I volunteered at and attended the ProductCamp Boston gathering on Saturday. What a fantastic event! It’s an “unconference” where those in or interested in product management gather to share ideas and experience. Unlike a formal event, it’s all organized by volunteers. Potential presenters who wanted to start a discussion each gave a 30 second pitch to @ 300 attendees at the start and everyone then voted to set the day’s agenda with rooms and times then set. You then go to the assigned rooms to listen and participate in the topics that you care about. The venue was unbeatable: Microsoft NERD (New England Research Center) in Cambridge, MA
This year’s topics included: Prioritizing Features and Roadmaps, Sales’ Point of View of PMs, UX Design, Dashboards, Freemiums, Gamestorming, PM Myths, PM Career Roadmaps, etc. Steve Robins gave a great presentation on “The Invisible Customer” which very much summarizes creating solutions rather than products. His talk should be a primer for anyone in product management or development.
Events like these are very important to me because there an MBA for Product Management doesn't exist (I remember a professor at MIT Sloan wondering aloud about why there wasn't a course on selling). Much is learned and you have to draw from different parts of your education, experience, past lessons (aka mistakes & failures) and skills.
Besides, where else can someone crack a joke about the meeting being "agile" and everyone getting the pun? (I was waiting for a follow-up joke about having to work with SCRUM….never happened.)
Some of my takeaways:
1. PMs all share similar problems no matter what markets, industries, or companies are.
2. Understanding and aligning with the company goals is critical and should be a first step in any endeavor.
3. Soft skills are key to success in working with other stakeholders. Meet with individuals to get shared buy-in.
4. You must define the buyer personas for your products.
5. Your gut is just that. It’s just part of the necessary input. We’re not Steve Jobs.
6. Don’t fall in love with technology for technology’s sake. If the customer doesn’t care, then it’s not that important.
7. Go see the customer and targeted buyers to understand their problems.
8. There are plenty of smart and hungry Product Managers out there (just like me).
Here were 2 very noteworthy talks at the event:
Frank Lio is a Product Manager, Strategist, and Change Agent in the Hi-Tech industry. His growing track record of successes include creating 3 winning software products, leading nationwide seminars, and turning around a failing business unit. He is currently serving a dual role as Product Manager and Business Team Support Manager at Instron ITW.
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