Seated within a Blue Ash office park, a business mentor and former CEO of mine instructed me to look around and answer the question, “why does the world look like this?”
What he really meant was, why does the world have all of these office buildings comprised of cubicles and parking spaces?
We (you and I) do not have the capabilities to run an entire business by ourselves. Each day, we make the effort to congregate with others (like in an office park in Blue Ash) to work towards a common goal of creating value in the marketplace; by solving a human need.
By working together, we can maximize each other’s strengths and minimize our weaknesses with the sum of our output being greater than the input (1 + 1 = 3).
Product Manager’s have a unique position within the business world. We are the ones who are most focused on aiming towards the right outcomes, and that those outcomes have meaningful value in the market place.
If we are lucky, the products we are creating or managing are so big that we cannot do it alone.
We work with a team of people to realize the vision, and in doing so, we become expert coordinators that can recognize and leverage each member’s strengths— motivating them to achieve these at 100%. In a world of specialists, we are generalists and networkers, opportunistic problem seekers and solution tour guides.
Is there a major for this in business school? –– No.
Do I study marketing, management, business information systems, design, software engineering, or finance? –– All of them.
There is no right path to Product Management.
If you’re looking to become a great Product Manager you should seek to find someone who already is and learn from them. I believe the best path to reach this is through meetups and conferences (like ProductCamp Cincy!).
When searching through Cintrifuse calendar or meetup.com, I find a plethora of events for startup founders, designers, and developers. Each of which, I’m not truly part of— I don’t have to raise a seed round (though I craft pitch decks for Vice Presidents); I’m not an agency designer (though I make a mean whiteboard mockup); and I’m not a developer (though my SQL and VBA skills are not bad)—I’m a Product Manager, and I want to meet more people that have the same responsibilities and problems that come with them as I do. (Side note: I think ProductTank is the only product meet up. They meet once a quarter and we should all start going more often!)
Unsure of what to expect, I attended the last ProductCamp Cincy in 2016 at Paycor with a teammate of mine and over 150 other attendees. At the time, I was a newly designated Product Manager and the only one in that role at my company, The Business Backer. When I walked through the front doors of Paycor at 8 a.m. in the morning, a smile ripped across my face. There were a multitude of people from different backgrounds and companies that I had seen signs for or heard in the news. Some had backpacks on, others dressed in jeans and blue button downs with pens behind their ears, eager to introduce themselves. I felt surrounded by people just like me. I learned the “10 Things About UX That Designers Wish You Knew” from Chris Bovard of Paycor and "From Half-Baked Idea to Prototype in a Week: The Design Sprint” from Tim Metzner.
At ProductCamp I found community. I networked and met many other product thinkers that I could share ideas with and learn from. I also found education –– real experiences told by real people from my community. So much better than the dry articles and blogs that I intensely read from San Francisco, New York, and London (from which I try to extract any nugget of information to assist in a job I didn’t major in!)
We can make all of this happen again at ProductCamp 2018. This year, it takes place at Paycor on September 15th, 2018 powered by community sponsors, volunteer speakers, and eager-to-learn-participants. The event is free to attend, just register at productcampcincinnati.org.
Help us out by spreading the word and bring a coworker or two. We invite you to create the community (or world) that you want to live and work in!