I am now working on a series of articles to inform you about barcamps and in particular about the PM-Camp. Also, I wish to do a little advertising for the next PM-Camp in Berlin between September, 13 and September, 15, 2013. In my introduction, I am going to tell you what exactly I did in my life in terms of continuing education and why I ended up at the barcamp. Because continuing education and development is important for everybody and barcamps – in addition to self-studies and working next to a master of your art (in the sense of craftsmanship) – are the best opportunity to advance your own learning curve through the experience of others.

First and foremost, let me tell you my personal educational history. After graduating from high school at the Augsburg Jakob Fugger Grammar School, I went to study at Munich Technical University. The time at the grammar school was a good investment for my personal development. We smelled the spirit of freedom. To be sure, we learned a lot that was totally unimportant, but we also learned a few things “for life”. Even afterwards – against my wishes – when I did my compulsory service with the German armed forces, I gained a lot of experience.

Then I went to study at the Technical University (in those days still called “Hochschule”) of Munich. For me, studying was not something pleasant. We had to “learn from books”. The lectures were not really great and they also cost (too) much time. Time we did not have, because, after all, we had to earn our livings “in our spare time”. Consequently, I taught two tutorials every semester, learning more in the process than during actual lectures. And – considering the times we were living in – the money was not too bad, either.

I learned my craft, however, when I was a student and free-lance worker at Siemens AG. Consequently, studying was more or less a necessary duty and consisted in learning for exams. Because my super ego thought I had to have an academic diploma. In retrospective, I am not sure that my title “Mathematics Diploma (univ)” was all that beneficial for me. But it probably did no harm, either.

After finishing my studies at university, I went to the really huge Siemens AG as a regular employee. I had very interesting tasks and was permitted to develop a totally new technology. However, the time spent there was not one that gave me immense impulses for “personality growth”. For example, I initially programmed in the laboratory and later in special projects. We were all working with a lot of dedication, but there was no room for luxury seminars and besides, there was nothing on offer for a small regular-wage employee like me.

After four years at Siemens AG, I changed to Softlab. In this company, attending “personality enhancing seminars” was a requirement for your professional career. With little enthusiasm – after all, there was plenty of work waiting to be done and I was absolutely prone to prejudices against “personality growth” – I went to one of those seminars held by a company called TPM at Starnberg (Training Psychological Management, one of the two trainers was a Herr Uhlenbrock). I went there full of scepticism, but returned absolutely enthusiastic. Those were the days when my continuing education actually took off.

A short time later, Dr. Peter Schnupp (one of the Softlab founders and very much a freethinker) caused my meeting with Rupert Lay. Totally out of the blue, I was to replace someone who had registered for a coaching session with him.  For me and my life, this turned out a huge stroke of luck. At the time, Rupert Lay was probably one of the most renowned coaches. He also was allegedly the Nestor for “ethics and entrepreneurship” of German Business. Through this channel, I also met a few other really great coaches, for instance Baldur Kirchner.

Starting with this visit of a seminar that had been rather accidental, a constant cooperation developed between me and Rupert Lay. In fact, it eventually became a beautiful friendship. Throughout many years, Rupert was my mentor. Between the years 1985 and 1995, many other friends working alongside me at the then still “InterFace Connection GmbH” (that is what InterFace AG used to be called) were also regular attendants of Rupert Lay seminars. It is quite possible that those were the days when the cornerstones of our – hopefully a little different – entrepreneurial culture were built. At the time, I myself regularly spent a week with “my group” at Rupert’s seminars. During those times, I tried to reassign my own lodestar.

Rupert controlled and directed the workshops, improving on them with many small bits of advice. But the experience and the knowledge I collected during those seminars came to an ever higher degree from the group members (they were all persons with special experience in life, also because of their roles as managers and entrepreneurs).  Initially, probably 90% of what I learned was from the “teacher” and 10 % from other group members. And this relation continually changed in favour of the group members. In the last seminars, I would actually call it more like a 30 : 70  relation, or even more than that.

As Rupert grew older and held fewer seminars, I found a new “continuing education home”: the regular St. Gallen RISE workshops. The RISE workshops were initially realized by Dr. Simon Grand and then carried out by professors of the Swiss universities (HSG, ETH), entrepreneurs owning medium-sized companies from the IT and fashion sectors, as well as directors of big Swiss enterprises. My experience and development continued during these seminars. All of a sudden, 90 % of all the knowledge and competence came from the other seminarians.

Both in the Rupert Lay seminars and RISE workshops, I always felt very much at the right place and each time, I returned home with something totally new. Then the RISE workshops, too, were over and, yet again, I fell into a deep “continuing education pit”.

And that was exactly the time when I made a sensational new experience during a barcamp. I met people who opened up and shared their experiences, adventures and knowledge. “Open Source”, face-to-face, on a free event. I experienced communication at eye-level based on emphaty with persons I had only just met.   Trust grew basically from scratch. And I learned a lot, both technologically and with respect to “personality growth”.

This experience had such an impact on me that I started looking for a barcamp where project managers, entrepreneurs, leaders and managers – that is: people who feel responsible for our future – meet. And where those people are willing to share their precious knowledge and experience.

However, I looked in vain. Consequently, the only option that remained for me was to start a barcamp myself. Stefan Hagen and some more friends, too, felt that the time was ripe for this kind of thing. So we initiated PM Camp in 2011. On these camps, 100 % of the people I learn from are other seminarians.

The first PM Camp took place in Dornbirn in November 2011. It did not take long before one became two in 2012, one of them held in Vienna and the other in Dornbirn. This year, we already had three: in Vienna, Stuttgart and Bad Homburg (Rhein/Main). And two more are to follow – one in Berlin and the other one again in Dornbirn!

SO I found a new home for continuing education – in fact, I even initiated it myself!

(Translated by EG)

The next articles in this series will describe how barcamps function, what types of sessions we do and how you can prepare for them. Basically, it is a guide towards attending a PM Camp.

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