The Irresistible Rise of the Product Management Certificate

Who would have understood the need for a Product Management certificate about a decade ago? The digital revolution has changed our economies so much that it is impossible to recall the time when business was made differently. In fact, innovation extends every year the boundaries of what is possible and what is no longer useful.

Are traditional Product Management courses still useful? Yes, of course. But they need to get better. Attuned to the times. Respectful towards pioneers. And amenable to constant upgrading. Just like the best products in the market, Product Management education needs another iteration to keep delivering excellent results.

Introducing Product Management Certificates. This is a manifesto detailing how PMs deserve to be trained for the future, today.

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5 Key Reasons to Introduce Product Management Certificates

Improving products and the people behind them

If there is a starting point helpful to define the PM’s job, that is of “problem-solver”. Product Managers are not loyal to particular brands, tools or even products; they back solutions. In time, the product professional realizes that there are many ways of achieving their goal. Only a handful, nevertheless, are truly respectful of the principles of product thinking.

Getting to know the user, building stakeholder coalitions, taking care of business matters, allowing experimentation and constantly reevaluating. These principles are connected to the spirit of guerrilla product developers in the 90s, who saw that old corporate structures and rules were no longer fit for purpose. They were too wasteful, bureaucratic and inflexible.

Acknowledging this is the minimum an aspiring Product Manager should do before joining an organization. Are all PMs doing this? Sadly, no. But this is not really their fault. Why?

man repairing car engine

Well, a lot of the biggest innovations from the last two decades have been born out of improvisation. Lack of means along with the unforeseen possibilities of new technologies have allowed innovators to pivot into unexpected commercial areas. Think of Apple with the smartphone, or Netflix with media streaming.

In short, Product Managers have been busier with creating; not so much with reflecting on what they create. A certificate worthy of its name would help preserve and update the key product principles.

This is the perfect job for those who have already been training the next Product Management generation. In fact, Product School instructors accumulate dozens of years of experience; they have conducted transitions from a wide diversity of backgrounds; and work across all sectors of the (new) economy. The combination of mentorship and active experience makes them the perfect candidates to improve products and the people who make them.

Generating and Sharing Best Product Practices

The more users can do with their digital products, the less they know about the processes behind them. Most of the public have a very classic idea of tech innovation, thinking of isolated teams of geniuses in garages or university campuses. But, as anyone who is currently in the industry will attest, this is no longer the case. Product Management is now a game with incumbent and pretender players. It is through these clashes and competitions that the most beloved products are created; think of the exponential access to music streaming services, for instance.

But there are so many differences for product teams working in startups vs. larger, established companies. Just imagine how huge in size stakeholders are for veteran firms like General Electric or IBM. They are taking part in the product game, with their own rules. Is there an approach that can contain the most appropriate product perspectives, techniques, and tools for all of these cases?

Not really, of course. Because every product environment will be very different. At the same time, the increasing uploading of our lives to countless data-oriented services requires an ethical approach to product. There are other common concerns regarding methodologies like Agile, user research approaches, and other assorted choices which most Product Managers are confronted with.

A carefully crafted Product Management certificate should ensure that, without prescribing what to do in every situation; there is a degree of shared knowledge about the how. That is, which general practical approaches have worked best in which situations; and how to safeguard principles like user safety and privacy. Of course, this corpus of Product Management best practices will be in constant update as PM challengers redefine the tech economy.

Ensuring High-Level Product Management Instructors

A lot of people are qualified to embark on the Product Management journey. On the other hand, not everyone is ready to teach it. There are two key reasons why:

  • They work at institutions where innovations take a long time to permeate. Universities, business schools… they have their own way of working. Their deference to prestige and tradition can actually damage their ability to adapt to tech advancements. And this is reflected on their teaching.
  • They have become full-time teachers. There is nothing bad about becoming completely devoted to academia. In fact, top companies often send their best on purely speculative missions to explore future possibilities. However, not being active practitioners can harm the lessons of PM mentors.
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These issues could be solved by developing a shared, minimum standards curriculum. Rather than having bootcamps, schools and other institutions competing for the attention of aspiring PMs; a Product Management Certificate will guarantee that all students are getting the best possible education.

Instructor standards will also help out those who want to share their knowledge. By defining how and when certain steps of the product journey should be taught, the Certificate will certainly improve PM teaching quality. These mentors will have more time to focus on hands-on, tailored elements of their lessons; such as class projects.

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Building the PMs that the Industry Really Needs

Investing in your education is a really difficult decision. The abundance of free, freemium and paid options in today’s connected world makes it even harder. Blogs, videos, workshops… they all seem to portray an easy access to your desired position as a Product Manager. This is far from the truth.

And companies notice this. There is a huge difference between someone who has really understood the principles behind the profession; and someone who is merely repeating the industry buzzwords. This is even more noticeable in long application processes, with practical exercises. Long story short: there is no way of fooling a Product Management hiring team.

After a couple of decades of digital growth, industry leaders are more and more aware of their professional needs. And they do not seek amateurs. Remember: today, people from all over the world can become product leaders. This means that you are competing against well-educated tech people who have been able to take top courses online. Someone who merely shows enthusiasm but lacks knowledge will not make it.

An official Product Management Certificate (PMC) would ensure that curricular materials and content are developed in collaboration with industry leaders. From Human Resources teams to Management, all relevant stakeholders should take part in this process to build the PMs that the industry really needs.

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Empowering Professional Product Management Communities

What about student themselves? What would they gain from a Product Management certificate, besides better learning materials, instructors and employment prospects? Well, on top of all that, it could help already employed PMs to locate and engage communities around their profession. This is way more important than just “networking”.

Historically, professional communities have enabled nascent jobs to reclaim their identity and contributions to wider society. Is it not currently pretty difficult to explain to the general audience what Product Manager actually do, let alone close family members? This shows a clear need for PMs to build bridges between each other and the wider society.

The process towards creating a respected Product Management Certificate will involve giving PMs tools to nurture communities wherever they are. From small local events to large conferences, these gatherings will build consensus which will later impact elements like best practices or mentoring techniques.

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Overall, aspiring Product Managers will increase their employability and enjoyment of their education. Active PMs will gain insights from other product people across the world, while gaining public spaces to promote and advance their product vision. And professional associations emerging from these gatherings will help create a PM Certificate that can increase the self and public awareness of product people in society.

Certificates are the Future of Product Management

Those above are the most important reasons why Product Management educators must start offering Certificates. This is not just a re-branding: it will mean leading current training towards maturity. Professionals need official bodies of knowledge they can trust. And disciplines need professionals who are active in using, giving feedback and updating this growing, shared curriculum.

Product School is ready to accept the challenge of providing the best Product Management Certificate. For a future with better PMs, better products and happier users!

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