Product Management Festival 2017: Connect. Grow. Impact.

Written by Published in Product Management


Bigger and better than ever, Product Management Festival 2017 took place on 15th-16th of November in Zurich, Switzerland. Bringing together over 750 product managers from 38 countries and 288 companies, this year’s edition was the biggest in the conference’s 5-year history. Everybody who participated contributed to the event with their energy, insights and enthusiasm. Product Management Festival is organised by product managers for product managers: we all learn from each other. We come together to connect, grow and then go back to our organisations and impact them. The energy around the Festival is fantastic!

We had two days filled with quality content and inspiring talks from Mina’s fantastic examples about what makes products magical, to the creativity Nabil made us feel while imagining 700 BC Athens had a product manager. Our packed mindfulness session helped highlight that a little time for reflection can be good for the soul. We were inspired by so many other amazing product managers on and off stage.

What did we learn?

1. It’s all about people

Our personal and professional lives revolve around people, and it’s people who can help us succeed. When it comes to our relationships it’s important to be kind. Mark Hull from Facebook pointed out that having influence is better than having authority. Rebekah Mueller from Audible has reminded us we need to learn from people who challenge us instead of fighting them. Nabil from Google stressed the importance of effective group decision making.

And Google’s Rio Akasaka talked about the importance of empathy when building products. So regardless of whether it’s our coworkers, partners, suppliers or customers, at the end of the day it’s all about people. And we are building products for them.

2. You need to keep an eye on machine learning and artificial intelligence

It’s also about machines. Since 1789 when the industrial revolution took place, everything in people’s lives started to change. Machines shouldn’t be looked at as threats (don’t fall into the pitfall of panicking they will replace humans and we are going to go extinct), but opportunities, automatization and machine learning can help us. As Inga Chen from Squarespace put it: Machine Learning is the new electricity. Keynote speaker Ram Papatla shared with us how Flipkart embraced unconventional PM techniques, including using artificial intelligence, to help provide consistent quality end-user experience to a very diverse customer base.

3. You need to constantly work on your skills

According to Chris Long from Shopify there are 3 types of product managers: Innovator, Builder, Optimizer. Regardless of what your strength is, you permanently need to upgrade your skills. That’s why we come together, to learn and find better ways to do things.

At the same, keep in mind that no matter how much better you become as a PM, it is really important to stay true to your values, personal or professional (Christopher Osborne,

As a product manager grows in her position, leadership becomes increasingly important. That is why we have launched the Product Management Executive Programme this year in collaboration with INSEAD.

4. Data is important

“If you don’t measure value, how can you build more of it?” Shopify’s Chris Long asked. As the Lean Startup mantra goes, we have to “Build. Measure. Learn.” We permanently need to be in learning mode, and to be able to do that we have to look at the numbers. Product decisions need to be back up by these numbers and value needs to be measured.

Numbers are as important as words and speak for themselves. During our second keynote we announced the release of the Trends and Benchmarks Report 2017 which provided many insights regarding organization types, product management maturity in organizations, product management careers and salaries. It includes over 70 graphs and charts showing the state of product management. Full report can be downloaded for free here.

These are our golden nuggets of learning for this year. There were over 30 inspiring speakers on stage who offered knowledge and inspiration. Their learnings will be part of a more detailed summary which will follow in the next days.

We hope you enjoyed the festival, and for those of you who haven’t been there, keep an eye for Product Management Festival 2018!

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