Getting to know is a new blog series to give you an insight into the local tech meetup scene. Read on to find out who’s behind the groups we support, what you can gain from getting involved and what you can expect to see happen in the not-so-distant future.
In our first conversation we’re joined by John Griffin from Pack, who tells us all about Product Unleashed – the new product management meetup in Brighton.
Can you tell us about Product Unleashed and who it’s for?
Products are everywhere. Right now, all kinds of companies, large and small are launching their own products into the marketplace and from working with a variety of teams and organisations, we realised that building products can be quite a lonely place.
So, we are interested in creating a new platform made up of informative events and a supportive community for those working in product development. Our platform aims to help people connect and learn about some of the techniques we employ at Pack; to help everyone work better and get more stuff done.
“what we realised from working with a lot of these teams is that building products can be quite a lonely place.”
Ultimately, Product Unleashed is for anyone who is interested in digital products, those working on digital products or part of a product team, and more generally; anyone that is interested in innovation, design thinking and design doing.
What can attendees expect from the events?
We are not 100% sure yet as it’s still early days, but there’s some things we’re definitely keen to explore through these events. We want to help connect those within product development and encourage peer-to-peer knowledge sharing by giving free access to industry speakers. We encourage everyone to share their own knowledge, just like we’ll be sharing our knowledge from having worked with multiple product teams – through this we’ll arm everyone with those knowledge-bombs and wisdoms they can take forward into their own careers.
Because everybody’s journeys are very different, I think it’s really important to look outside of your own silo and engage with the community as a whole, whether that’s through an event or something else, to get that wider perspective on how people are doing things and how you can learn to bring that into your own product business.
“it’s really important to look outside of your own silo and engage with the community as a whole”
Ultimately, helping people to build up a product toolkit within their own organisations, by giving them the tools and mindsets needed, from the experience of mixing with peers and industry leaders – I believe that’s going to help them be the best kind of product professional that they can be.
You had a fantastic speaker for your first event, how did you come to approach Richard Banfield?
I think sometimes people are a bit too nervous about approaching big keynote speakers or those well known within the industry, but my approach has always been that if I like someone and think they’re interesting and relevant for our audience then I will drop them a line to start a conversation. Afterall, they are just human beings, and many are happy to help share their knowledge and we’ve had some great success at getting well known people both onto our podcast and hopefully these events through the technique.
So, with Richard I just messaged him via LinkedIn to start a conversation. To be honest, I didn’t expect him to say yes, as I thought we’d be a little bit small fry as we’re so early in our journey, but he was really up for helping and generous with his time.
I think that’s the thing to remember you know, if you look up to someone or if someone is popular within a space that you’re interested in, just say hello and see what happens. If you’ve got a relevant reason to message it’s more than likely they’re going to enjoy the content that you do and hopefully get involved as well.
What did you learn or find most valuable from Richard’s talk?
I think there was so much in the talk that was brilliant and it’s a piece of content I suspect I’ll be revisiting again and again just to remind myself of the finer points.
However, the main thing for me, was about how the small misunderstandings at the start of creating a product, or working on a project, can escalate to bigger misunderstandings as the timeline expands. He used a couple of analogies to explain this and one that really stuck was about a bolt on a spaceship; if it’s an inch out when you leave the ground it will be miles apart when you get into space!
“make sure that you’ve got a shared vocabulary with your product team, and that you’re transparent with your communications”
It’s important you don’t leave any stone unturned at the start of the process. That’s one of the great things about working through some of these frameworks that we push; it’s all about alignment and collaboration from the start and throughout. So yeah, it was great to hear Richard emphasise that point, to pull that kind of methodology out in his talk because that’s really something we can relate to. And what we’re preaching day in day out to people as well.
You can watch Richard Banfield’s talk on YouTube here.
What’s in store for the future, will this be a regular event series?
We’re planning to run more events and hold them every two months to begin with, whilst in between encouraging people to join our community, building up their relationships and connections between the talks. The next event will be on the 29th January, so stay tuned for details.
Can you tell us a bit about your own backgrounds and the work you do at Pack?
Pack came about from the merging of two design businesses, as the three founders within Pack all have experience of designing digital products and producing tangible design outputs.
I think what’s interesting with our journey is that we came to a point from helping others to build products and websites, where we noticed many were going about those projects in ways that we knew could be improved.
“Pack was born out of the desire to help people validate their ideas, to innovate rapidly and make sure that they know it’s okay to fail fast”
We benefited ourselves from adopting frameworks like the Design Sprint to help validate ideas before getting into stuff like design and build cycles, and this led us to realise there’s a gap in the market, plus an opportunity, to help more people ensure their own efforts, time and money are being placed into building the right.
So yeah, that’s kind of how pack came about, it was our love for working on digital products but seeing a different way that people could do things and wanting to spread the word and help people to use some of those methodologies that had helped us to do better work basically.
How did you come to work with Silicon Brighton and what benefits and support have you seen?
We were approached by Silicon Brighton after we did a live version of our podcast, Pack Unleashed, back in August this year.
Silicon Brighton opened our eyes to the idea that there was space for a product meetup within Brighton. We were already doing a lot of this kind of work – helping bring people together – and after talking with them about products it just seemed like a really natural fit for us to work together.
“Silicon Brighton have great connections within the local tech community, plus a fantastic platform to help us launch”
I think Product Unleashed probably would have come to fruition eventually but working with the team at Silicon Brighton really helped to accelerate everything. They really supported us in getting the meetup up off the ground. They gave us their expertise from having done it before. And the resources we needed to feel confident that we could bring it to market quickly.
So, actually with their backing I think we decided on the event date, maybe a month before it actually happened! The collaboration with Silicon Brighton has been really great and we managed to pull it all off and had a really, really good reception to our first event, so it was great – top marks Silicon Brighton!
Where can people connect with you? Or learn more about product design in general?
There’s a few places to connect: LinkedIn is our main social platform of choice because we work a lot b2b. You can also connect with myself and say hello on LinkedIn, plus listen to the podcast here. We also share a lot of advice articles from our website; with many product related articles covering key topics like validating ideas, right through to making sure your team’s diverse enough, and introductions to some of the frameworks we use regularly like design sprints as well.
Any advice and tips for others looking to run an event?
I think you should go find your audience first, know who your audience is, and then make sure you engage with them beforehand and build-up some anticipation before the event.
Validate your idea and ask people for input, you know ask them ‘ if I did an event about this’ or ‘we’re going to do an event about this, do you think you’d be interested?’ and quite quickly you will see whether it’s either: A) just you and a small amount of people that are interested, or B) it has wider appeal and is really something that could work.
So, do a bit of homework around your audience and find out what they want to know and how you can help.
“a bit of research upfront is a really good way to validate your idea and know that you’re going to get a good response to the event”
If you’re interested in hearing more from Product Unleashed and other local groups, make sure to join us on the Hub. It’s free to join and you can find the recordings from many of our past events, plus chat directly with speakers and others working in the local tech sector about Brighton and Sussex.
Silicon Brighton has run and supported over 50 events this year, if you want to run one of your own – get in contact with a member of our team to see how we might be able to help: firstname.lastname@example.org