation side topics:
An espresso shot has 1/3 the caffeine content (40 mg) compared to a regular 12oz cup of coffee (120 mg) - this is due to a bunch of factors (saturation, grind, temperature, time). The ratio still holds for decaf, but the absolute amount of caffeine drops precipitously. You're not wrong about espresso being strong though, if you look at it by concentration (mg/oz). Generally though, drinks made from espresso (americano, cappuccino, etc) have less caffeine than regular drip coffee.
Depending on the time of day (the mid afternoon slump commonly sets in ~2-3 pm), you can try a caffeine nap. Take a shot of espresso, set a timer for 25 minutes, and nap for 20 minutes. Right as you wake, the caffeine kicks in and capping the nap to < 30 minutes prevents grogginess and disruption of your normal sleep schedule.
I would definitely like to follow up on the data company that you mentioned. If you have a whitepaper and peripheral materials you want me to take a gander at, I'd love to give you some thoughts.
Let's definitely catch up a couple months down the line. I'd love to hear what you're up to then and let you know how I'm progressing. I've connected with you on LinkedIn, and as always, my network is your network.
Next time, coffee is on me!
People love seeing this kind of stuff. It shows them that you were paying attention, and that they can count on the fact that their advice has gone to someone who will take action on them. It humanizes the entire experience, and it’s not just a “I’m going to pick your brain and leave you with nothing” type of conversation.
I eventually was successful in my transition, did follow up with K multiple times, and occasionally send him updates on how I’m doing. This is relationship management, for another post.