Spring 2020

PDMA Pittsburgh Spring 2020 Newsletter cover

PDMA Pittsburgh logo

Pittsburgh PDMA Community,

One of the key qualities of a good product manager is curiosity. The desire to learn new things or to revisit familiar things from a different perspective is vital in the world of innovation where things change more rapidly than ever before. Given all the work that goes into building a worldview around your business or product, it takes a concerted effort to think like a truly effective product manager.

Often times, you may hear someone say, “We know our business.” But the only way to say that with confidence is to constantly question what you thought you knew yesterday and validate that it is still true today. When was the last time you asked yourself, “Why does my product or service even exist?” vs. contemplating the next feature that can be tacked on to provide incremental value that may or may not drive your business forward. Steve Johnson of the Pragmatic Institute refers to this approach as being a Problem Manager as opposed to a Product Manager. Focusing on problems allows you to competently track the changes in the market. Always focusing on solutions is going to hamper your ability to make big jumps to track those newly discovered problems.

Being open to new ideas, to new perspectives, and embracing challenges to your current thinking requires constantly learning new things. The more things you know and are exposed to, the more likely you are to make novel connections that others miss. The intersection of seemingly disparate ideas into something new is the premise of The Medici Effect by Frans Johansson. The more dots you have to connect, the greater the chance that some collision of those unrelated ideas will produce something new and exciting.

This is central to the core mission of PDMA. We strive to foster a community where innovators can be exposed to new things, connect with like-minded people, and continue on their journey as life-long learners. Aligning with our approach of continuous improvement, we held our second "Back to Basics" workshop on prototyping, completed our third Body of Knowledge training class, and are providing the Pittsburgh innovation community another opportunity to learn on May 4th by hosting our first webinar, Designing for the Internet of Things (IoT): Reflecting on today and tomorrow’s consumer IoT. Our goal is to challenge ourselves to constantly improve and adapt to bring you learning opportunities that will allow you to become better product developers. We hope you can attend our next event and we look forward to seeing everyone in person when we get through the current challenge.

Best Regards,

John Rovnan
PDMA Pittsburgh President

WebinarsCoronavirus Impact on PDMA Pittsburgh Events

The safety and well-being of our product development community is our priority. In response to the coronavirus pandemic, we have implemented the following changes that impact PDMA Pittsburgh upcoming events:

We are committed to providing you with valuable product development and management content during these challenging times. We will continue to monitor the coronavirus situation and will keep you up-to-date on any programming updates.

Our thoughts are with everyone who has been impacted by this unprecedented crisis. We hope you are staying safe and healthy, and we look forward to seeing you in the future.

PDMA Pittsburgh May 4th Event FlyerDownload the event flyer to learn more.May 4th Webinar: Designing for the Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) is transforming industries in many different ways, especially as it relates to product development. We are excited to have Daragh Byrne, Ph.D., share his expertise on the ever-evolving field of IoT during our May 4th webinar:

Designing for the Internet of Things: Reflecting on today and tomorrow’s consumer IoT

Daragh is an Associate Teaching Professor at Carnegie Mellon University in the School of Architecture and the Integrated Innovation Institute. He is an expert in the field of consumer IoT. Much of Daragh’s work focuses on data and human experience, the maker movement, and the Internet of Things.

Daragh will discuss:

  • The evolution of consumer IoT
  • Emerging themes and trends
  • Design considerations for product developers
  • Future directions and possibilities for IoT devices

If you are a product developer, product manager, innovator, designer, marketer, or engineer, you should attend this valuable webinar.

This event will be held via Zoom virtual meeting. The presentation will be held from 6:00 - 7:00 pm, with a Q&A session from 7:00 - 7:30 pm.

Space is limited. Register now to reserve your spot. We hope you'll be able to join us.

Register Now

Upcoming EventsUpcoming PDMA Pittsburgh Programs & Events

With the uncertainty of when we will be able to hold in-person meetings, we are planning to host our upcoming May and June events as webinars via Zoom.

May 4: Designing for the Internet of Things webinar
June: Webinar topic to be announced soon
July: Summer Social Event and Agile Panel Discussion
(The panel discussion will be followed by a "Back to Basics" workshop that will be scheduled once the stay-at-home mandate is lifted, and it is safe to gather.)
Aug 18 - Oct 6: Body of Knowledge Training - every Tuesday evening
Sept 26: ProductCamp Pittsburgh (proud sponsor)

We will communicate event details and updates via the PDMA Pittsburgh website, email, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

Back to Basics workshop photo"Back to Basics" Workshop Sparks Creativity and Learning

On February 27th, over 20 product development professionals and students packed the collaborative workspace at Catalyst Connection to participate in the “Back to Basics” Ideation, Selection, and Prototyping Workshop.

The participants were split into four teams, and each group had an experienced facilitator to provide instruction and guidance. Each team selected a problem that they were tasked to solve by applying the concepts, methods, and tools that they learned during each part of the workshop.

Back to Basics workshop photoFor the “Ideation” section, the workshop focused on two specific ideation approaches: Systematic Inventive Thinking (SIT) and SCAMPER, a thinking technique that uses seven approaches to spark creative thinking: Substitute, Combine, Adapt. Modify, Put to another use, Eliminate, and Reverse or Rearrange. The groups applied these methods to brainstorm ideas on their selected problem. Each idea was added to a Post-It that would be used later in the workshop.

During the “Selection” process, the teams learned about several different selection approaches, including: affinity mapping, Post-It voting, grouping/classifications, story mapping, and more. Each team used the Post-It voting method to group related ideas together, narrow them, and agree upon the solution for the problem to be prototyped.

Back to Basics workshop photoDuring the prototyping section, the teams gained a better understanding of the different ways to prototype, from a simple sketch to a complex, physical model. Each team was given a box of craft supplies to design and build their prototype. The box included LEGOS, Play-Doh, pipe cleaners, construction paper, wooden sticks, markers, and more.

At the end of the workshop, each team used their creative and innovative prototype to explain how their idea solved their specific problem. Each participant was extremely engaged in the group projects and came up with excellent solutions. This hands-on event put a fun twist on learning a new concept and thinking outside the box.

Thank you to the PDMA facilitators and moderator:

  • Carolynn Johnson, Human Factors and Research Manager, Daedalus
  • Andreas Maihoefer, Founder and Principal Consultant, EnSo Consulting
  • Rhonda Schuldt, President, The Synergos Group LLC & Owner, Local Goodness
  • Colleen Wolfe, Product Manager, SAE International
  • Moderator: Stephen Leonard, Founder and Managing Director, GrayMatterz Consulting

Watch for more information on “Back-to-Basics” workshops that will be held in the Fall and Winter.

Back to Basics workshop photo Back to Basics workshop photo Back to Basics workshop photo Back to Basics workshop photo

BoK coverBoK Training Recommended for Product Development Teams

The Spring 2020 session of the Body of Knowledge (BoK) training finished at the end of March with the last two sessions being held via Zoom meeting due to social distancing guidelines. Seven enthusiastic professionals from multiple industries and backgrounds successfully completed the course to sharpen their product development and management skills.

In the spirit of continuous improvement, we collect feedback from participants after each training series. One recurring theme in the comments provided – from the first session to this last one – is associated with “the value that diversity adds to the overall program.” Participants feel that the diversity of the individual students’ background, diversity of the various instructors’ expertise, and diversity of the topics covered each week enrich the learning experience and contribute to unique and valuable knowledge sharing.

The BOK training provided me two growth opportunities. The first allowed me to review aspects of product development that I was familiar with, but with the added bonus of learning from industry experts and fellow participants. Secondly, there were new approaches and techniques that I was not familiar with, and I look forward to exploring them further. I would recommend the BOK training to other Product Managers looking to grow their knowledge.

- Colleen Wolfe, Product Manager, SAE International

Additional comments focused on the vast amount of material covered in the BoK training and how instructors can only do a deep dive into a few valuable topics each week. This feedback inspired us to explore customized BoK training sessions that are ideal for full teams. Participating in a customized training program allows you to learn the information together, have discussions outside of class, and determine the best way to apply all of the tools and methods to your current and future projects. Please contact us at pghpdma@pdma.org if you and your team are interested in training that is tailored to focus on specific knowledge areas that are most pertinent to your current needs.

We have tentatively scheduled the Fall 2020 Body of Knowledge training for August 18 - October 6 in the hope that, by that time, we will be able to hold in-person sessions again. Registration is open if you would like to reserve your spot now. We will keep you posted on the final format as the start date approaches.

Register Today