Blog

Roman Geyzer

Senior Director, Product Management

Five Reasons You Should Join the Milwaukee Product Brew Meetup

Topics: Cream City Labs.

A few months ago, I was sitting down with a product manager early in his career. We were discussing ways to grow both personally and professionally. I suggested, “Why don’t you attend a local product management meetup?”

He later got back to me to let me know there was a slight problem with my suggestion – there was no product meetup in the Milwaukee area. This surprised me, so I was determined to find one. Surely, I thought, I could Google it better than he did. But there really was no such event. Naturally, there was only one way forward: We had to launch one ourselves.

Now, every third Tuesday of the month, my team and I host Milwaukee Product Brew at Cream City Labs. Our attendees work in the intersection of business, technology and user experience, whether as product managers, startup founders, tech leaders or in other roles. Here they share best practices, successes and failures on the stage as they discover the latest and greatest innovations being developed in the Milwaukee area.

The meetup is organized by Northwestern Mutual’s digital product team, in partnership with Alpha, a software company that provides access to customer insights in real time. Since the meetup’s launch last October, the Product Brew community has already grown to several hundred members.

As product managers, we figured we would design our meetup just as we do a product. We ran discovery to understand our community’s needs, developed feedback loops and analytics to gauge how we’re performing, and are constantly looking to improve our market fit to serve the needs of our members.

Not sure if Product Brew is worth your time? Here are five reasons we think you should join our community:

  • You’ll learn from product managers and founders across industries.
    No two events are alike. At each meetup, you’ll hear from speakers from a variety of industries, including healthcare, fintech, media, virtual reality, blockchain and much more. Not only will you get a firsthand look at some of the products being developed at their companies, you'll also gain insights into the journey they took to land on a winning product.

    You’ll also meet people with a wide array of backgrounds and experiences, from rising stars in the community to leaders at Fortune 100 companies – like Milwaukee-based John Zeratsky, co-creator of Google Design Sprints and bestselling author, who will be presenting at Product Brew on July 30.

  • You’ll get a fresh perspective on how to design winning products and customer experiences.
    Our expert speakers explain how to successfully reinvent the roadmap, elevate product marketing and understand the innovation S-curve – identifying the perfect timing to release a new product or iterate on the current one. There are also engaging panel discussions on what differentiates a good product manager from a great one.

    At our January event, Joel Palathinkal, Northwestern Mutual’s Senior Director of Product, shared the art of saying “no” to customers’ demands. He gave tips on how to build products customers truly need and will actually use.
  • You’ll be an insider in the local tech community.
    In December, our members had the chance to help influence growth in the Milwaukee tech community. We hosted a fireside chat with Matt Cordio, founder of Skills Pipeline and Startup Wisconsin. He talked about his goals for growing Milwaukee’s tech hub and how members of Product Brew can be part of the movement.

    Matt said Product Brew is critical to the success of Milwaukee’s startup ecosystem, and that he would love to see product managers plug into local startups as mentors, employees, or even founders of their own companies here in the region.

    Our organizing team is also building partnerships with startup accelerator Gener8tor, YPWeek, Fall Experiment and more, which will provide our members with additional opportunities to get involved in the local tech community and accelerate their own professional growth.

  • You’ll meet other awesome people who work in tech.
    Each event starts with casual networking and food, where members can meet the organizers and others in the field. We’ve already seen many friendships and professional partnerships form after a handful of events. Sometimes, it really is who you know.

    Our vision for this community is that it becomes a “product family,” where people at any experience level in our field can lean on others for everything from professional development to problem-solving – even finding their next career opportunity.

  • You can be part of designing a meetup from the ground up.
    We can’t emphasize enough how invaluable it is to get feedback from our members, whether it’s through pitching topics and speakers or letting us know how we can improve. During our meetups, we host a creative lab where participants can volunteer to give us feedback on how to continuously iterate on our events.

    At a previous creative lab, we asked members what makes their eyes light up and what makes their eyes roll when attending events. Some of what we learned is the importance of knowing the agenda ahead of time, that the topics align with the goals of the group, and that attendees leave with useful takeaways that they can apply in their jobs. Forced networking, on the other hand, is a deal breaker.

    This type of feedback helps us stay on track to deliver the best experience for those who attend our events.

    If you’re interested in being part of this community, join the Milwaukee Product Brew meetup page to stay informed about upcoming events. And if you'd like to get involved in helping us design the meetup, please send a private message to the event organizers once you've joined the group.

Beyond a Great Idea: What Successful Startups Bring to the Table

For startups that want to work with us, the first priority is to have a solution that solves a business need or opportunity. The second priority is something we find is often overlooked, yet critical to every successful engagement: Industry-standard controls.