Last night I headed up to Galvanize Boulder to check out the Colorado Product Meetup. Quick version: they crushed it — super fun, well organized, and a friendly/smart/diverse crowd. I’m looking forward to the next event and learning from more product folks down the road.

So what’s it all about?

I think I can best answer that question by pointing to CP’s website, where they ask What is Product Management? …And there isn’t one specific answer. It’s all over the place. They offer a variety of definitions and interpretations from entrepreneurs, tech leaders, lean practitioners, even Wikipedia.

Some of these answers are super high level:

Help your team (and company) ship the right product to your users.

Others are a bit more targeted:

You must be able to communicate with all areas of the company. Work with an engineering counterpart to define product release requirements… Work with marketing communications to define the go-to-market strategy… Etc.

Still, you see a handful of recurring themes:

  • Discover customer problems (who is the customer? what are their needs?)
  • Hypothesize and test solutions (is x really a problem? does y successfully solve it?)
  • Continually analyze market/user data (learn and iterate)
  • Collaborate with engineering & UX (make tactical decisions / serve as customer voice)
  • Own the overall vision (make strategic decisions / achieve business goals)
  • Evangelize the product (help sell)

How PMs go about doing all of these things can obviously vary depending on the market, company/team, product goals, etc… But essentially the group serves as a resource to cultivate professional development within this mixed bag of problem solvers. And in some ways, the mashup nature of the product role perfectly describes the dynamic of the CP Meetup crowd as well.

I met people from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines. Startup CEOs, biz dev folks, account reps, entrepreneurs, active PMs — all with vastly different stories (and reasons for their interest in the meetup). It was a lot of fun to learn about their experiences, methods, successes, failures, goals, and journies in general.

What what is like? Basically a hybrid of these two things:

  1. Typical networking activities (~20%)
  2. Team-based workshop (~80%)

We shook a lot of hands, exchanged cards, discussed backgrounds/ideas…and eventually broke off into teams to discuss and draft target user personas for an existing product (a freely available Google Chrome extension).

After about 20-30 mins of brainstorming/discussion, each team presented a target persona to the group (which was super cool…lots of different ideas). We then gained some insight from the actual product owners as to how/why they hypothesized their initial persona, tested it, analyzed metrics/feedback, and then redefined their target persona and accompanying marketing material (keywords, landing page look/messaging, etc).

Love it. Made some great connections within my team, the organizers, and a handful of folks I met beforehand. Looking forward to many more :beers:

Other cool meetups:

  • Refresh Denver: (2.5k) Mostly designers & developers. Talks from industry leaders in various disciplines. Largely discussing web trends and/or product design.
  • New Tech: (11k+) Largely presentations/pitches for new companies and ideas.

Know of any others worth mentioning? Add a comment below or give me a shout!