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Posted in [Uncategorized] By Mike Jones

Yahoo! I am at Silicon Valley PCamp to learn how un-conferences work. About 900 people registered. The place is coming to life and votes are being made. The top 15 internet voted topics make up the morning sessions. The bottom 15 are pasted to the window and we are "dotting" them to see what wins for the afternoon sessions. We each get three votes. I'm cheer leading for the "how to overrule the engineers in a startup" topic :-) Since I am a product manager with an engineering background, I guess I'll learn how to tell myself what to do!

Main meeting area

Everyone is playing with TweetDeck. I am not a Twitter fan, but it hooks into Facebook and Linked In, so I'll give it a try. If you are into social networking, you might want to give it a try.


Companies that were hiring were allowed to get up and announce their openings. 25-30 people made announcements for product marketing, management, developers, sales, etc. They where asked to write "Hiring" on their badge so people could find them and they could bask in the sunshine of new friends :-)


About 500 people showed up out of 900 registered. All the sessions I went to had more than 20 people. In the area with the screen presentation format was used, and I gathered that more well known people that could draw a crowd were assigned to it. Other sessions were run tutorial style, and in one session a problem was given for people to solve in small groups and then gather to share insights. People did not promote their wares, but it was not to hard to figure out who the consultants were and exchange information. The growth rate after several years seems to be something like: 150, 190. 250, 500.


The quality of sessions was quite high, and were much more participatory than traditional conferences. This PCamp is now well enough known that people flew in from North Carolina, Chicago, and of course Colorado, where I am from. In the former case, the employer paid for the trip! The organizers seem to be well connected and share materials with the other PCamps. Key to success where Yahoo! (provided the place), sponsors, so that food could be provided, and a key core of volunteers. The place consisted of 8 or so classrooms and a main meeting area with a projection screen.

Main meeting area with screen

My main goal in attending was to learn how PCamps and un-conferences are run in the hope that rmPDMA can be a catalyst to running one in Denver. I have provided my notes here so you can get a flavor of some of the sessions. All in all it was quite impressive. Lots of networking. Lots of learning from peers. Very low price.


Morning Sessions

Product Management in a Startup Environment

The leaders printed out an "Exercise Scenario" for a hypothetical startup. There are questions for discussion. The proposed company is a online retail called "The Guy Registry."

A few interesting ideas came out the session:

  • Develop personas of users and have a consultant/expert maintain blogs for them so the team can interact
  • The role of PM in a startup is to guide the conversation such that it leads to focus
  • Deal with the CEO who is off on a new idea before the initial one is complete
  • Clarifying vision of the CEO needs constant testing because he will change his mind a lot
  • Assumption testing is critical
  • Don't have single points of failure
  • Can fall apart when the PM and CEO have a basic disagreement over direction and must be delt with
  • Flexibility is more important that process
  • Use Google Wave to manage the conversation
  • Host website by customer to get hits

Anthropology for the Product Manager

PMs have to deal with different cultures within organizations: customer, engineering, finance, etc. The PM has unique ability to translate customer needs and knowledge to the internal cultures. More can be learned by observing because people don't always do what they say. Customer's idea of what a product represents can be very different than yours. Personas can fall short of actual experience. Observing customers can provide context and one can see how a product fits with the whole person.

Anthropology is a process of informing.



It is important to avoid ethnocentrism. Measuring against self is problematic.


cognitive anthropology - how people categorize things

symbolic anthropology - what does my product represent

Who you select to visit is important. Would not make huge scale changes on small number of data points. Small samples are good to open thinking, giving new areas to explore.

In the B2B context, how products fit into the work flow is important.

Pay attention to language and how they categorize their world. What is important? What media do they read. Another definition of culture is the language through which people see the world. What is tangible in the culture, what is taboo? What do they all have.

PMs don't use enough testable hypotheses and adjust them over time. It is very difficult to know your assumptions and cultural frameworks. People may frame things differently.

Best practices of what to do with data:

  • Worst thing is to think one customer is every customer
  • Overlaying thoughts, beliefs, values on customer said or did is dangerous
  • A lot can be learned by watching someone fumble with your product
  • Take and show videos of customer using product

What resources are out there:

  • Very new discipline
  • Not much out there
  • Johnson
  • The Chief Culture Officer MIT Pres (great position for PM)
  • Look for proxies: movie stats, economy, etc
  • Watch Dilbert Cartoons (don't just look at the product)

What about underlying drivers. Deeper ethnography's dig into this. $50K+. Humans are driven by primal forces and sometimes they show up. For example, body care product being used as entertainment (in Guatemala). Messages can then be tailored.

The business development manager ends up playing the role more than the product manager, but the business development manager is more interested in sales, adn the product manager is more interested in the overall product, market, etc.

Participant observation is used so people let their guard down. For deep "hang out", it is mostly observation, not recommending how to use a product.

Afternoon Sessions

Marketing Yourself

Rules about positioning:

  1. Not about you
  2. Differentiate
  3. Why vs. What (or what I can do for you)

Why should I hire you? Because you will get... A, B, C

Know what the need is and align with it. Know the benefits and use "I" to support it.

It is ok to say I don't know yet because I don't know if we are aligned.

Top three strengths... good at and enjoy doing? How does it benefit a potential employer.

Tell me about yourself... let me talk about your organization and how I can help you...

Hard vs. soft benefits: hardware is "let me tell you how I did this in 3 other companies.."

Always lead with the benefit. Have a purpose and be strong.

Resume: Does it sell or merely tell?

Typical Resume... Company, Position, Dates

Company, Position - Employment Dates

Position Goals & Objectives

  1. Grow..
  2. Launch...

Change your resume for every job you apply for if neccessary. Only emphasize what matters to hiring company.

T - Resume (cover letter)

Position Requirements (left) Relavant Experience (right)

Taken from job desc Accomplishments per above

Watch out for poorly written requirements. You may have to rewrite them.

Finding Unadvertised Opportunities. Small % success at getting jobs via internet job sites.

  • Resumes posted by requirement
  • Most jobs come from networks and knowing people
  • May be posed to intelligence gathering, image, etc
  • People are looking for perfection and can't make decisions


  1. Identify target companies
  2. Get names of hiring managers
  3. Google hiring managers to get to know them
  4. Get email formats of hiring managers
  5. Initiate contact

Take interviews for practice and networking.

  • Why are you hiring a product manager?
  • Why is that important now?

Leads to ideas on selling yourself.

Finding Unadvertised Opportunities

Get names of hiring managers: "title" + companyname

Get email address formats: *@domain name, for example initial+lastname@domain

Position search on LinkedIn.

Many hiring managers are looking for someone to replace someone.

The Interview - Selling Your Product

50% - Related to person selling it

33% - Product

17% - Other

  • Be engaging
    • Appearance
    • Body language / eye contact
    • Energy Level
  • Play offense without being offensive
  • The questions you ask
    • The suggestions you offer

How do you talk about your self without talking about yourself. Always talk about yourself second. Talk about issues and how you can solve them. It is about them first then about you.

The Interview - Do's & Don'ts
  • Project a positive attitude
  • Smile and be passionate
  • Roll with the punches
  • Learn something from every interview
  • Don't talk money in the interview

Thank You note: reiterate their needs and how you fulfill them.

How to be a Phenomenal Product Manager

Book: The Phenomenal Product Manager, Expert Product Management

Becoming Phenomenal

  1. Clarity: Role, Responsibilities, Ownership
  2. Evangelize: Groups, Team, Reinforced...
  3. Influence: Subtle, Relationships, Debating, Negotiating, Arguing (3 reasons), Alliances
  4. Tone: Authority, Certainty, Writing & Speaking
  5. Leadership: Think/Act/Communicate, Career Advancement, Instill Hope, Challenge Team
  6. Be Bold: Have guts, Strong opinions, Stand up for what is right...or don't be a PM!
  7. Communicate: Terse, Appropriate, Clear - briefly summarize the situation - state a few selected facts - state what you need, want or demand
  8. Logic & Emotion: Data, Anecdotes, Personal Motivators
  9. Expertise: Market, PM Domain, Business
  10. Whole product: Own It, Insist, Fight, Give Credit
  11. Enthusiasm: Self Generated, Infectious, Fake It, Brand (do not become cynical or jaded)
  12. Tenacity: He who sticks with it... Respect
  13. Attitude: If it's not fun, why do it?


Requirements -> Build it -> Product (value)

The guys that built it are weird but really smart. Need to communication them precise requirements they can build.

Human nature is to fill in the parts. If you don't specify exactly what you mean, they will build it any way and fill in the blank.

Mobile phone asset tracker: 3G Asset Manager Product Requirements

  • List the assets (inventory)
  • List asset owners
  • Associate assets to owners
  • Add/Delete new assets
  • Add/Delete people
  • Trace assets between owners

Stories should be implementation free. Business owns story list, not developers.

Personas are key to stories:

  • Users
  • IT people/ops
  • HR

Story Format:

  • As a <user> I want <activity> so that I can <benefit>
  • Acceptance criteria, great if specific and with data (business, not technical) - defines done - specific is better


  • The whole story
  • Need to be decomposed or broken down

Thin slice:

  • If you don't thin slice, you are doing iterative waterfall
  • Start with very basic function

An Agile team will not work without approval of a story.

Non functional requirements and cost. Performance. Other out of bad requirements. Need a close relationship with developers.

Need to know how the learn, especially in an international context. Diagrams are much easier to understand. GUI mockup, workflow, etc. Diagrams support a bucket of stories, usually a natural bucket.

Delay commitment until the last responsible moment

Previous Entry: Phase Gate and Agile
Next Entry: PCamp Austin 2010


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