Thanks for the intro, moving you to bcc

How to make sense of, and nail, the tech introduction.

Last year, I left the safety net of full-time employment to work on a new project. I’m extremely lucky to have a ton of great connections in the industry, many of whom were willing to introduce me to people who might be able help me along this new path.

Often, these intros were to people who have much more experience than me — CEOs, founders, etc. — and usually have more value to give me than I have to give them. In short: they’re doing me a favor by meeting with me. I quickly had to skill up on nailing the tech introduction, to make sure I got the most out of any introductions, and left a good impression.

These kinds of introductions happen all the time in tech, and once you’ve gone through the process a few times, they’re really easy to navigate. But having now been on both ends of the intro (both the person asking for a favor, and the person being asked a favor of), there’s a few tips and red flags that are worth sharing.

This article demystifies the tech introduction, and give you the best shot at nailing these introductions, especially when you’re earlier in your career.

Getting the introduction

So, there’s someone you want to meet to ask for advice from, or someone a peer thinks you should meet. First step: getting the introduction.

As much as possible, leverage your network to get this introduction! You’ll have a much higher success rate that way.

Tips for introducer:

  • Always ask both parties individually if they are open to the intro before sending the email (and respect that! I once declined an intro, and the mutual connection sent it anyway … 🚩). This is known as the “double opt-in introduction
  • Include some context on who each person is, and why you think they should meet
  • Expect the email title to be the same on every one of these meetings (see below)

These emails are almost comically rote — but it’s still a valuable practice to observe. Here’s an example:

subject: Claire <> {{ name }}
to: me,

You both have context, but here are some intros!

Claire, meet {{ name }}, the founder of {{ company }} (and too many achievements before that for me to list). She’s built a large organization teaching tons of people how to code and can give you a taste of how to go from 0 to 1.

{{ name }}, meet Claire. She’s been an insanely great community builder for years and is looking into creating what I think might be a truly essential institution in the field of data & analytics. I felt she could learn a few things from you.

I’ll let you two take it from here!

{{ mutual_friend }}

Responding to the introduction

So where to from here?

  • The person who stands to gain more from the conversation often replies first, and moves the introducer to bcc.
    • Moving the introducer to bcc is your way of acknowledging the intro, but making sure the introducer doesn’t get bogged down by notifications
    • When I’m the introducer, I also like to confirm that this was followed up on, and have at times given tips back to the person who replied first on how they could have a stronger reply.
  • In general, the more junior you are, the more effort you might find yourself putting in at this stage. More on what kind of effort to put in below.
  • Friend of the blog, Emilie Schario, recommends the “you, me, we” template (and you should listen to everything Emilie says!).
    • You: Acknowledge something about the person you’re being introduced to that shows you’ve done your homework.
    • Me: Add any extra context about who you are, and what you’re looking to get out of the connection. Do not say “I want to pick your brain” (🚩) or expect the other person to know what you’re interested in gaining from a conversation.
    • We: How to continue the conversation — give the other person an opportunity to opt out (they may have written a blog post about exactly this topic that they can send you instead, saving you both time!)
  • You might also move to scheduling in this reply (play this one by ear — sometimes it’s better to let the other party suggest that). If you do feel ready to offer some times to meet, here’s a few tips:
    • Some people find Calendly impolite (no comment). In my opinion, the more senior someone is, the more they prefer a Calendly link over a list of times, since they likely have a very busy calendar and don’t want to have to go through multiple rounds of emails to find a suitable time. Cover your bases by including both options.
    • Include timezones! If you know the other party’s timezone, include the converted timezone too.

Here’s a reply to that first email — see if you can pick the “me, you, we” structure.

Re: Claire <> {{ name }}
from: me

Thanks so much for the intro {{ mutual_friend }}, moving you to bcc!

Hi {{ name }}, so nice to meet you! I was so excited to learn that {{ mutual_friend }} knew someone who has built their own training course, and after learning a bit more about your course, I’m particularly impressed by your focus on career-readiness and creating an inclusive environment.

As {{ mutual_friend }} mentioned I’m currently, building out my own course in an adjacent space — prior to this I was creating and running training courses for my former employer, and am excited to step out on my own, but have a lot to learn along the way.

In particular, I’ve been thinking about:

  • {{ thing_1 }}
  • {{ thing_2 }}
  • {{ thing_3 }}

I know your time is valuable so happy to discuss via email if that’s easiest. If you’re open to chatting over Zoom, I’m available:

  • Monday Feb 29: before 11am PT, after 3pm PT
  • Tuesday Feb 30: after 2pm PT

If neither of these work, you can also book in time via my Calendly.


Tips for the recipient:

  • If the person who wants some advice hasn’t put the effort in, feel free to ask them to put together some more specific questions. Something as simple as “Is there anything in particular you wanted to chat about? I might be able to save us both some time by sending through relevant material.”

Prepping for the meeting

Congrats! The other party has agreed to meet! So now you just turn up, right? (🚩)

Earlier in my career, that’s exactly what I would do. In fact, it was only when the roles were reversed (i.e. someone else was requesting my time) that I realized how important it is to prep for these meetings — I’d have people turn up without an agenda expect me to figure out what advice they most needed with hardly any context.

If you are the person asking for the meeting, put in some effort either before the initial reachout, or before the meeting if you haven’t done so already.

  • Block out an hour to do some research. Yes, a full hour (because something will come up, leaving you with maybe half an hour)
  • Spend time on their LinkedIn, or their company’s website. Read a blog article they wrote or watch a presentation they made while you’re doing your dishes.
  • If you didn’t do this prep before your original email, send a follow up email that includes three things on your mind:
    • If the conversation flows naturally, these might not be the things you end up discussing, but they are great conversation starters.
    • It also gives the person the opportunity to think through some of their answers, or even send back a relevant article if it turns out that they have already answered this question somewhere. It may even turn out that this person is not the right fit for the conversation and they may opt out, or introduce you to someone else who is a better fit (a great outcome!)
    • Try to orient these three topics at a more strategic level than a tactical level

Nailing the initial meeting

  • Schedule a 25 minute meeting — if the conversation goes well, and you leave wishing you had more time, you can always find another time to meet. If it’s a fizzler, well you’ll be glad it wasn’t a longer meeting.
  • Start with intros — since you’ve prepped, most of their intro should be familiar to you! But don’t expect that the other person has done their research, especially if they are someone who is more senior than you.
  • Jump into one of the topics on your mind, and let the conversation go from there.
  • I tend to finish the call with two questions:
    • “What should I have asked you that I didn’t ask you?” A great way to discover unknown unknowns.
    • “I really appreciate you taking the time today, is there anything I can do to help you out or a way that I can pay this forward?” Even if the other party doesn’t have an answer right now, they might come back in the future with an ask.

After the meeting

  • Write some notes down about what you took away from the meeting — great for consolidating your own thoughts
  • Make sure to send through a thank you note, and remind them that you’re happy to pay the favor forward in some way.

🎉 Congratulations! You’ve just nailed a really valuable skill in the tech world!

Making it your own

Once you learn how to follow this ritual, you can riff on it to make it your own. Sometimes I like to try to crack a joke if I’m emailing someone that I suspect is well-versed in these intros:

Thanks for the intro {{ mutual_friend }} — as is customary in our culture, I’ll now perform the “moving to bcc” ceremony. 😉

Or just:

{{ mutual_friend }} to bcc, etc, etc.

You can go even farther if you want: I was recently on the receiving end of an intro, and the person followed up with the following:

*/me rolls D20 + INT modifier, casts Banishment on {{ mutual_friend }}. (Thanks, friend, what an intro! You’ve been banished to a warm library in another plane of existence where there are no computers or Covid-19. Enjoy!)

Claire, it’s so lovely to meet you! …*

While I’m not a DnD person (yet), I appreciated this follow up so much, and replied straight away 🙂

A huge thank you to my friend, and the smartest person I know, Emilie Schario, for helping me nail some of these meetings earlier in my career, and reminding me that this article had been sitting in my drafts for too long!