My first ProductCamp experience

Last Saturday I spent the day at ProductCamp here in Austin. It was my first ProductCamp, and I’m sure it won’t be my last.



What is ProductCamp?

From the ProductCamp wiki:

ProductCamp is a collaborative, user organized unconference, focused on Product Marketing and Management topics. At ProductCamp everyone participates: by presenting, leading a roundtable discussion, helping with logistics, securing sponsorship, or volunteering. ProductCamp is a great opportunity for you to learn from, teach to, and network with professionals involved in the Product Management, Marketing, and Development process from the Austin area!  The first ProductCamp Austin had over 130 people sign up, and over 90 participate.  Inspired by Austin’s great participation, the ProductCamp concept has swept to other cities such as Toronto and Boston!

Put simply: ProductCamp is a bunch of smart, passionate people coming together to discuss, debate, and collaborate on the issues they face every day.  Everyone is welcome: in June we had product managers, product marketers, marketing managers, developers, project managers, operations leads, lawyers, HR reps, directors and VP’s of marketing and product management, and consultants.  Everyone brings different experiences and leveraging that collective knowledge is what makes ProductCamp special – and something you can’t get anywhere else.

Was it expensive?

It was free!

I had an interesting conversation at ProductCamp with another attendee, and she was kinda confused. She said "I didn’t have to pay to register. Do I have to pay for lunch? What about happy hour? I’ve never been to a free conference" I replied that all of the conferences that I’ve been to recently have all been free (or damn close to free). ALT.NET conference – free. KaizenConf – free. Agile Austin Open Space – just $25. and now ProductCamp – free.

This is quite a testament to the community as a whole – to the volunteers who organize and coordinate, to the facilitators who rock it out, to the sponsors who give back to the community and make it possible, as well as to the attendees who participate, lead sessions, and share their knowledge.

I count myself lucky to live in Austin, where the tech community is so alive and vibrant.


There were a ton of sessions, so narrowing it down was a bit tough. The ones I attended:

Agile Product Management: Making Things Happen – A discussion on agile development, how it changes product management and why these changes help to produce a better product

Why is Everyone Mad at Me? (a product management lessons learned discussion covering research, innovation, communications, positioning, politics, delivering results, and other good stuff to know ) 

Toyota’s Chief Engineer as a Model for Agile Product Development Leadership: Fixing Agile Organizational Anti Patterns

The rumblings of Lean as a practice seem to be making the rounds more and more. Scott Bellware led this session, and it was interesting to hear a bunch of Product Managers recognize some of the problems in their Agile processes, and starting to pay attention to what Lean has to say about it.

Sunni Brown of BrightSpot graphically recorded the session, which rocked. I’m in awe at her skills. If you haven’t seen her graphics – go check them out on her website. Very cool.

Interactive workshop – Develop a 12 month strategy to drive awareness in the marketplace

Roundtable – Product Management and leadership within the organization: “Leadership – why it is so important for success in product management.  How to exercise leadership to influence others in your organization.”

From Product Marketer to Entrepreneur:  A round table discussing the risks, rewards, and support infrastructure for launching a tech startup in Austin.

Innovation Games — Creating Breakthrough Products through Collaborative Play

This was one of my favorite sessions of the day. Jeff Brantley did a great job of introducing Innovation Games, and then led us through 2 quick games, which were a lot of fun. I had recently read the Innovation Games book, and this session solidified the ideas and strategies.

There was a lot of interest in this topic, and following on with one of the ProductCamp mantras that "conversations don’t stop just because the session is over", a book club is starting to form around the Innovation Games book, and there’s also an upcoming Innovation Games workshop being held in Austin next month. And yes, the workshop is free!


Mucho gracias to Paul Young and the rest of the planning team – they did a great job putting this conference together.