Free Product Manager Training: Notes From ProductCamp NYC

ProductCamp NYC Will Be Held In New York City On July 19, 2009
ProductCamp NYC Was Held In New York City On July 18, 2009

I had a chance to attend the very first ProductCamp NYC (held in downtown New York City, of course) on Saturday, July 18, and I had a blast!

What is a ProductCamp?

ProductCamp is basically an ad-hoc gathering of product managers for a full day of self-directed training. What makes it unique is that there is no fixed agenda – everything gets dynamically put together during the event.

Yes, this is just a chaotic as it sounds; however, it all seems to work out somehow! For ProductCamp NYC all participants were asked to submit topics that they would be willing to present before the day of the event. The event organizers then had these on big sheets of paper in a room and everyone got a chance to vote on which ones they wanted to attend. In the end, the top 20 topics were selected and scheduled – including one of my submissions.

Attendees Voting On What Sessions They Wanted To Attend
Attendees Voting On What Sessions They Wanted To Attend

Heck Of A Start

Kodak's CMO, Jeff Hayzlett, Gave A Opening Keynote
Kodak’s CMO, Jeff Hayzlett, Gave An Opening Keynote

Somehow the ProductCamp NYC organizers had managed to get Jeff Hayzlett, CMO for Eastman Kodak, to give a kick off keynote speech. It turns out that Jeff is one funney guy – he’s from South Dakota, so I guess we should have expected it. On top of telling some stories that you just had to be there to hear, he also pointed out that Kodak has completely changed its product line in the past few years. It’s been painful, but the results have been amazing.

What Happened During The Sessions?

The schedule for each presentation was fairly tight – 45 minutes and then 15 minutes to get to the next session. For your viewing / listening pleasure here are the two presentations that I submitted along with a 10 minute auto track that explains each slide:

This one was presented at ProductCamp NYC:
Your Product Management Career: How To Make It To The Next Level

This one was submitted, but not presented:
Product Pricing: Cost Plus Is Wrong, So What’s Right?

What Other Sessions Did I Attend?

In addition to the session that I presented, I was able to attend 3 other sessions. Here’s what I learned:

  • “You can’t fix what you don’t understand: A Practical Guide to using Win/Loss Interviews to diagnose and fix problems in your business.” – Alan ArmstrongAlan presented a very compelling story for why product managers need to take the time to work with sales teams to understand why proposals both succeed and fail. I disagreed with Alan’s proposal that product mangers talk directly with customers and bypass sales, but overall his ideas were sound.

    Alan Kicking Off His Presentation
    Alan Kicking Off His Presentation
  • The Art and Science of PositioningSusan RobertsonSusan was a high energy presenter who did a great job of packing what is probably a full day of training into 45 minutes. She presented a 3-step process for how to get from what the customer’s problem is to how best to position a product to meet those needs.

    Susan Answers Questions After Her Presentation
    Susan Answers Questions After Her Presentation
  • How to build your personal “product manager” brand?Gopal ShenoyGopal spent his session reminding us that we are all responsible for building and promoting our own personal brand – something that will be most important when we go looking for that next job. He took the time to talk about exactly how he’s done this and what we need to avoid doing. Overall it was a great presentation.

    Gopal Makes A Point During His Presentation
    Gopal Makes A Point During His Presentation

What Did I Get Out Of Going?

The main benefit that I got from attending ProductCamp NYC was that I got to meet a lot of very talented folks who are in the same profession that I am. I didn’t agree with everything that was presented, but I was happy to hear it and debate it with other people who really cared about being a good product manager. Oh, and I got to meet (sorta) famous product manger bloggers like Gopal Shenoy and April Dunford.

Final Thoughts

Getting to NYC, getting up at 4:30am to get to the ProductCamp NYC location on time, etc. was a big hassle – but it was all worth it. I am still amazed that just a handful of people were able to put on such a high quality meeting and do it for free.

I got a lot out of my day spent at ProductCamp NYC. I can fully recommend it and if you ever have a chance to attend a ProductCamp that’s close to where you are (or if you want to put one one), I urge you to not miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity…

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

It seems almost like an impossible challenge: find ways to constantly make your product(s) both more popular (more sales) and more profitable (better prices). When confronted with this challenge, it’s all too easy for product managers to shrug, throw up their hands, and then focus instead on rolling out the next product or version of an existing product. However, if you are going to survive, then this is a problem that you are going to have to find a way to solve.