SVPG Product Workshop Review

Recently, I attended the product management workshop, How to Create Products Customers Love” by Marty Cagan. As a new product manager, it solidified what had previously been a loosely-defined collection of ideas. It was a great experience and I’m still processing all of the material and information.

Although I was familiar with Marty’s work, the one thing that made me hesitant about attending the workshop was that I couldn’t find many reviews about it. So I thought I’d would share my experience to help anyone else who might be considering it.

The workshop was two full days in San Fransisco. Around 75 attendees gathered on the 9th floor of the City Club of San Fransisco. Everyone received a copy of Marty’s book, Inspired, as well as a hard copy booklet of his presentation. The booklet had space for notes and I had no problem filling those up. I’ve been referring back to those notes in the days following the workshop quite often.

When I arrived I surprised to find Marty himself there to greet and welcome everyone. I expected a typical registration table where I’d have to fill out a name badge or something. There was a relatively small number of people compared to other events and the venue was just the right size. This gave the workshop a very personal feel which I did not expect but thoroughly enjoyed. Everyone was seated at tables of seven, fostering some great discussions during the breaks and lunches. People came from all sorts of companies. There were massive, mature ones such as Epson. Some came from well-known tech companies like Uber. A few even came from other small businesses like my company, Luscinia. It was great to hear about a wide range of challenges that exist across different types of companies.

I don’t know how he did it, but Marty stood and taught the entire time on his own; I was worn out just from taking in and processing all that he had to teach. His passion for helping product managers is obvious. If he had the time he’d have no problem filling an entire week of training. He’s a very conversational presenter; he encouraged questions throughout the workshop and was always willing to dive deeper into a topic that piqued someone’s interest. The quality and attention that Marty brought to every aspect of the workshop really stood out to me.

The material of the workshop was split between the two days. The first covered foundational principles and strategies of product management. The second day was all about practical techniques for implementing those ideas. Everything in the workshop revolved around these three themes:

  1. Address major risks up front
  2. Define and design collaboratively
  3. Focus on results, not output

On their own those weren’t new concepts to me. But, the approaches and supporting ideas that Marty covered have given me tools and fresh perspectives for doing them well.

The information of the workshop largely reflected Marty’s book, Inspired, supplemented with great discussions and examples from Marty’s experience. Inspired is essentially the textbook of the training. This isn’t to say that if you’ve already read the book then you don’t need to go; you won’t experience the full value of the material until you both read the book and attend the workshop. I read Inspired before attending and it enabled me to dive deeper and internalize the material.

I could list out all that I walked away with, but then this review would at least double in length. The biggest benefit of this workshop was walking away with a much-improved structure for thinking about product management in theory and practice. Product management in technology is a very fuzzy discipline; its hard to describe what exactly it is that you do. My wife, Erin, can confirm this any time someone asks about my job. It can also be hard to focus your time and efforts on the right things. Being new to product management, this was invaluable to me. I believe that even someone with more experience would have some great takeaways and fresh perspectives.

If you’re a product manager looking to improve I have no doubt that you’ll find this workshop valuable, whether or not you’ve read Marty’s work before (and if you haven’t you should start now). I would sincerely recommend it to any looking to up their product game. Take a look at the SVPG site and see when the next workshop is.

Published by Matt Baxter on April 12, 2018.

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