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What should I do inorder to enter into product management role after my MBA?

I would like to pursue a product management role after my MBA. Can you help me with what are the steps that I should follow? Note:- I'm not a coder #business-management

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Rony’s Answer

Product Management is a niche area and since you are seeking a very specific answer, I believe you have done some background leg work on what kind of products you intend to look at... it could be anything from soaps and shampoos to even more complex software products and automobiles. I will try to keep my answer a little generic to give you an idea of what a product manager does and that might give you a view into the skill sets you will need to build up or start investing into during your internship and /or dissertation.

Typically the product manager is one who is able to identify the customer need and is able to translate that into business objectives which ultimately will lead to a product getting adopted strongly or sold very well. With these objectives your job as a product manager would then be to turn this into a vision that gets broken down into goals and milestones that you would want to achieve for making the product successful.

Any product management function or role is a trifecta of business, customer experience and technology. Without good engineering and technology one ends up disrupting a good user experience which then disrupts the opportunity to good business. In a true sense product managers will have to balance the hard decisions and trade-offs with respect to what will allow a product to succeed to speed up the time to market.

As a product manager, one should consider themselves to be part of a cross-functional team that would involve market researchers, analysts, designers, marketers, operations, financial analysts and more. But this is typically the case in big organizations and the product managers are in theory the custodians of the product's vision. On the other hand if you look at smaller companies and startups, the product manager may end up being a hands-on person who is responsible not just for the development of the vision but also is involved in executing and seeing through the vision. Thus speaking a good product manager is one who:
1. Understands and translates customer needs into product ideas and product features
2. Studies the market including competitive and market research to monitor trends
3. Defines the vision for the product
4. Brings in the stakeholders and aligns them to the vision
5. Prioritizes product design aspects to ensure the critical customer needs are addressed followed by adding valued features and then subsequently onto the great to have ideas.
6. Acts as the single conduit for all the teams working on the product across the company as well as acts as the shared brains trust to identify and route critical decisions that define a product's execution of the vision.

Given all the above some of the top skills of every product manager or any practitioner of product management are:
1. Time Management
2. Prioritization
3. Program Management
4. Market Analysis and Insights Building
5. Team Empowerment
6. Executive Communication
7. Ability to Influence even without the authority or position
8. Active Listening & Empathy for both external and internal stakeholders ranging from customers to organization members
9. Lastly boat loads of resilience and having a thick skin as you will have to learn to face up to failures, trade-offs, unpopular decisions.

Many people think of Steve Jobs or an Elon Musk as great product managers, but the truth is as humans we like to put a face to a great achievement, but in reality this has been possible due to a great team of people doing really great work. As a product manager it is their job to nurture this great team by guiding them in their work. I do hope I could address your query on what is needed to get into product management.
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alexander’s Answer

Good question and I was not a coder either -- was in management in automotive until 2009 crash, which I followed up with an MBA to get back into management, which I now do a lot of coding. 0.o

With that said, the MBA is a universal and ubiquitous degree that says I can study and test well. Think of the MBA as a hurdle you jump to get into the interviews. Don't fall back on the MBA as a ticket to anywhere, it simply opens a door.

To prepare, immerse yourself in internships and/or entry level jobs where you can be exposed to brand building and marketing. Get your hooks in deep into the how's and why's. Start developing a mental model of how the gears turn. Use these proto models during interviews and explain how you want to develop deeper analysis to drive increase profitability and market shares for products.

A product manager must be able to explain how product A is selling better than product B and what needs to be done to move B -- price change, size change, flavor change, marketing change, etc. along with the actual market trend for the product--maybe it is not relevant in a few years, etc...

Most managers analyze and prepare solutions both individually and via teams that support them with data. So now you know why I do code -- to get data. In my case I use Excel, VBA, SQL and Tableau. Can you make it without these skills? Yes, but plan to have a team with those skills around you. Expect to use a lot of data and come up with decisions based on facts.

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Russel’s Answer

I agree with alexander’s Answer - Do this while you are getting your MBA - if you wait until after your MBA - you will be just another unemployed live at home kid!
"To prepare, immerse yourself in internships and/or entry level jobs where you can be exposed to brand building and marketing. Get your hooks in deep into the how's and why's. Start developing a mental model of how the gears turn. Use these proto models during interviews and explain how you want to develop deeper analysis to drive increase profitability and market shares for products."
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Francisco’s Answer

Hi Prem!

Great question! As an MBA alumni myself, I can tell you that every MBA candidate either wants to start a business, find a new job, or get a manager role after graduation. I think if you are looking for a management role post-MBA your groundwork needs to start while you still in your MBA. My advice would be as follows:

1. Research the role at your company or wherever you are applying. Maybe talk to someone who already has this role, or their manager and understand exactly what the role is, what kind of profile you need for that job, and what are the expectations or current and future projects of someone in that position.

2. Identify projects or assignments you can do in your current position that directly relate to the management role or take on more leadership responsibilities that you can later use in your application and interviewing process to show how good a fit you are for the role.

3. Find ways to connect your MBA coursework to the career you are pursuing. MBAs usually are filled with projects and case studies so try to incorporate your ambitions into that work so you are using MBA time to research about the stuff you want to do in the future, this way you are killing two bird with one stone.

4. Finally, make sure you are having conversations with your manager. Communicate to him your career interests and ambitions so he/she can help you get there. He might even know people you should network with, know about roles in that field opening soon, or simply be able to direct your work plan towards that kind of work.

One last thing, remember that the role or position name is not as important as the work you get to do. Job titles, especially in large companies, don't matter much, but it matters if you are getting to do work you're passionate about and are given the opportunity to lead and make decisions for the business. Hope my answer helps you!

Good luck!
Thank you comment icon Great input! Wyatt Meek
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Clarissa’s Answer

Hi, I would suggest the followings:
1) Get into an internship program with a large company in product management
2) Do online courses on product management, influencing skills (esp without authority)
3) Speak to professionals who are currently working as product managers to understand the role, the tasks and skills required
4) Pick up excel and data analytic skills
5) Learn market research skills
6) Develop people skills because you need to work with a lot of people

Hope this help.