Product Leaders Forum, Pune 2015 – Junoon personified!

A volunteer’s journey through PLF-Pune
After the phenomenal success of PLF Bengaluru in Feb 2015(the first of its kind), PLF Pune was thought to be a relatively easy-to-execute event. But boy, were we wrong! For me, it was a promising opportunity to not only jump onto the product leaders’ bandwagon, and apply something I had learnt as an alumnus of IPL, but also to connect with other alumni who would be volunteering for the event.

PLF Pune turned out to be a different ballgame altogether. Not only is the tech community at Pune a tad more laidback than our Bengaluru counterparts, but the ecosystem is primarily full of services crowd. To convince this crowd on how a product mindset will win the game over a delivery mindset, especially when the rigor of Services industry does not encourage participation in such events during weekdays, was a considerable challenge. To make matters worse, we did not have a good number of volunteers in Pune either. Hats off to the volunteers from Bengaluru who not only contributed effectively being remote but also flew to Pune to be part of the event!

I had volunteered to be the Speaker and Session manager. However, even to get to that, we first had to make sales happen. Never did I realize I would be calling up, writing to or hounding on social media so many of my ex-colleagues. It gave me a good platform to reconnect with quite a few and some of them even made it to the event! The entire volunteer team came together commendably to get hordes of people on board. We talked to people, got feedback, improvised our pitch, worked on the pricing and marketed shamelessly within and outside our organizations. We were actually in a startup called “PLF Pune” working 16 hour days, along with our day jobs, to keep the registrations flowing in.

The initial discussions with speakers to get their confirmation, and then panel sync ups for various sessions, was nothing short of an epiphany for me. Not only did I get to talk to the who’s who of Pune IT industry, it stretched my conflict management and negotiation skills to the fullest! It was good to know that we had strong allies in these speakers and also our partners’ viz. SEAP, TiE, NASSCOMM- who increased the span of our reach exponentially. Every conversation enriched me in some way – I was impressed by the time management of some execs or the articulateness of others.

The sessions themselves were well-thought out in my humble opinion, thanks to Seema Joshi. She really ran herself ragged getting the speakers aligned with different sessions and then assigning moderators to each panel. The entire format of a panel discussion was brilliant; it brought out viewpoints of multiple people on a topic in a single forum. The career and best practices tracks had something to offer for wannabe product managers to CTOs and soft skills or managing politics for aspiring leaders. Budding entrepreneurs got to hear from startup heads about the pains of getting started. The workshop tracks were superb – I am really proud that we could get such distinguished speakers to talk on highly relevant topics like IoT, Gamification, Growth Hacking, Productizing services.
Some quotes / takeaways from the sessions and the entire PLF experience-

“Being in the Services industry makes us more disciplined. It gives us an edge over the others. If we can combine this discipline with innovation, we can tilt the balance in our favor.” – Dr. Santosh Mohanty, VP, TCS
“The order of magnitude of companies on Cloud vs those on internet vs the pre-internet companies differs by leaps and bounds. We will need far fewer developers moving forward and more intellectual property to survive the competition. At the same time, the additional numbers gives us the power to build something significant.” – Anand Deshpande, CEO, PSL
“Do not get hung up on titles, be more aware on what you are contributing as a product leader irrespective of your designation.” – Shailendra Abhyankar, MD, Sungard
“Every leader has gone through some pain. If you aspire to be a leader, be willing to go through the pain.” – Tarun Sharma, CCO BMC & CEO, BMC India Pvt. Ltd.
“Do not wait for government to come up with policies, go out there and make things happen.” – Ashutosh Parasnis, Chairman SEAP & Business Creativity & Innovation, QLogic
“The executives are the creators of the universe (Brahma), technical managers are the keepers of the universe (Vishnu), and the CTOs are the destroyers (Shiva) of the product who keeping coming up with disruptive ideas to move the market.” – Navin Kabra, Co-founder & CTO, Reliscore
The volunteer team being small, I got my fingers into a lot of pies be it deciding the venue, helping with website updates and sundry other tasks. It was project and program management at its peak. With some last minute glitches viz. some speakers dropping out, logistics issues or D-day registrations (which meant additional lunch arrangements) the madness continued until Aug 21, 6 pm. In the end, it was all worth it.
A tremendous applause for Kiran Kashikar – the karta-dharta of this madness J The effusive feedback from participants as well as the panelists showed that our efforts had paid off handsomely. PLF Pune- An exciting roller coaster ride that stretched all the limits: be it physical, intellectual or emotional!
If this excites you and you wish to volunteer for the next PLF event, write to us at plf@ipl.edu.in.

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