Musings of a Product Manager: There is No Bug Juice at this Camp

May 22, 2012      By Ultimate Software

But who needs bug juice when there are Sublime Doughnuts at Product Camp? For those that are unfamiliar, Product Camp is a type of BarCamp, which is an international network of user-generated conferences. The conferences are open, participatory-style workshops where participants provide content. So in this case, it’s a product management conference, organized by and for product mangers.

I’ve had the privilege of attending the Atlanta events, which have upwards of 300 participants that willingly give up their Saturday to teach and learn from one another. And this year I’m stoked to be on the planning committee. Some past event sessions have included: Collaborative Product Planning, 7 keys to being a Great Agile Product Manager, It’s PowerPoint Karaoke! and The Blended Art of Leadership, Narratives and Aligning Purpose.

We get to vote on the sessions we’d most like to attend, the schedule is drawn up on the spot, and attendees get to pick from a variety of sessions just like any other conference. Except it’s free (thank you sponsors!).

It’s awesome to learn and network with everyone there. Imagine a level of engagement and passion in a community of professionals that are willing to spend time outside of their jobs to organize an event, create session content, and give up a beautiful weekend in Atlanta to learn from each other. Some product management professionals will even travel to other parts of the country to learn from those outside of their immediate community. Next on my list is the Seattle product camp. (Do you hear that noise? It’s my propeller spinning on my cap).

I’m able to take back this information and use it readily in my job at Ultimate. I strongly believe it makes me a better team member. I always come back re-energized and the connections I make are invaluable. It’s great to talk to people outside your organization and discuss (ok, sometimes commiserate) shared problems and opportunities. It not only allows me to improve but also to understand what challenges my peers are facing in the event I’m faced with them someday.

Applying what I learn to work is easy. For example, after walking out of the session on The Blended Art of Leadership, I met with the lead of my development team. We worked together on how to align our product vision so that I could communicate in a meaningful way to the rest of the development team (Think numbers!). The team is much more engaged when they understand the value of what we’re all working on.

This is a lesson for product management and the importance of continually learning and applying best practices, but it’s not just for product managers. We’re also in the business of people. If you’re looking to get the most from your people, I challenge you as an employer to help them develop this level of engagement in their professional careers. I challenge you as an employee to take accountability for your own growth and connect with members of your professional community and continue to learn new ways of doing things. You’ll love what you do and your business will benefit from it, like I believe Ultimate benefits from empowering our people.

Now back to my day job! And maybe a doughnut.

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