To be successful, you're going to need a network.

Orbital's expert-led Communities of Practice helps designers, engineering managers and product managers build a network of peers. Join our Spring 2017 program.

...the most valuable thing I've done for my team all year

Engineering Manager, Spring 2016

2016 Participating Companies

Blink Health
Blue Apron
Code Climate
Conde Nast
Crisis Text Line
Digital Ocean
Flatiron Health
Managed by Q
The New York Times
Teachers Pay Teachers
Warby Parker

Being a part of this group has helped me be more confident in my ability to rise to the challenge of my role.

Product Manager, Spring 2016


One of the best ways to level-up is to build a network of peers.

Deeply-networked people tend to perform better and grow faster than those without strong networks.

At Orbital, this is the purpose of our Communities of Practice: small group-based learning opportunities that bring together individuals from a range of companies who all share the same job focus.

Having access to such a network—the stories, lessons and best practices—gives you a deeper toolbox to draw from in your day-to-day work.

Read more: Why Join a Community of Practice


Curated Groups

Effective communities consist of people who are able to both contribute and receive help.

In order to ensure a relevant and balanced cohort, we look at a number of factors, including levels of experience and responsibility, size and structure of the organization and business model.

Led by Experts

Our programs are all led by people who've done the job before.

They have insights and stories to contribute, but their primary task is to help the group get the most from each other by helping them tap into their collective experiences, challenges and lessons.

Building Trust

Our priority is to help each cohort develop a sense of trust.

Trust is best formed face-to-face and through dialogue. All discussions in the program fall under Chatham House Rule.

Real Challenges

Topics are driven by the participants rather than a curriculum.

Rather than learning a specific approach you'll get insight into an array of approaches, options and considerations.


Camille Fournier

ex-CTO Rent the Runway

Gary Chou

Founder, Orbital; Faculty, SVA MFA in Interaction Design; ex-Union Square Ventures

Kellan Elliott-McCrea

SVP Engineering, Blink Health; ex-CTO Etsy

Leland Rechis

Designer-in-Residence & Faculty of Practice, Cornell Tech; ex-YouNow, Kickstarter, Etsy, Twitter, Google

I like knowing that now I have a group to reach out to if I have questions.

Designer, Spring 2016

Spring 2017

This Spring, we're excited to offer programs for Product Designers and Product Managers.

All programs are held at Orbital (155 Rivington Street).

If you have questions, contact Gary Chou at

Nomination Deadline Confirmations Sent Programs Begin
NYC (at Orbital) Mar 29 Apr 3 Apr 12

Product Design Studio

Led by Gary Chou and Leland Rechis

For senior individual contributors in product companies. We'll consider nominees with at least a year of experience as a Product Designer.

NYC: Apr 12 (8:30am - 12:30pm); Apr 26, May 10, May 24 (8:30am - 10:30am) Cost: $2,250 (includes ongoing alumni events). Apply by March 29

Topics are determined by the participants. Past cohorts have covered:

  • Discussing key topics facing designers, and evaluating progress over time
  • Developing design systems
  • Working effectively across functional groups
  • Sharing tools and processes that make their jobs easier
  • Firmly establishing design into an organization and/or team
  • Peer critique and feedback on in-progress work

Product Management Studio

Led by Gary Chou and Leland Rechis

For director-level and senior Product Managers in product companies. We'll consider nominees who have at least a year of experience as a full-time PM.

NYC: Apr 19 (8:30am - 12:30pm); May 3, May 17, May 31 (8:30am - 10:30am) Cost: $2,250 (includes ongoing alumni events). Apply by March 29

Topics are determined by the participants. Past cohorts have covered:

  • Developing and executing a product strategy
  • Best practices for communicating and managing stakeholders
  • Evaluating tools and processes to make projects run smoothly
  • Gaining momentum in stalled/lost projects

Our Process

Building Relevant Cohorts

We work with managers, CEOs, heads of HR and Education Directors to identify high-potential nominees at their respective companies.

From these nominations, we look for groups of people who:

  • have an equivalent level of responsibility and face relatable challenges
  • represent a range of backgrounds and perspectives
  • could both benefit from and contribute to the network

Most of the time the numbers work out and a clear cohort emerges.

Occasionally, we fall short or we see that there's an opportunity to grow a more focused network from a subset of the nominees. In that case we may defer participation or reach out to our network to see if we can fill an additional cohort.

We highly encourage people to apply if they feel they would benefit from finding a peer group, as it increases the odds that we can be successfully build a relevant cohort.

The Program

Our Studio programs run over a multi-week period.

For Employees

Share this website with your manager, CEO or HR representative to let them know that you're interested. If there are any questions or concerns, please contact us and we'll try to address them.

Then, complete the nomination form and include your manager's name and contact information.

For Companies

Share this website with the high-leverage people on your team. Consider those who'd benefit from growing their network: new employees, solo practitioners, and people whose perspectives and backgrounds are underrepresented in tech.

If they're interested, ask them to complete the nomination form.

Why Join

Here's a bit more detail behind Why You Should Join a Community of Practice


What's the goal of the program?

The goal of the program is to help people build an ongoing network.

Networks are based on trust, and so we bring people together to share best practices, insights, and real-time challenges in the service of fostering trusted relationships.

Read more: Why Join a Community of Practice

How much work will be involved?

We understand people are busy, so we've designed our programs to incorporate their current work rather than add to it.

The content of the program—the questions and discussion topics—is driven by the participants, and in some cases, we'll show in-progress work for feedback or demos of existing tools and processes.

Prior to the start of the program we'll assign some minor prep work, including:

  • questions they'd like to discuss with the cohort
  • lessons learned from the past year
  • identifying techniques and tools that have been useful in their practice

Why is there a nomination process?

The nomination process allows us to screen for experience level and to ensure we have a balanced, cohesive, high-quality group of people from a range of non-competitive companies.

Depending upon the size of the cohort, we may limit the number of people we accept from any one company into a session per round.

How are you handling issues of confidentiality?

First, we have a nomination process that helps us screen for people from directly competitive companies.

Second, all of our programs fall under Chatham House Rule, which means that participants can share whatever they've learned as long as they don't reveal the identity or affiliation of the source.

How is this different from a training or coaching program?

Instructional training programs can be helpful for developing new skills or learning new methodologies. An ongoing coaching plan can help you more quickly adapt to a new role.

By bringing together a group of peers from across the industry, Communities of Practice provide a deeper toolbox of stories, best practices and perspectives to aid you in your decision making. They connect you to a trusted group for access to information, advice and support. The most impactful lessons are often those that are shared privately through such networks.

If you don't already have access to a trusted network of peers, how do you find or create one? That's the hard part and that's what Orbital exists to do.

What is Orbital?

Launched in 2014 by Gary Chou, Orbital is a studio for building networks. We believe that a creator's success is a function of whether they have access to the networks that they need when they need them.