The Latest B-School Charm: Product Management
Updated: Jan 20
From Associate Product Managers to Directors of Product, the positions revolving around products are all about the ownership you get to have on a product, and the freedom to creatively execute its launch, with functionally diverse groups aboard the product journey. In recent years, more and more B-School students have gravitated towards ‘Product Management’ roles, and rightly so. This career’s newfound popularity can be attributed to its multidisciplinary nature and the impact it can create on the success of organizations.
There seems to be a grey area as to what a typical day of Product Manager (PM) constitutes. As PMs claim, each day is different and each role is different too - depending on the type of the product, company size, stage of the product in its lifecycle. This is also what makes this career path all the more exciting and most sought after, especially after an MBA.
Read more to understand the buzz around this rapidly evolving domain.
Making The Cut: Paving Way To Become A Product Manager
It is no surprise that PMs work with diverse teams - customer support teams, marketers, business analysts, engineers, designers, and so on. What remains common is the fact that, at the end of the day, Product Managers are called so; due to the responsibility they hold on the product. So, what does it take to become a Product Manager?
With different functions working together, and meetings taking up most of your day, you need to possess ‘Prioritization’ and ‘Effective Communication’ skills, in order to stay productive. PMs work on continually building creative products that not only address the gaps and implement customer feedback, but also go the extra mile to understand and solve potential problems. This requires you to be a strategic thinker, comfortable with data, possess a high EQ, and build core competencies such as user testing, performing market assessments, etc.
Here is the icing on the cake: you can decide the type of Product Manager you want to be tech-oriented, design-oriented, or data-oriented. A T-shaped skill chart would be the best way to describe the requirements to become a PM: having a strong breadth across a variety of skills (tech, coding, UX/design, data analysis), and a deep mastery of a particular skill(s) depending on what excites you the most.
Lying at the heart of UX, engineering, and business, this career option has job descriptions that are bound to vary depending on the nature and size of the company. Irrespective of that factor, at the core of a PM’s role, lies the product’s success defined by their active participation in the product development right from the inception of the product till its launch and further managing the complete lifecycle. While this may seem straightforward at a first glance, it could not be farther from the truth. A good Product Manager should be able to conduct effective market research, plan product roadmap, develop relevant product features, carry out prototype testing, market the product, coordinate among multiple functional teams, define and track KPIs until completion of the product lifecycle.
Bonus: Some active communities you might love to join: Product Buds, Product Manager HQ, Product School, etc.
The Relevance Of An MBA
To get better as a Product Manager and rise above the ranks, a thorough understanding of the nuances and dynamicity of the career is a must. MBAs provide a platform for exactly this - you get access to business cases, successful products built, their ever-evolving endless scope of improvement, and stand a chance to hear from the stalwart themselves in your classes. The Product leaders being the ‘been there done that’ folks from reputed organizations share their journey, and what better an opportunity than that to get the real-world insights.
The coursework offered at business schools in addition to the student clubs and PM cells helps in your holistic development both in terms of hard and soft skills. The diverse courses ranging from - persuasion with/without authority, marketing, operations, analytics-related ones, etc. help you upskill yourself! Be it a boardroom meeting, a group call, or a classroom discussion, exercising communication skills, empathy, and effective team collaboration remains key. And of course, a strong peer/alumni network proves valuable to access/unlock relevant opportunities for product managers.
There is no typical profile for a PM aspirant, you need to find relevant projects, gain required skill sets, and lead by example to move up the ranks. Some top tech/SaaS companies for PM aspirants include Amazon, Google, Salesforce, Netflix, Tesla, etc. Numerous startups such as Uber, Airbnb have also been building user-centric products and features and got equally competitive in hiring for PM roles.
While there is always a potential to break into product management role from most of the b-schools, we found these to be more aligned based on their curriculum, activity, club offerings and placement reports: NYU Stern, CMU Tepper, MIT Sloan, UC Berkeley Haas, UCLA Anderson, and Kellogg business school.