ProductCamp

My First ProductCamp

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?

Volunteering

Just a little taste on my inbox . . .filtered on ProductCamp

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.  

First Impressions

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.

The Kick Off

The Kick Off

The Dot Vote

The Dot Vote

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!

On the fly session agenda

On the fly session agenda

 

My Schedule

My schedule ended up as a haphazard selection, rooms were packed, and lots of networking in between:

8:00

10:35 - 11:30

  • Session # 21
  • Ideate, Improvise, and Iterate
  • Presenter: Brandy Nagel
Our company name SmoothTequilla, logo for bonus points, and some brainstorming on value props.

Our company name SmoothTequilla, logo for bonus points, and some brainstorming on value props.

11: 40 - 12:20

  • Session # 12

  • Session name: The Mom Test

  • Presenter: Jeff Costa

Jeff Costa

Jeff Costa

 

LUNCH! Man that took work above, more networking over a Blue Moon pizza lunch

1:15 - 1:55

  • Session #35

  • Session name: Purple Squirrels and other Lies

  • Presenter: Steve Johnson

Steve Johnson

Steve Johnson

 

2:15 - 2:55

  • Session # 1

  • Session Name: I want to be a Product Manager!

  • Presenter: John Mansour

John Mansour

John Mansour

PHEW!

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?

Spotlight - Michael Ordan Talks About Working at CareerBuilder

By Tiyash Bandyopadhyay

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. 

A Day at ProductCamp Atlanta 2014

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. 

ProductCamp 2014 Kickoff

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. 

ProductCamp 2014 session