It goes without saying that ProductTank London community is very special to all of us at Mind the Product. Members of the community form the core MTP team, many volunteer at our flagship conferences, some make up our training team, and a handful of them have been in it with us since the very beginning.
In this community story, and in celebration of ProductTank’s 10-year anniversary, we hear from Hilary Reynolds, a regular MTP volunteer, James Brian a long-time supporter and friend of MTP (he was even at the very first ProductTank!), and James Mayes our CEO.
Who plays an important part in London’s ProductTanks?
Try to get us to pin this down to a few key players and it becomes impossible because, like so many ProductTanks all over the world, ProductTank London is a result of the effort and dedication of so many people – in the words of James Brian, “it’s lots of folks, honestly, too many to mention,” but with his help, we’ll still give it a good go.
“People like Martin Eriksson, James Mayes, Janna Bastow, Simon Cast, Analisa Plehn, Marc Abraham, Chris Massey and Emily Tate have all made, and continue to make, it all happen,” he says. Of course, it’s our job at Mind the Product to raise the profile of the profession and to support product people over the world, that’s our mission and always has been, but we couldn’t do this alone. We have lots of awesome people who support the work we do for the community.
“There’s an army of volunteers that I see at every event. People like Ed Kendall, Lucy Spence, they’re passionate about product management and are just super nice people – good for a jar or two too!” (that’s a drink if anyone was wondering).
“I get notifications about events from James Gadsby Peet and as a community, we’re asked for topics and speakers. The organisers curate the suggestions really well. I’m always in awe of their energy, selflessness, and love for the community.”
Hilary too has nothing but good things to say about our incredible ProductTank crew. “James Gadsby Peet and Elina Sokolovska play a huge role,” she says. “They’re both very approachable and keen to give back to the community, and they’re both so passionate about product and our craft. Then there’s Ed Kendall – he’s a regular, he always shows up and always has a smile!” As we say at MTP HQ, it’s not ProductTank London without Ed to greet you!
How many members does your ProductTank have?
Around 400 people attend London’s monthly ProductTank meetups at Conway Hall in Holborn. “The venue has a wonderful stage and lots of space split across two levels,” says Hilary. But this venue we’ve come to love so much isn’t where ProductTank London started out. As many Mind the Product and ProductTank fans know, the Inaugural ProductTank Meetup was held in the backroom of the Ruby Blue pub off Leicester Square. It later moved to another pub, a coworking space, then a school hall and finally, Conway Hall, a building owned by the charity Conway Hall Ethical Society that first opened in 1929. It’s also been held in the BBC’s world-famous Radio Theatre a few times!
What can you tell us about London’s product community?
We like to think that London has the full run of product people, from Enterprise to Startup, and everything in between – but then again, we’re biased and maybe that’s ok because it’s taken a long time to get to where we are today.
“Before ProductTank, we were all alone,” says James Brian. ” We were probably missing each other by seconds like a giant version of the ultra-sh*t rom-com Sliding Doors. We also had a lack of belief in our work, as if everything good happened in California and London was just a ‘try-hard’, fake. Mind the Product changed all that.”
Today, for members of ProductTank, meetups are a chance to get-together, to gather with friends old and new, and to learn from each other.
“I look forward to every event and to seeing people that I’ve seen for years,” adds Hilary. “I always take something away and it has a wonderful way of pulling me out of the day to day and reminds me that personal investment into the product craft is important.”
Which talks have been a hit?
For both James Brian and Hilary, Marty Cagan’s London talks have been highlights.
James Brian described Marty’s April 2019 Special a ‘mass worship event’ (he’s probably right) and says he also heard good things about the Black Mirror edition in March 2019.
Our very own James Mayes agrees and recalls that, while he’d curated the Black Mirror edition of ProductTank London, sadly he couldn’t be there in person. At the time, he was out of the country for #mtpcon Singapore and missed it. “In the end, I couldn’t make it but I was blown away by the reports on the night and caught all the videos after. All three speakers that night – Roisi Proven, Amie-Rose Long and Nathan Kinch, absolutely smashed it!”
If you’ve not already, you can watch them here:
- What’s the Worst that Could Happen? by Roisi Proven
- Give me Your Horror Stories, Spare no Gory Detail by Amie-Rose Long
- Socially Preferable by Nathan Kinch
How does ProductTank help product people?
Like many attendees, Hilary admits she was a very shy product owner, and also new to London when she first attended ProductTank London many years ago.
“The community has since helped me grow and reinvest in my skills. It also helps me to practice networking every month in an environment of like-minded people,” which, she says is pretty incredible given how tough London can be for newcomers. “I think you have more chance to win the lotto than to meet someone randomly in London!”
For James Brian, ProductTank offers a Smörgåsbord of training, advice, community, professionalism of the craft, job opportunities and free drinks. “It does everything short of housing and feeding me,” he says.
Can you share any fun facts about London?
“Absolutely loads,” says James Brian, “some of them are even true. For a pint, I’ll take you on one of my walking tours!” In the meantime, we can reveal a few. Here goes:
While, these days, we Londoners do sure love an Uber, we also have nothing but respect for London taxi drivers because they have something most of us will never have – the ‘Knowledge’. The Knowledge is a test that anyone who wants to drive an iconic London cab must pass. It’s claimed can take anything from two to four years to learn. Wannabe cabbies have to memorise 320 routes, the 25,000 streets within those routes and 20,000 landmarks.
Mind the Gap
The name Mind the Product comes from Mind the Gap (a decision made over a few drinks at Kingly Court in Soho in 2011) – a public announcement made throughout the London Underground. The now-famous message, recorded in 1969 by theatre actor Oswald Lawrence, had originally been used on the Northbound Northern line but was later phased out until it could only be heard at Embankment station.
In 2013 it was updated and Oswald’s voice vanished completely – a change that went on to hit the headlines. Oswald’s wife, Dr Margaret McCollum, had loved hearing her late husband’s voice when she visited the station and was devastated when it disappeared. She contacted the London Underground team to ask for a recording and, long story short, they were so touched went on to reinstate the message. You can still hear it today – but only at Embankment. Read the story in full here.
Great Ormond Street Hospital, off Russell Square, a famous hospital for children, owns the copyright to Peter Pan and receives royalties from all associated works and performances. The book’s author J.M. Barrie gifted the rights to the hospital in 1929.
Here’s to the next 10 years!
ProductTank is what it is today because of our wonderful volunteers and because of you, the people who attend – our community. Thank you all for coming on this journey with us, we’re already looking forward to the next 10 years and we hope you are too.
Sure things will change. Look at how far we’ve all come in the last decade and even the changes we’re making right now. ProductTank has adapted incredibly to continue to support the community remotely during the COVID crisis. But, when it comes to ProductTank we know that some things will always stay the same. What we stood for then, we stand for now. In fact, we think what our founder Martin Eriksson said when he launched ProductTank #1 is as true today as it was then:
ProductTank provides an opportunity for Product Managers in London to exchange ideas and experiences about Product Design, Development and Management, Business Modelling, Metrics, User Experience and all the other things that get us excited.
Events include talks from guest speakers on topics around product management, networking opportunities, and a good old-fashioned chin-wag over a beer or two.
We’re open to companies big and small. We also welcome early-stage technology businesses looking to learn how to get their ideas off the ground.