1 year with Reforge: was it worth $2K?

Today, I finished my 8th — and last — program on Reforge.

Reforge comes up most often on this subreddit when someone asks where to go if you want to learn something useful. It is probably the most popular educational institution for product, tech, and growth people.

I joined the program a year ago, having paid 2K out of my own pocket for the annual membership.

I'm writing this very much subjective review partly to reflect on the experience for myself — and partly in hopes of helping those of you who might be deciding if it's worth it.

(Spoiler alert: it is. Mostly)

My angle: focus on product and growing orgs

I started migrating to product work a few years ago from a senior role in comms. It happened naturally when I was assigned the task of managing a complex b2b website.

Only less than a year ago I switched to 100% product work, and from b2b and a company of 700 employees to b2c and a company of 10.

I have little interest in working for big orgs anymore. This might have impacted my perception of Reforge, as I am more interested in building products and finding (and expanding) product-market fit than navigating the politics of a big organization with lots of stakeholders.

What Reforge is in a nutshell

Once you go beyond the paywall, you get access to the following:

Why Reforge live programs didn't do it for me

I took part in only 2 live programs instead of 4. Partly because the timing didn't fit my schedule. Partly because I quickly lost interest.

Usually, there is a guest who helps you understand the theory by walking you through a real case study. Participants are prompted to answer questions and write answers in Slack. Sometimes, moderators will pick someone to appear live and voice it.

My problems with live sessions were as follows:

Why Reforge Slack wasn't that useful

It's well-known that a great deal of value people get from universities and MBA programs is the network they acquire during their studies. Some even argue that it's the only value of traditional education.

It seems like with a Slack channel, the Reforge team also tries to create opportunities for members to connect and build their networks. But unless you're between jobs, it's really hard to actively engage on Slack.

I tried following conversations in a few channels but quickly gave up. I had enough of "slacking" at work.

Other Reforge members probably suffer from the same problem. Many questions in channels remain unanswered or get only a couple of responses. Some channels don't have any activity to begin with. I'm based in Berlin, and sometimes a couple of months pass without any update in a dedicated Berlin channel.

"Talk-job-openings" is probably the most active of all channels, and there are lots of job offerings posted daily. For those actively looking for opportunities, it's probably a really useful source, especially for those based in the US.

Best value for money on Reforge: self-studying

The best value I got from Reforge was those lessons and materials made for self-studying in preparation for live sessions.

Usually, Reforge programs are made in collaboration with accomplished practitioners from top companies — and it shows. Lessons cover the most pressing areas of business across product/engineering work and growth. They give you the most useful frameworks and tools to deal with real-life situations.

Overall, the content is of high quality: well-structured, to the point, with a nice balance between theory and real practice. Thanks to the quality of this content, I don't regret spending my money on Reforge membership, even though the other parts of the package weren't that useful for me.

My ranking of Reforge programs

Absolute best: the growth series (117 lessons)

This is the heart of the entire curriculum, made by Reforge founder, Brian Balfour, and based on his concept of "loops." It covers the key aspects of any product: acquisition, retention, and monetization — and it's an absolute must.

3 really useful programs for PMs

These 3 I found the most useful for me:

Less value but still good

There is one program I started and dropped because it seemed extremely boring: Data for product managers. Maybe I'm just not the TA.

Bonus 1: how I cracked so many programs

My secret is simple: a lot of chores.

Whenever I do dishes or clean up (and I do that, obviously, every day), I have my AirPods on — and also a laptop somewhere nearby so I can take a note when I hear something interesting. This approach allowed me to make Reforge programs an intrinsic part of my life this past year and progress almost effortlessly.

It also turned chores from "wasted time" into something really useful and enjoyable.

Bonus 2: what I'd do if I were PM at Reforge

This is funny since Reforge has been built by gurus of product management. But still... It's an interesting exercise to think about how I would develop this to mitigate the weak spots of the product (weak from my perspective, of course).

I think I'd look into this: will it be possible to introduce some exercises to the learning process?

Reforge is now something like a programming course on Udemy. Can it be turned into something more interactive (but still automated) like a program on Codacademy? This can add more practice and help "students" engage with the material while building and analyzing cohorts for example.

The best solution would be to build it so that the task can be completed only in collaboration with a few other members. It will enable building networks for members, especially if you group members based on their location.

Am I paying for the next year?

Nope. It feels like I extracted all the value from existing programs. It will probably take a decade to put everything I learned into practice. And this is what I plan on doing :)