Building a Product Sisterhood

Over just months, Naimeesha Murthy has built a thriving community for women in product management.

Naimeesha Murthy expected no one to show up. It was a Wednesday evening in September 2019, and she found herself walking towards Tom & Jerry’s bar in downtown New York. Naimeesha had just started a Meetup group for women in product, and was heading to her very first event. She had dragged along a few colleagues to keep her company. To her surprise, she was joined by 50 other women. This was the beginning of what is now a thriving sisterhood.

A few months later, Naimeesha has packed events every month and started up a second group in Toronto. She has been invited to organize panels at prestigious universities and corporations, and is about to run a product conference for women looking for career growth and mentorship. 

Naimeesha grew up in Bangalore, India, where she began her career in marketing and advertising. Life brought her to New York, where she has lived for 10 years, and is now married with a 2 year old child. She works a full time job at a social impact company doing product management.

Two factors combined to lead her to start her group. She had switched from marketing into product management, and was looking for a way to continue learning and growing. Yet because so much of her personal network was back in India, she also wanted to find a community with whom she could share goals and struggles. Like any good entrepreneur, when she couldn’t find it, she made it.

It’s been an amazing start, and we reached out to Naimeesha to learn more about her, her flourishing community, and where she hopes to take things.

Meetup: You’ve had amazing initial success. What do you think drove that?

Naimeesha: I think women wanted to connect with each other and talk about ideas, projects,  impediments, and job opportunities. This happened to me personally. It helps that I am a marketer and a product person. I understood the needs of the community, designed an experience, and communicated it effectively. I kept the messaging and intention very honest, and I think that has come through.

This would not have happened without Meetup. I started on Meetup, even if now I’ve added other tools like Instagram, LinkedIn, Slack, Mailchimp and Eventbrite.

I also could not do this without the help of others. I’ve been able to learn from others who have done similar things and get their tips and tricks. And now, with the conference that I’m organizing — I could not do it myself. We’re helping each other scale things.

Meetup: What have been your biggest challenges?

Naimeesha: Venues, logistics and sponsors. I’ve learned that the space and things like food are so important. Operationally it is a lot of work to stitch all the pieces together and make it coherent. You also need to be highly organized and compartmentalize things you are working on. Checklists are key.

It’s helpful to build a community around your meetup for support. I get a lot of volunteers but not everyone is equally passionate. I’ve learned that if I’m passionate, I need to do what I’m doing and let people help as they are able.

Meetup: How much time do you put into this?

Naimeesha: This is what day really looks like. I wake up at 6am. I get my baby ready for day care. I’m out the door by 8:20, get to work by 9am. Usually my lunch goes towards this community. Then after work, I pick up my son, feed him, and then after dinner often work another 3 hours on the community. I couldn’t do this without my husband’s support putting the baby to sleep!

Meetup: What is an important tip you would share with someone aspiring to do something similar?

Naimeesha: It’s important to narrow down into a theme of what you are passionate about. If you’re not passionate, there’s a good chance you won’t do it for long. 

Meetup: Has anything about this experience surprised you?

Naimeesha: Yes. Personally, I define myself as an introvert. Nobody believes that. This experience has taught me a lot about myself. There is so much to learn from other people, if I just made myself get out there. So much inspiration. So much growth.

But organizing has been important. If I’m attending a party, I’m quiet. But when I have things to do, I’m not an introvert. As a host, I have lots to say. 

The other thing that has been amazing is that one connection leads to a hundred others. It’s about fostering one relationship at a time and it leads to others.

Meetup: Where do you want this to go?

Naimeesha: As a product manager, I have a roadmap. This year, it’s building a large community and improving it. In the near future, I’m thinking about how this can integrate with other things and create possibilities for women. We might have partnerships with other companies. Learning and upskilling is the last.

When I talk about a community, I want to build something inclusive. If there are men out there who want to support women, they are welcome to join. This began as a sisterhood, but I don’t see it as something limited to only women. This is such an evolving process.

Meetup: Is there anything else you would say to an aspiring organizer

Naimeesha: The first step is hard. You might have a passion but people push off that first step. They are scared to fail. It’s important to get over that and get out there. You can have a Meetup event with just 3 people, but intimate events lead to deeper friendships. You never know where it goes.

Check out Naimeesha’s upcoming events in New York and Toronto!

Last modified on June 23, 2021