After my most recent Product School #AskMeAnything session on Slack, I realized how many aspiring Product Managers are convinced they need to obtain an MBA from a business school to break into the field. While I understand the value some see in getting the Masters degree, I disagree with this notion.
Building your own startup or product from the ground up – this is your MBA.
Product Management is not a traditional field: there is no official degree you can earn to jump in your first product manager job right out of college; its trajectory is not linear. It is a new function that finally is getting a deserved attention (in the past year or so, perhaps, even too much attention!). It is a practical field that touches all the aspects of building a sustainable, successful business: technical, design, quality, finance, sales, marketing, to name a few. You cannot master them all, nor should you. However, you do want to get exposure to and confidence in each of these fields so that you can ask right questions and make good decisions. Unfortunately, the MBA does not teach us how to do either. Knowing about something is drastically different from really knowing something. The former comes from theory only, while the latter is obtained by understanding theory and having an empirical knowledge – practice.
Therefore, my best advice for those of you looking to transition into product management is to learn by doing. Find a problem by observing where people or products are falling short, ask right questions, be prepared to question not only ideas and opinions or others, but your own, and eventually, try solving the problem. You can build a product or a company, and while doing so, you’d undoubtedly expose yourself to all the aspects of Product Management needed to succeed in the field.
If you would like to see the topics we’ve covered during the AMA session and see some of my questions, head over here. Product School put out an excellent summary of the conversation.