I’m going to make a confession.
Before around 2013, I’d never heard of membership associations.
Of course, now the opposite is true. I’m crazy about associations. I’ve been in the presence of hundreds, worked for a few and collaborated with many. I am, naturally, a member of my professional body – the Australasian Society of Association Executives. You read right, there’s even an association FOR associations (more than one, actually).
An Association for Everything
You’d be forgiven for not realising, but there are tens of thousands of associations all over the world. Many of them serve and represent professions or industries, and if you’ve got a hobby or an interest outside of work I can say with 99.9% certainty there’s an association for that too.
Some enjoy prolific media coverage, or are generally more well-known than others. Some have huge member bases – the National Association of Realtors in the US has over a million members. But an association can also be fifteen people with a passion for ferret-racing.
Regardless of size, at their heart associations are champions for their members – and members are the lifeblood of their association.
What's a Product Manager?
When I accepted the role at the Association of Product Professionals, I excitedly shared the news with my friends and my network. Almost immediately, a chorus of ‘what’s a product manager?’ came back. Since then, I’ve had so many opportunities to rehearse my response I could probably do it in my sleep.The product people I’ve spoken to every day since joining APP – all smart, creative, eloquent, and practical people who are doing amazing things for and in their companies – tell me that this is my life now.
One Product Lead, who heads up the team behind a fintech platform, laughed as he told me that his parents say he ‘builds websites’. Several tell me they get annoyed when there’s no obvious box to tick on a census form, an application or a survey (solidarity – there isn’t one for membership professionals either!)
It breaks my heart a little, knowing that the passionate minds behind the products and services we love remain such a mystery.
Product is a young profession and enjoys a relatively youthful mindset – it has not yet become completely bogged down by years of inherited inertia.
But without a strong peak body, the product profession risks missing a window of opportunity to influence real, positive change and achieve the recognition that other established professions have. The kind of change that requires cohesion, the megaphone of a shared voice, and the sheer power of large numbers.
What Can You Do?
So how do you help drive that change?
That’s an easy one. Join your peak body – the Association of Product Professionals. Our whole reason for existing is to advance the product profession. We will do this by working with our members, and aligning industry thought leaders – establishing best practices. Then we will tirelessly promote those best practices until they are accepted by organisations worldwide.
We’ll provide an independent means to benchmark product professionals and their organisations, and we’ll advocate for the people working in product – to their organisations, their governments and their industry.
Associations provide space and support their members to work towards common goals, and play a critical role in establishing best practices and the standards to which professions adhere. They build a sustainable industry for the people within.
Members provide the power – the numbers, the voice, the energy, the reach. A strong, engaged member base gets this job done. Members know that together, they have more impact and influence than working alone.
Already a Member?
If you’re already a member, that's great! You can help by getting the word out – talk to your colleagues and your network about APP, write an impassioned article like this one, share your membership badge on LinkedIn, like and share our content every time you see it.
We’re building an army, and that’s a big job – but if you tell five people, and they each tell five people, and they each tell five people….well, you know.
Working together, we can advance the product profession.
And maybe one day, in the not too distant future, you’ll tell someone you work in product – and instead of saying ‘what’s that?', they’ll say ‘that’s awesome, tell me about your product!'