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Things they don’t teach you at Product Management Finishing schools

fake product management schools

Finally you have jumped into Product Management. If you want to be product manager because you have a passion to build something while going against the tide, it’s fine. But if you want to be product manager to safeguard your next 10 years of professional life , think again.

With the career in Product Management hotting up in India, a good number of institutes are coming up offering degrees, diplomas and certificates in Product Management. Many people fall in the usual trap that having a certificate or degree in product management will get them a coveted entry into the world of product management. Actually it is not true and if you go by any numbers, most of the successful product managers do not have any formal education in “Product Management”. Either they are Engineering/MBA graduates of top tier colleges of the world or are ex-entrepreneurs who have gone through the grind of creating a product end to end or they have worked their way in the organization by following the hard path. The only thing common in all three of the breeds is that 99% of them do not have any formal education in product management. So, a degree can never get you the entry ticket.

Anyway, Let’s discuss the main topic today. Let’s talk about the things they do not teach you at the finishing school you have joined. and the harsh realities of the product management concepts which you’ll learn only when you get out there.

95% of surveys are wrong

95% of surveys conducted do not represent the true picture 

Look at the survey results in the above image. Doesn’t it look all wrong because of the way it was conducted ? So, all finishing schools will teach you the fundamentals of market research with the textbook approach. The first and foremost will be to conduct surveys. You’ll do all practicals and everything will look great to you. The only thing they don’t tell you is that in real life, surveys are a failure. Any Product Manager who depends on a survey is doomed. The success ratio of survey results is so low that you can easily neglect them in your research. The thing which they should teach you is “how to reach out to your potential customers and talk to them”. But then, This will be just one line in the whole lecture and no one is going to teach you the art and science of talking to potential customers to figure the product needs. There is a lot more preparation required and techniques to be done to reach a lot more potential customers in shortest possible time to get the best feedback. and most of the institutes will skip this part because of its complex nature to put it in practice along with the case studies of different business models.

Agile has no relation to product management

If you have been in the tech industry for a few years, you definitely would have come across Agile methodology. Agile methodology is perfect for people who are into project management and need to manage development cycles. But a product manager does not need to practice agile. A product Manager is different than product Owner who is , in turn, different than development manager. A Product Manager is responsible for the complete product and he/she can define the user stories and prioritise them. But managing the sprints or iterations is completely out of bounds for product manager. So, avoid any finishing school that covers Agile methodology in the curriculum of product management. If you have worked in a tech company for a few years, you should already know it enough. 🙂


Decision making of Buy versus Build

Every product has a core and peripherals. The core is something that is key to the success of product and peripherals are the features that is nice to have to complete the offering. One of the key thing in life of product manager is to build a world class product in least possible time. And hence, a product manager always faces a dilemma of whether to build a feature or integrate with third parties. It even has a dimension of negotiation with many stakeholders with different opinions. But Most of the Product management courses focus on building features, writing user stories, doing research but no one teaches the science of decision making. If you are a product manager, this decision can hurt your development time, your company revenues and even the customer experience. This may need you to get into strategic partnerships or licensing agreements. So, If you are aspiring to become a product manager, make sure you have spent enough time figuring out the science of decision making.

Stakeholder Management and Negotiation skills are hard core techniques

Oh, you are thinking that it is actually a soft skill. Every product manager needs to negotiate on a daily basis with all the stakeholders. Be it developers, testers, senior management, operations, support departments, sales, marketing, business development teams, a product manager needs to make sure everyone is on board. Internal evangelism is as important as external evangelism. Negotiations and stakeholder management has a lot to deal with human psychology. This makes it mandatory for every product manager to learn various techniques of negotiations and finding ways to arrive at conclusions. Because everyone can walk out of a meeting except the product manager who needs to drive a consensus.

Going beyond marketing and sales funnel to do some actual sales

So, while pursuing product management, you know the importance of marketing and sales funnel. You have read loads of literature about it but then, have you ever tried doing sales. In mu opinion, a great product manager also should get the hands dirty with sales. After learning about the funnel and before doing the actual sales, you should practice building sales strategies, the marketing plans and risk mitigation plans. Did you know that on an average, it takes about 6 meetings in person for a salesman to convert a deal into real business ? That means, your sales strategies should account for sales cycles and how to bring it down as much as possible. Now, Sales strategies are not done by product managers. It is done by Sales heads in the organizations but having a working knowledge of sales will make you work better with sales guys. alas! I am yet to find a good product management course which can teach you a lot about sales or can make you actually go through a sales cycle. Remember, sales is only team that meets the customer and brings in the money, rest all teams including product management are the cost centers. 🙂

Lastly, no one tells you that in any tech company, Product managers are hired when a company is touching a scale and growing fast. And under tough circumstances, it’s technology team which takes a precedence over product management. Because, Technology teams build the product so they can’t be done away with. Product Managers are an important and integral part of any organization. But an average tech guy survive in a technology company but an average product manager can be done away with very quickly.

If you feel that Product Management is a hot career and you should be pursuing it, then, think twice because there is no turning back. and If you want to go for formal education in product management, then don’t just jump to get a degree. Look at the curriculum. If it does not have the above 5 points considered in the curriculum, then the institute is just making a fool out of you because they want your money.


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