The executive director of Carnegie Mellon University's new Master of Science in Product Management program recently discussed the joint program between the School of Computer Science and the Tepper School of Business.
Can you tell us more about what students can expect during the 12-month program? And what opportunities a MSPM degree will create for a graduate?
Students can expect a very intense master's program! You will be very busy. You will be fully equipped when you graduate. People are going to want to hire you. We already have more demand for hiring than we can fulfill for the summer internships and capstone projects. If you believe product management or product leadership are part of your future, and that's a career path you want to explore, this is the place that will make that happen.
Why did SCS and the Tepper School create this new degree program?
There is a strong need in the marketplace. There are not enough product managers out there, and it's really difficult to find product managers — it's always been a problem, and the problem has become worse over the years. If an organization needs a product manager, and there is a higher demand than ever before, it has to grow and educate its own product managers.
Companies that can afford to do this, like Google, have their own programs. However, most companies can't afford to, so organizations really have two options: on-the-job training, where organizations train, apprentice and mentor their own product managers. This can be time consuming. The second way is to send potential product managers off to what I like to call "charm schools" for certification. There are plenty of offerings for an initial peek at the basics of product management. Despite their availability, there has not been a professionally recognized degree in product management and it's long overdue.
I think Carnegie Mellon recognized that this is an area that creates the most pain in companies, who are waking up today and realizing they are software business analytics and data companies and need product managers who have the knowledge to span business and technology.
Why are Carnegie Mellon's Tepper School of Business and School of Computer Science equipped to help solve this problem?
You have a premier university, and underneath that you have two premier organizations. The Tepper School, a top 20 business school in the world, and the world's number one computer science school, all under the same brand. Those are the two areas where there is the largest need and it's difficult to find people who have that expertise. This joint program produces product managers that have those skills in both areas.
Who should enroll? What experience should an applicant have?
We're looking for people with at least one year of experience. Maybe you've been involved in a product team, worked with or met other product managers, or played a role in product management at a small business or are an associate product manager in a larger company and you're wondering how to really get your arms around the skills you need and how to get the capabilities and confidence to be a top performer and move career along.
The great thing about product managers is they really are the business leaders of their product and therefore they tend to rise very quickly and be visible inside organizations. They also tend to work across function a lot, and as a result they learn how to persuade and communicate, but they also need the skills in business and technology. You're very well suited in executive level roles and when people see that they take notice.
How did you settle on the curriculum? How do you weave together business and computer science?
There really are three tracks to our curriculum. The Tepper School offers leadership training through the Accelerate Leadership Program, which is a great way to build interpersonal skills and make them a habit. You get educated about yourself, how you're perceived, how to communicate in an organization — whether small or large. Those skills are invaluable to product managers.
Then, there is the academic track that includes traditional, core product management skills in the curriculum itself. Everything from foundations in product management, to user experience and data analytics. A mix of product management business and finance skills, as well as technology programing and user experience skills.
The last thread is the experiential track. Students participate in a summer internship and a capstone project before graduating. Altogether, students get interpersonal skills, traditional academic skills and experiential skills packed into one year. Students are also doing this all under the Carnegie Mellon umbrella and have access to the rich network of individuals in both the Tepper School and School of Computer Science.
What makes you most excited about the program?
I have been a lifelong product manager and lifelong entrepreneur. There is a lot of overlap between what product managers and entrepreneurs do in terms of creating new companies, new services and products, and bringing them to life in the market place. That has been the thread my entire career. I can't think of a better place to practice and learn alongside students and bring product management to the next level to the marketplace.
To learn more about the MSPM degree, visit the program's webpage.