Lessons of a Newbie: My First ProductCamp

I’ve recently started as Writer/Editor at Pragmatic Institute, and attended my first ProductCamp a few months ago. As I look at the upcoming ProductCamp schedule, I thought I'd share some of my initial thoughts with others looking to attend their first one. Obviously, the more I can learn, the better, so I was particularly excited about the opportunity to attend Silicon Valley ProductCamp. ProductCamps, if you don't yet know (I didn't), are a "user-driven, collaborative unconference for product managers and marketers." True to its reputation as the largest of the PCamps, SV ProductCamp sold out at 1,100 pre-registered attendees, and actual attendance exceeded the previous record of 650. I was amazed that so many busy professionals took time out on a Saturday to get together and learn from one another The day started quite busy, as we tended to the many people who stopped by the Pragmatic Institute table early in the morning. As the newbie, it was interesting to hear some of them talk about how they are using the Pragmatic Institute Framework in their day to day. I also liked the “unconference” approach of ProductCamps, where people could vote on topics they wanted. There were more than 40 sessions available, including data-driven product management, mining the sales pipeline for trends, assorted metrics, product brainstorming and so much more. I truly wish I could have attended every one. In all honesty, though, I mostly attended Pragmatic Institute presentations in my efforts to get myself situated in my new role. From our president Jim Foxworthy, I learned product management lessons from The Princess Bride. My favorite lesson came from the movie's quote: “I wonder if he is using the same wind we are using?” It served as a reminder to understand your competitors, and as Jim put it, if there is a “new wind out there, get that in your sails too." As a newbie, I also was interested in his presentation on “what turns regular product managers into rock stars.” From there, I continued to learn about important professional traits in a session on “How to Break into Product Marketing and Product Management,” led by bloggers/professionals Tim Johnson and Jennifer Doctor, and including insights from Faisal Nisar (who recently went from computer engineer to product manager at CashEdge). Some of the traits they said were necessary for product management included being able to write, present, question, listen, analyze, build credibility, persuade, be persistent and be willing to be wrong. That sounds like a difficult balance, and I have new respect for all of you. Product management and marketing is clearly in demand, too, as the job board filled with opportunities was a testament to. Overall, I feel like I came away from my first ProductCamp with a lot of new knowledge, but it also was a reminder that we all have a lot we can learn from one another. I look forward to seeing you at the next one. Meanwhile, please feel free to reach out to me at lzid@pragmaticmarketing.com with any suggestions or story ideas you have for our publications. I look forward to hearing from you.. And for more information or to organize a ProductCamp in your neck of the woods, please visit www.productcamp.org.

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