by Beth White
First, lots of Background
I have had the fortune to work with Jason Brett at Silverpop and through our transition to IBM over the last 2.5 years. When I first started at Silverpop, I saw ProductCamp marketing paraphernalia all over the office, I finally asked someone who immediately pointed me in Jason Brett's direction. Jason gave me the quick nonchalant rundown of how it works. Product people get together and pitch their presentations and dot vote which ones they'd like to sit through. A total of 20 sessions are selected for the day’s agenda. And that was pretty much what I knew for two years. Always eager to go, but one or another life event was in the way of my attendance. But, this was the year- I was going to go to ProductCamp. So I asked Jason how can I plug in and help?
Low and behold ProductCamp had been scheduled to take place in 4 weeks. Perfect timing to ask to help out, huh? I was immediately invited to a volunteer gathering and signed up for ProductCamp email promotion execution. Exposed to all the pre-event backend work that this event takes I am completely in awe at the sophisticated organized chaos that this volunteer team does in obtaining sponsors, content for blogs and email, website updates, social media updates, session proposals requests and speaker wrangling, dinner planning, board planning, communications, and much more. After all the hard work by the volunteer team, the well planned ProductCamp Saturday morning had arrived.
At Ponce City Market, I entered General Assembly, a fun industrial space for gatherings just like ours. A dedicated registration area, main hall, breakout rooms, and lots of AV equipment. When I entered the registration area, I was surprised to learn what little I saw behind the scenes volunteering. I saw a swarm of 20 people setting up and getting ready for the 350 registered attendees. The main hall in General Assembly had chairs awaiting 350 butts, and by 9 am they were filled. The entire area was a buzz, speakers registering, writing in new sessions. Introductions to new people, and getting to know the vibe of lots of Product people in one room. We are interesting and elusive creators and it was an amazing energy I've never quite experienced. A feeling of excitement for the future.
The Session Pitches
Jason kicked off the morning and the session pitches began. Speakers where like circus leaders pitching the desire for you to attend their session in 30 secs. If you timed out you got the horn. Otherwise known as Jason Brett’s sound toy from hell. 38 sessions, 38 passionate pitches. I also pitched my write in session. One of three women pitching. 3 session proposals, pitched by 3 women out of 38 session proposals. (Next year ladies I challenge you to speak up and speak out. Women represented half of the attendee’s, we should represent half of the speaker session proposals, so bring it!). I was up against some serious speaker veterans and I was towards the end the 35th session pitch. I attempted a short and sweet sell on release planning with an old wedding saying anecdote. We wrapped the pitches up and then the dot vote. All 350 people dot voted on their 3 favorite sessions. While I barely assisted the mad dash of volunteers creating the schedule on sessions selected, Jason kept the crowd going. Sponsors spoke and in an open mike night style real jobs where being pitched by attendees.
Sessions Gun Shot
Then we were off! The 2016 session schedule was posted! Fueled by Sublime donuts and Jason's deli breakfast options and a ton of coffee we all broke out. The sessions and time matrix had been posted and all divided. BTW, My session didn't make the dot vote cut, and now I know way more for next year's session proposal!
My schedule ended up as a haphazard selection, rooms were packed, and lots of networking in between:
- Volunteers arrived- see the entire day’s agenda here.
10:35 - 11:30
- Session # 21
- Ideate, Improvise, and Iterate
- Presenter: Brandy Nagel
11: 40 - 12:20
Session # 12
Session name: The Mom Test
Presenter: Jeff Costa
LUNCH! Man that took work above, more networking over a Blue Moon pizza lunch
1:15 - 1:55
Session name: Purple Squirrels and other Lies
Presenter: Steve Johnson
2:15 - 2:55
Session # 1
Session Name: I want to be a Product Manager!
Presenter: John Mansour
I was exhausted a saw an opportunity to exit stage left at 3:30, as I had a family prior family commitment. I know next year, not to like my family so much ;) I highly suggest to go to all networking events before and after this event. So, I missed the finale, but I know that Steve Johnson won best session and David Eckoff won best presenter.
You'd think by the end of the event things would wind down. Nope not for this chick. The beat of the ProductCamp volunteer group keeps going. Bringing this innovative group, us, together. Lastly my parting words, IMO, this event not only accelerates your learning, empathy, increases your ability to change your life but also connects you on a whole new level in our product world.
What did you think? Was this your first year or have you been before? What sessions did you go to and what did you think about them? What were your takeaways?
Tina Rusnak is Director, Agility Transformation at ADP, and has had a variety of roles from caterer to QA Manager to Agile Coach. She has also been part of Agility Transformations at 2 large tech players - ADP and Intuit. She is also the author of the book 31 Agile and Scrum Coach Tips available on Amazon. Read on for some lessons from the Agile Journeys of these companies along with some very fun and useful tips from Tina for Product Owners below
You have had a variety of roles in software companies – from QA to Call Center Manager to Agile Coach. Tell us a little more about your journey.
I started my career working for the Department of Veterans Affairs Regional Counsel in Brooklyn, NY. I was headed to law school until I fell in love with technology, so instead of studying law, I began teaching the lawyers about their dial-up connections., electronic law books and online billing. After 10 years, I joined a very small start-up in Kennesaw, GA, which we sold and that was really exciting. It was the first online & mobile lead tracker for car sales. I later moved into technology consulting, a stint as a personal chef and caterer, then moved into QA and now coaching. I guess I have the habit of bumping into unexpected opportunities where at the core of it all there’s a need for improvements, big change or improved efficiencies. I’ve do have some entrepreneurial blood in my veins, so whether I’m on my own as a consultant or working in corporate, I look for the projects that have a “start-up” feel and when agile showed-up, it was a perfect fit.
What sold you on Agile? What was it about the methodology that you liked most?
I fell into agile while I was QA Manager; when I learned there was a process that could save my QA team from being pummeled at the end of every project I was “all-in”. Building software that no one wants or uses, delivering tools late to the markets was not what I was about. When I understood the research on waterfall vs. agile and my own experience, there was no going back.
I learned really quickly that Agile was actually not a process and that is what I really love about Agile. It is a mindset. It is all about people, the people who build software and lead teams, the people the teams serve and really it’s about building communities that serve each other.
Scrum, Kanban XP, even waterfall – these processes are all fun to teach , coach and use, but without actually being agile these all seem to fall short. I’ve seen lots of scrum teams who were NOT very agile and lots of waterfall teams who were very agile, yep, that’s right.
Talk a little bit about your book and the experience in publishing it.
My original intent for this first agile book was to create 365 days of tips, although I’ve probably given thousands of tips, I just could not get it done, so one Saturday I just decided to go for the “MVP” and get “31 Days of Agile & Scrum Tips” out. It’s actually a journal where each day I give some insight, asks some pointed questions and give the reader an opportunity to journal their answers. It can serve as a great reference to look back for new coaches, SM’s or leaders. “Look where we are today compared to just 31 days ago!” If you’re really dedicated and focused, in 31 days you can bring some great changes to your teams and organization. I also wanted to learn the publishing process on Amazon, so I’ll be ready to get my next agile book published quickly and easily.
You’ve worked with a lot of product managers. Tell me some things they do wrong in agile.
Product Managers and Product Owners have one of the toughest jobs when it comes to working in agile environments. Being the decision maker, the one who has to cut scope when time is up, is not a very comfortable position most product owners like to be in, after all who wants to be the one to tell clients and partners “No” or “Not now.”
For many new PO’s the reality of fixed date, fixed teams, flexible scope is a challenge. “I need it all! I’ve been asking for this item for 3 years!” In many cases I see, it can take a few releases for PO’s to understand the agile value proposition which is : “You get what your clients want now, not last year and you get to see it working and it’s ready to deploy now, not 12 months from now. It’s cool, because this is really what everyone wants – build the right product at the right time & cut the waste.
Another mistake I see many new PO’s make, especially if they are new to Product Management is that they have a hard time “owning” the product or even being fully empowered to make decisions. New PO’s will often ask, “Am I also responsible for release management, documentation and working with support?” While the answer is “yes”, PO’s need to be supported by their teams, their leaders, peers and other roles like project or program managers (if they have one). It’s not realistic to think that one person can handle the outside marketing, research, user and client meetings and work closely with the team on a daily basis; for small products or start-ups it’s possible, but medium to large scale organizations, this model falls apart.
Related to that is not making time for the team a priority. This is so critical, especially in the early stages when the team and the product owner are learning, not just about the product, its direction and what customers want & need, but also about each other.
Another common misconception new PO’s make early on is that they are not very interested in the “technology” the team uses to build the working software. I coach my PO’s that they don’t have to become tech experts, but since they are the decision makers about what gets into the team backlog, they need to be open to those conversations with development and learn what’s necessary to make smart choices. It’s like a kitchen upgrade. Sure you want that Wolf range and sub-zero fridge, but your contractor just told you your floor can’t handle the weight and you’re electrical wiring is 20 years old, you’ve got some decisions to make, best to make it as educated as possible.
What are some of the most effective agile strategies that you have seen? What are some of the most common challenges?
The most effective strategy is to take it slow. You need executive buy-in and I don’t just mean a signed check to start coaching and setting up scrum teams, leaders truly need to understand what’s coming, it wont be easy and there will be lots of tough decisions to be made a long the way. Also, having a solid change management program in place is vital along with HR support. When you implement Agile it affects everything and everyone, from performance management to continuous integration to sales and marketing. A key challenge is to keep teams and local leaders motivated and supported; coaches can definitely help in this area, but these folks on the front lines need to see & understand the value of agile and scrum and what’s really in it for them to make the investment in change.
It’s easy and fun to go to a scrum training class, but the learning truly happens in the sprints.
Where do you see Agile and product management going in the next few years?
It’s definitely still evolving, especially in scaled enterprise environments. Large, legacy products need to keep-up and move quickly to stay competitive, scrum can help, but it will only take you so far. I definitely recommend performing a technology assessment before starting-up scrum teams so both leaders and product management understand the gaps and create a strategy and budget.
Without a strong supportive infrastructure, product management may feel they’re being held hostage.
The partnership between Product management and product development is critical; both need to be focused on the same outcomes and goals, and work together through the changes agile presents to have ultimate success. As a coach, I see this as the direction we’re headed, but there’s still a lot to learn about scaled agile environments.
What are some of your favorite business and personal apps and tools?
Most teams and organizations I’ve coached use Rally, recently purchased by CA. I love the iPhone app, I can check all my teams from anywhere. I also keep my Audible app full of inspiring “reads”. Some of the titles I recommend to other coaches to help keep their mindsets open to learning are “Just Listen” by Mark Goulson, “Mastery” by Robert Greene, “The Obstacle is the Way” by Ryan Holiday and just recently “The Dip”, by Seth Godin. I love this one especially because it can inspire you to help your teams work through their pain and get to the next level, but it’s ultimately up to them. I also enjoy the Feng Shui Kua Compass, it’s great to see if the energy of any physical space is setup in a positive format. If you are thinking of creating an agile workspace for teams, have a look at a few Bagua office maps, it might help and its fun! Skype, Zoom and Dropbox are lifesavers when I’m on the go. My latest favorite app is “Headspace”. In just 10 minutes you can meditate, take a break and get back to work reenergized.
You can find Tina's Book
ProductCamp is all about learning from community and we are always looking for people from the Atlanta Product Management Community to feature on our blog. Let me (Tiyash) know on LinkedIn if you would like to be featured.
Chuck Carr is a veteran Atlanta area technology product manager, having worked in companies such as Turner, AT&T, Fiserv, Intuit and FIS. Here Chuck shares his perspective on product management as a career, influencing others and the difference between a product owner and a product manager, based on his session on the same topic at ProductCamp with co-presenter Mark Knapp.
Why did you choose to speak about the difference between a product owner and a product manager at ProductCamp?
Four years ago a speaker at Product Camp introduced me to the Agile software development methodology and the Product Owner job title. At the time I didn’t understand the distinction between Product Owner and Product Manager. Leading a team of Product Managers and Product Owners and after experimenting with different staffing configurations, we realized that the product manager and product owner were each substantial and distinct roles – and best served by 2 people. I met my co-presenter Mark Knapp at ProductCamp and realized we had a meeting of minds on the topic and thought it would be useful to share.
The Product Manager is responsible for the business case, the product roadmap and high level business and product requirements. He or she also owns many customer-facing and sales channel responsibilities and ensures that what is delivered to market is what the market will support and purchase. The Product Owner is embedded with the development team and drives the tactical execution of the product plan and the delivery of a high quality product on time. He or she is responsible for requirements at a Product Backlog Unit (PBI) level. In Agile, the PBI or product backlog item is a unit of work small enough to be completed by a team in one sprint.
Considering all of the end-to-end tasks required in each of the roles, we concluded that people just can’t be in 2 places at once - In Agile, the PO is embedded with the development team and must be accessible practically all day, every day. If the PM is out representing the company at a tradeshow or visiting a client, he or she just inherently can’t be always accessible to the development team.
One of the goals of Agile was to bring this market and customer facing person into the development process. If they are 2 different people, doesn't it defeat the purpose? How does the product owner make sure he is in sync with the market?
That's a good question. I always encourage overlap. I’d never want the PO to be so disconnected from the market that he or she loses touch with the customer. Nor can the PM be so disengaged from execution that the vision or timeline becomes impractical. About 10-15% of the time, the PO should be external facing and vice versa for the PM.
You are a career product manager. How have you seen product management change and not change over the years?
My first PM role was with Bellsouth/AT&T. It was a highly matrixed company. I learned there that leveraging the expertise of others was a requirement for success. Also I had a boss at that time who established a culture that the Product Manager was the CEO of his or her product and is accountable for revenue and profitability. For me, those haven’t changed.
What has changed is that conditions are more fluid – the pace of change has accelerated. Responding to change has required us to become more flexible and literally take a more ‘agile’ approach.
You took a chance and worked with Atlanta startup Vitrue for a while…
Yes, and what a growth experience! Vitrue, which since has been acquired by Oracle, was the leading provider of social media publishing software. There I learned how businesses harness the marketing potential of social media to build and manage their brands and how to measure and maximize interactions across Facebook and Twitter. I was able to bring some of that Vitrue experience to Financial Services although I think the industry is still figuring out how to fully realize the potential of social.
Payments is such a hot field – exploding in mobile and online. What are some of the things people are missing, that you know as an insider?
You’re right; it’s an exciting time. We see consumer needs and preferences evolving very quickly along with rapid advances in technology. We talk a lot about incumbents and new market entrants and prospective disruptors – how Apple and Facebook and PayPal and Square may disrupt the relationship between consumers and their current banks, credit unions and brokerages. Ongoing change and disruption are likely inevitable, but definitely financial institutions are innovating and working hard to stay relevant in this digital age and to stay connected with their customers.
What advice do you have to someone looking at Product Management as a career option?
Personally, I continue to love the challenge of product management. There are definite career progression opportunities, extending to senior leadership roles. As a PM your scope spans the strategic and the tactical; you touch everything from business plan to product ideation to product development to marketing to sales. You do get to be CEO of your product, although the need to develop collaboration and communication skills is paramount.
One of the key skills for product managers is influence. What are your tips in developing influence?
I have seen different styles. I subscribe to a collaborative style and like to engage a broad set of stakeholders early, soliciting inputs about the opportunity and constraints at hand. I’d suggest building consensus and support for your initiatives along the way. Also, stay nimble – allow yourself and your plan to be influenced by new information and the inputs and good council of others.
What are some of the software tools or Apps that you use regularly for work and would recommend?
Axure Interactive Wireframe Software, Loop 11 Online User Testing Tool.
Get in touch with Chuck at @Chuckatlanta on Twitter and on LinkedIn
ProductCamp is all about learning from the product management community and we are always looking for people from the Atlanta product management community to feature on our blog. To be featured on the ProductCamp blog contact me (Tiyash) on Linkedin.
- When: November, 21, 2015
- Where: 675 Ponce de Leon Avenue NE, 2nd Floor, Atlanta, GA 30308
- eneral Assembly is located on the 2nd Floor of Ponce City Market. See the image below for its location.
- Time: 9:00 am to 4:30 pm (Registration and networking begin at 8:30 am!)
- Cost: Free (plus attendees get lunch!)
- Happy Hour at Ri Ra Irish Pub 1080 Peachtree St NE #1, Atlanta, GA 30309
IMPORTANT PARKING INFORMATION
Since General Assembly is located at Ponce City Market, parking is not free and can be limited. We know, we know. But you're getting awesome content, networking, coffee, breakfast and lunch for free!
General Assembly has suggeststed these options:
- GA Under Ground Parking indicated in the image below
- You can park on the street along Glen Iris or North Avenue
- You can park across the street at Whole Foods (We cannot guarantee that your car will not be towed)
- Marta from the North Avenue Station
- If you choose to park around Ponce City Market, you will have to prepay for parking at a kiosk within the lots or inside. You'll need to know your license plate to prepay with their system (We know...We know...it's weird.)
You can find more information about parking here.
This Chat will run up until D-Day of the unConference
Michael Ordan from Career Builder talks about working with remote teams, getting user feedback and remembering while doing so that ' You are not the user'.
Tell about your current role at CareerBuilder? (What does a typical day look like or what kind of products you manage)
I started working with an international team when I first joined the company in March. The team was spread between Munich, Paris, London, and I was in Atlanta. I was working on a new standalone product called Coach by CareerBuilder, which was designed to help provide career insights and value to people not just actively looking for a job. I was the only member of the team in the US so I was constantly interviewing users and incorporating the voice of the user into the team’s product decisions. Recently, I was given a new challenge of leading discovery for the consumer side of CareerBuilder. I am working on tackling new problems jobseekers may have and am actively looking to push the needle forward for CareerBuilder while keeping a pulse on the market.
How did you get started in Product Management?
My first job out of college was as a technical recruiter in Manhattan. I was always talking to developers, designers, and product managers and became very interested in how product development came together. After learning more about product management by speaking to experienced product managers in New York City I decided I wanted to pursue it as a career path. Shortly after I made this decision, General Assembly announced their first full time Product Management Immersive program and it was a no-brainer for me to apply.
Tell us a little about your time at General Assembly. Why did you decide to attend and how did it help you?
I decided to attend because I spoke to a lot of developers and designers that graduated from General Assembly while recruiting and heard incredible things about GA. It also definitely didn’t hurt to see these new developers and designers secure fantastic new jobs upon graduating as well.
My time at General Assembly was nothing short of spectacular. The classroom environment led by two product managers from Google and Microsoft made it very easy for me to be inspired. My classmates and I also became such a tight knit family. We were 20 highly intelligent product managers that always set out to push each other to improve and learn more.
This experience, combined with collaborative projects with the UX Design students and Web Development students, proved to be a very valuable learning experience. In addition to the countless collaboration opportunities we had, we also were all assigned a startup to work for as a product manager for the final 3 weeks. This got us a taste of what it is like to really work as a product manager for an actual company and was great to speak to in the countless interviews I would eventually go on after graduating.
So when you moved to actually implementing some of the ideas that you learnt, what did you find most surprising– what struck you most?
One of the most surprising things to me was definitely how much product knowledge I was able to share with my teammates and other coworkers while not having a ton of experience. Many people fall into product management from a different role and never had the luxury of learning from two top product managers / directors from companies like Google and Microsoft. I was surprised at how prepared I really was to be a product manager in a company as exciting and well known as CareerBuilder.
You talk about being the only member of your product team in the US. What are you learning as some of the best practices of working with remote teams?
Working with remote teams can be very challenging. It is crucial to be able to actually form a real relationship with your teammates. When your team is not in the same building as you it makes it a lot more difficult. The most important piece of advice I could ever give to a remote product manager is simple. Meet your teammates as quickly as you can and get overseas for a week or two. I always spoke to them via Slack and Google Hangouts but it didn’t compare to actually meeting them in Munich and London. As a product manager relationship building is paramount. After my team was able to actually have a beer with me and talk about everything but CareerBuilder, we became much closer. Those decisions you need to help influence quickly become a lot easier to influence if they genuinely like you.
What are some of the challenges you see in product management?
One of the biggest challenges in product management is definitely the stakeholder management part of it. It’s like trying to build a house when 10 other people are telling you what they want the house to look like from 10 completely different points of view. Being able to empathize with each of them and constantly reflecting your messaging to each stakeholder with their point of view in mind is one of the toughest parts of product management. I learned this very quickly while working here at CareerBuilder and this is an incredible skill to have.
How do you then incorporate the voice of the customer into the product process?
Always talk to your users or customers. I am always interviewing users or specific types of jobseekers to make sure we design for them in mind. Interviewing users, surveying users, conducting usability tests, and creating personas to always point back to when product decisions or feature prioritization comes up is how you make sure the voice of the customer is heard throughout the product process. The last nugget of wisdom to remember during this process is one I’ll never forget. You are not your user.
Get in touch with Michael on Linkedin
ProductCamp is all about learning from the product management community and we are always looking for people from the Atlanta product management community to feature on our blog. To be featured on the ProductCamp blog contact me (Tiyash) on Linkedin.
I wanted to take a moment to introduce you to one of ProductCamp Atlanta's newest sponsors, General Assembly.
General Assembly has been present in the Atlanta community for just over a year now and their impact can be felt all over Georgia, just as it can be felt in the other cities GA calls home. I hope you'll take a moment to check them out and welcome the entire GA team to Atlanta!
To introduce them, GA has put together a little FAQ and I thought it made sense for us to post it here. Note that ProductCamp Atlanta does not endorse any educator or company, but we do want to highlight our amazing sponsors and keep our Product Management community up to date with all of the great education options right here in Atlanta.
Q: What is General Assembly (GA)?
General Assembly's mission is to empower people to pursue the work they love by transforming thinkers into creators. With 14 locations around the world, GA creates educational experiences in the areas of tech, business and design. Atlanta is the latest campus to launch in our expansive global portfolio and we offer a host of engaging courses year-round within the ever-expanding Ponce City Market Development.
Q: Why is this course relevant today?
These days, everyone seems to have an idea that may be “the next big thing,” but very few people actually have the knowledge or skill to bring a product to life.Product management lies at the intersection between business, design, and technology, allowing you to gauge whether a product is viable from a business perspective, desired by your customers, and technically feasible. Whether they’re developing their own product or working within a larger organization, Product Managers work with key stakeholders, designers, and developers to ensure that the final product meets both customer and business objectives.
Q: When is the next course and who is the Instructor?
Our next Product Management course begins June 23rd and will be led by Mussadeq "MK" Khan. MK is a tech entrepreneur and a product guy. He has takenproducts from just an idea to full blown revenue generating businesses. MK has started 2 software companies and at the moment is on his 3rd one, each in a different vertical. His latest startup Ritzy is in the restaurant space where they help people who love to eat at great restaurants, find tables at peak hours without the wait. MK has spent the past 18 years managing, developing and marketing software products for large enterprises as well as startups. He founded Prominus in 2002 to help small hospitals manage their receivables. In 2008, MK founded Verdeeco, a cloud based analytics solution that electric utilities used to manage and analyze data to gain operational efficiencies. Verdeeco was acquired last year by Sensus, a smart energy company in Raleigh, NC. MK also advises entrepreneurs and mentors startups. He is also a mentor and charter member for TIE.
Q: Who will I be sitting next to in this course?
Product management students tend to come from various backgrounds: entrepreneurs, project managers, designers, and developers. These students are often looking to apply product management skills to their current jobs or to switch careers into the product world.
Q: What practical skill sets can I expect to have upon completion of the course?
By the end of the course, you will be able to:
- Clearly describe the role of a product manager
- Effectively determine key risks and assumptions of a given product in order to test them
- Identify different business models in order to determine which one is more effective for a given product
- Create wireframes, MVPs, and basic prototypes in order to test assumptions
- Utilize usability tests and other user research tactics
- Speak fluently with developers in regards to technology and technical constraints
- Measure a product’s success and track its lifecycle
Want to learn more? Reach out to the Team here: firstname.lastname@example.org
April Williams is Director of Product Management in Global Operations at IHG. In contrast to our last Spotlight post, April’s journey is that of success in a large company. Some of the tenets though – influencing, bringing everyone into the conversation and not making it all about you – seem strikingly similar.
Q. Tell us a little bit about your role at IHG and your journey to get here.
I direct a team that runs 3 different websites that the General Managers, owners and employees of hotels use to optimize operations and access management tools. Our goal is to help our users get what they need quickly and go on to their day - so that they can be out interacting with the hotel guests instead of sitting at their computer.
I started in this department as a product manager, and then got promoted to a manager, which means I manage the product but also manage people. I recently became a director, which means manage people but also have more strategic responsibilities. IHG has been a great company in regards to helping me achieve my career goals. My previous experience was focused on delivery but during my career I wanted to get in the strategy of which products get built, how they get built, what the scope of that business case looks like. Being able to experience that based on the knowledge I have on delivery and on what the market wants has been great.
Q. Our audience will be interested in learning about your journey - get ideas on how to succeed at a large corporations. What’s your advice?
Socializing your career goals is very important as no one drives your career but you. People may be hiring right under your nose, and they may not know that you are looking for an opportunity. You need to be specific and tell people, hey I am happy where I am but I want to get more into social media, or mobile products, global products or whatever that might be.
Its important to tell everyone you talk to – not just the SVPs – the business analyst or the project manager because you never know where your job leads are going to come from. Always work the network, as you never know who is going to be your boss tomorrow, and who might have their ear just at the right moment.
A lot of people will tell you that the best jobs are not posted, and when they are posted, there is often a candidate already identified. The Atlanta product management community is small. Talk to those people on where you want to go with your goals. You know you talk to people and they say “I have not been in a job interview for 8 years”. That is unfortunate because if you don’t keep an updated resume and occasionally see what’s out there either internally or externally you run the risk of losing the skills to sell your most valuable asset, you! I think looking for work is like dating. If you come in to a job interview feeling desperate, people will know that. I learnt this the hard way and think that is very valuable.
Regarding getting promoted, examine the role you aim to move into. You need to figure out what people in that role are doing that is different, and if you can, ask them what’s different. What is it about this role that I need to demonstrate to show that I am ready? You have to see what the company values – look at the people who got promoted. What got them there – was it launching new products, cost savings, creating a new business or revenue stream?. Sometimes people focus on the wrong things. What matters to you may not be what executives care about and what will get you noticed.
You sort of have to be doing the job before they give you the job. You want to be a director? Start acting, dressing, working, thinking, taking risks like a director. So that they see you doing the role quite naturally and its not a big change for them.
Don't be afraid to try something new – rebrand yourself as an executive. Decide in your heart that you are that person. Some good tips I have heard for looking savvy include putting books on your desk, hot books that everyone is talking about – whether you read them or not or hanging out in the lobby of your building at lunchtime as a way to mingle with executives, even if you are going back to eat leftovers at your desk
Q. What advice do you have for people beginning to lead a team?
A. Definitely have people on your team who are strong where you are weak so that they balance you out. Having a diverse team allows you lean on their strengths but you can also help them develop in areas you are good at. I am not super analytical, so I have people on my team who are. Similarly, I am great in speaking in front of a room of people. I am fearless. Some people are nervous to do a large presentation, so I say ‘We are doing a presentation in front of 300 people and you will do a part of it, lets work on it together. That builds trust as then you are pushing the team members in a good way and helping them develop new strengths. Of course, they teach me things too.
Putting people first has helped me a lot. So when I really need them to go above and beyond and meet a deadline, they will do it, because you have built trust and they want you to succeed. You don't rise to the top alone.
Its not about having the right idea or strategy, its about selling it. Sell internally so that people understand why it's the right thing to do. If people don't believe in your idea, it could be that it's a bad idea or it could also be that you have done a bad job selling it. It's a negotiation. So many times I find that when I get push back, I find that you got to take a step back, and find a way to relate it to something they do understand to get their support.
Q. You work with a large technology team at a large company – its not like you are across the room from a developer as in a startup. What works for you?
1. Build Trust: In my past, I have worked a lot in scrum and agile environment. What it teaches you is that we are all in this together its not us vs. them. That's how you have to approach that relationship – it helps build trust and there’s less finger pointing.
I have had situations where a business person came up with unrealistic demands of what they need by a particular time. I push back and ask –what do you really need? Wouldn’t building only part of this get us the MVP (minimal viable product)? The technology teams appreciate having someone who is willing to ask those questions and negotiate on scope.
I had a situation recently where a technology team member was “put on the spot” in an unfair way. I made a point to call him that day to apologize for the situation and to let him know that it wasn’t okay. Simple gestures like that when mistakes happen go a long way to build trust.
2. Thank the team and recognize their efforts: Every time there is a launch recognizing and thanking them – whether a party, Starbucks gift card – making them understand that my success is also the success of my tech partners, which is true. Also recognize anytime they go above and beyond – even with a simple thing like a phone call.
3. Treat them like a true partner: I involve my technology team in things like usability testing so they can be exposed to how users see the products. I also gave them an advance copy of the report. The experience helped them gain the insight of where we as a team need to focus. Often the technology teams are left out of these “business activities” which is a shame.
4. Get Facetime: I try to attend meetings with my technology team in person. I get in the car and drive to their office. It says to them that I value your time; it’s worth it if I come and meet you in person. You get so much more out of the meeting.
Q. Are there any apps you use at work or in life that you would recommend? I love Any do for daily planning, IHG’s app of course for booking hotels. I use my fitness pal, waze and another favorite app is Run Pee. It tells you the best time to run to the bathroom during a movie without missing any critical moments. Genius!
Now that the dust has settled on ProductCamp, kicking off our spotlight series with a talk with Sean Stanberry, founder and CEO of Lyfe Marketing. Launching a business is the ultimate product management challenge and at 23, Sean is living the dream. Here is our conversation on his journey.
Q. What led up to where you are today?
A. I am 23 now. My father was an entrepreneur – he owned a tax accounting business, and ran it in primarily the home. When I was younger, I saw him run a business, bring in more clients and saw the impact he made with his business on other people’s lives. I was very inspired by that. I understood early in my life that entrepreneurship was a viable option for me.
I worked at Stone Mountain Park as a photographer and took photos of tourists and different people in the city and all over Georgia. I used that job to boot strap the company I founded - Lyfe Marketing in December 2011.
Q. What gave you an idea to move from taking photos to digital marketing?
A. When I started with Kodak in Stone Mountain Park, I was a young kid, still in High School. I needed a job then primarily for additional income, but in the process I was always thinking of starting my own new business. My generation is heavily integrated with social media. So social networks like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter came second nature to us. I started a Twitter account in 2011 called Voice of Atlanta and tweeted about news, sports, TV – anything on popular culture. And we ended up attracting 30,000 followers to that account. I started it to have conversations with people in Atlanta and over time grew a huge audience.
Q. How did you get there? What was your road to finding such a huge audience?
It wasn't even a tangible goal I was targeting. When I saw things happening, I wanted to make it bigger and it grew with momentum.
What happened was that as the followers grew, I started getting local businesses, musicians, restaurants and more asking if I could promote their services or shows to this audience. So it became profitable. During that time, a lot of people questioned the ROI of social media and I understood it.
It was then that I started doing research and was exposed to that whole area of social media marketing. I said we know this, this is big and we had seen ROI already. We had promoted a previous event and hundreds showed up from strictly social media promotion. So I got together with my best friend and brother – we started to provide marketing services for a lot of small businesses.
When we first started we worked with a lot of local labels, independent artists, new companies who did not have a huge promotional outlet. Initially we were just managing Twitter accounts for them. And from that we grew to getting local Atlanta businesses and bigger and better clients, and we were able to increase our prices based on the results we were generating.
Q. What have you learnt about discovering/serving customers? You have to really understand your customers and their customers very well to be promoting them on social media.
A lot can be accomplished from a social media standpoint since it is so cost effective.
One way is to poll our audience. You can ask a question and see if people will respond, or do a poll on Facebook.
You can also post a lot of different content to test what they like. For example, if we are working with a small business owner who owns a bar – we can post photos of different sports teams and see if his audience likes content on sports, or if his audience likes content on food or on different events that happens near his bar. Once you figure out what they like, its all downhill from there – you just keep on giving them what they want.
You can also monitor them on Twitter and see what they are tweeting and posting. Twitter search engine allows you to track many different conversations based on keywords, which is great data when discovering your customers.
Q. How do you look for keywords in Twitter?
You have to understand your target audience a little bit at least. There are search phrases a particular target audience will use a lot. For example, one of our clients is Westmar Student Lofts and their target audience is students in Atlanta. So you can search #Gatech, #GSU, #GaState etc in Twitter.
Another example, say you are a burger restaurant. You can search “want burger” near the zip code of your location (using advanced search) and see tweets about people who want a burger.
Q. Tell me some common social media mistakes.
A. Biggest mistake people make is thinking that everyone is going to like what they do. These people make social media all about them. For example, a restaurant keeps posting menus and food items – some people may look at it and say its delicious but the majority of them will not care if you keep posting about your fried chicken. Many people continually post about themselves and not interact with their customers or potential prospects.
If you are going to be successful in social media you need to open the door and give them a chance to interact.
Q. Tell me something you learn the hard way in your journey.
A. Personally, it kills me to say this but I have to reevaluate myself as a leader in the decisions I make with the company. I made mistakes like telling people to do the wrong thing or not making decisions of facts / true logic but just my gut or emotions. As a leader I am continuously growing every day.
Q. What are some of your favorite tools and apps?
I love TweetDeck as I manage so many social media profiles. Love app called ManageFlitter – biggest feature I love is that you can wipe our followers who are inactive, and look at your database more critically. Another app that I really like is XPLRR – app that allows to see everything that's going in Atlanta in terms of events/news.
Q. Any ideas/tips for product managers in using social media to promote their products?
1) Tell a story around your product. Every product has a story behind it. Such as why it was created, who they founders were, how long did it take, what were the challenges, what were the victories, etc. Everyone likes a good story and once they care, they’ll consume.
2) Use video to standout. In 2014, simply posts, tweets, statuses are being ignored. Photos are still good, but most of your big competitors will be publishing them too. Video is different. Today, video takes more time, resources and strategy to implement. However, it’s a great way to promote your product. Use video reviews, customer interaction, live demonstration, features, process, video comparisons, storytelling, etc. Video at a high level is a great way to stand out.
3) Have a plan of strategy and execution. Sounds simple right? However, I see so many people jump into so excited and after they don’t see a huge impact after a month or two they drop off. You truly have to dedicate time and effort into social media for it to work. Our company spends at least 2 hours a day to manage our own social media growth. Knowing your strategy and having an execution plan will help your team maintain consistency.
Thats it for this time. We are always looking to profile people from the ATL community interested in sharing their story. Let me know at tiyash at pcampatl.com if you would like to share your story.
Wrapping up ProductCamp Atlanta this year, we always let the attendees dot vote on "Best Presenter" and "Best Session". It's always a good time and we give out a couple of trophies to go along with the titles.
This year, "Best Session" went to Peter Hildebrandt and his session titled Making your offerings unique and highly profitable using Blue Ocean strategies. Peter also had another session make it to the day's scheduled titled Conducting a Usability Test on the Cheap and Getting Great Data. You can find out more about Peter and his company Hildebrandt Associates.
We hope to see you at next year ProductCamp or at one of our local events!
A tradition at each ProductCamp, this year we had dozens of companies share the positions they are trying to fill in the areas of product management, marketing, and development. Below are a few positions whose information we were fortunate to capture.
Allure Global http://g.oc.gs/boone
Altisource Labs - http://www.altisourcelabs.com/Join_Us.aspx
Granted Gifts: Internship Opportunities
Home Depot - http://careers.homedepot.com/
Sales Loft http://blog.salesloft.com/careers/
Ultimate Software http://g.oc.gs/poxie,
Version One https://versiononecareers.silkroad.com/
Verizon Telematics http://www.verizon.com/about/ms-vztelematics/
If your company attended ProductCamp and you do not see a position you shared listed, leave a comment and we will be sure to include it.
Thanks again for making ProductCamp 8 one of our best. We are already starting to work on ProductCamp 9, if you are interested in becoming a volunteer, please let us know.
ProductCamp Atlanta this year was on Saturday,October 18th. It had all its winning ingredients of awesome sessions, easy and casual networking, intra-company learning and knowledge sharing with added buzz from a crowd larger than ever and some seriously Sublime Donuts.
The crowd had many of the regulars and an influx of many new faces, many from industries beyond software. There were teams from larger companies like Home Depot, IBM, Silverpop along with startups from ATV or ATDC and even Georgia Tech students. The topics of discussion ranged newly minted ideas and trends to battle hardened methodologies. It's the energy of this intermingling of ideas, frameworks, people and realities that ProductCamp brings every year to the Atlanta product management, UX and product marketing communities.
The sessions, voted in by the attendees, had the usual suspects – customer experience, agile, product design and marketing. There were also several newer ideas or fresh takes on popular topics such as linking sales and customer discovery and using improv in business.
Here are some top moments – Add yours!
- Walking into the total ‘un-conference’ vibe at 7:30 am and getting pulled into an ever-growing volunteer group, packing bags, stapling session proposals and assembling sign in paraphernalia.
- Seeing the filled up auditorium for the kickoff and soaking in the energy and expectation of some great sessions and good networking
- Listening to the session proposals (over 40) – from executives at large and small companies along with entrepreneurs
- Using text voting and feeling like I am part of American Idol
- Seeing many companies from around Atlanta pitch at least 12 job opportunities for the community and feeling that the economy is definitely on the way up
- Listening (and joining in) to some great sessions on a variety of topics, and being able to choose how to mix up my day on the fly – doing a workshop, then a townhall, then listening in on a presentation.
- Walking off with tools that can be used the next day at work such as a 60 second business case framework or customer discovery worksheets.
- Learning after the first Kindle Fire giveaway, that there was a second
- Winding down an Ri Ra Irish Pub
So how was your experience? Did you attend? Let us know.
Oh and one more thing……it was all free.
A part of our spotlight series featuring Astrid Paris.
David Eckoff helping Kevin Sasser and all the rest of us learn how to be great Product Managers.
Our May Luncheons!