standard curriculum could add significant value to the discipline. Computing professionals need to work
proactively to improve the quality of
education and continuing education
for product managers.
Getting What You Measure
Eric Bouwers, Joost Visser,
and Arie Van Deursen
Best Practice (BPM)
Outsourcing: Devising a Game Plan
1. Chisa, E. How I became a PM. Ellen’s Blog, 2014;
2. Daily Muse. How 5 product managers got their start,
3. Duffy, S. The McElroy “Brand Man” memo turns 80.
Brand Rants, 2011; http://www.brandrants.com/
4. First Round Capital. 42 rules to lead by from the man
who defined Google’s product strategy. First Round
5. First Round Capital. Top hacks from a PM behind two
of tech’s hottest products. First Round Review; http://
6. Google; https://www.google.com/about/careers/
7. Gray, P. Business anthropology and the culture of
product managers. Association of International
Product Marketing and Management; http://
8. Horowitz, B. Good product manager/bad product
9. Microsoft JobsBlog. Zen of PM, 2014; http://
10. Microsoft. University careers; http://careers.microsoft.
11. Sanchez, L. Genevieve Sheehan on creating her own
path, 2014; https://medium.com/dropbox-makers/
12. Sinofsky, S. PM at Microsoft, 2005; http://blogs.msdn.
13. Spolsky, J. How to be a program manager, 2009; http://
14. Wodtke, C. 27 thoughts on product management.
ElegantHack, 2013; http://www.eleganthack.com/27-
15. Zhuo, J. How to work with PMs. The Year of the
Looking Glass, 2013; https://medium.com/the-year-of-the-looking-glass/how-to-work-with-pms-
Ellen Chisa is an MBA candidate at the Harvard Business
School, Cambridge, MA. Previously, she was a product
manager at Kickstarter, focusing on backer experiences
and was part of the Microsoft team working in program
management for Office Mobile.
Copyright held by owner/author. Publications rights
licensed to ACM. $15.00.
available. These could be accessed
during work time without distracting
other employees. For nontechnical
product managers wanting to learn
about software, this could be as simple as trying out an independent training program such as Codecademy
( codecademy.com), Treehouse (team-
treehouse.com), or Dash ( dash.gen-
eralassemb.ly). For technical product
managers looking to learn about design, HackDesign ( hackdesign.org) is
a good option.
Conferences and meetups. Another
way product managers can improve
their skills is to learn from other product managers. Conferences and meetups are good places to find experienced
product managers. These are the people who would qualify as “faculty” if
product management were an academic discipline.
At conferences, product-management leaders share their experience on
an array of topics. This can be a good
way to get a product manager thinking
about different challenges in building
social features, thinking about internationalization, and launching new product lines, for example.
Unfortunately, there are not that
many product-management confer-
ences. Wodkte postulates it is because
product management is more focused
on success of the product than on how
to make products. “PM is a different
job because how they do it is a distant
second to their success than results.
Perhaps that’s why there is so little
written about how to be a PM com-
pared to the other disciplines, and so
Available conferences include
#ProductSF ( https://www.eventbrite.com/
tickets-10613205383), Product Camp
( productcamp.org), and the Product
Management Festival (productman-
While meetups are informal, they
also are opportunities for product
managers to get together and discuss
the challenges they face. Many software startups have few product managers, and not many mutual experiences
to draw on. A broader network is a valuable resource, especially for new product managers.
Peer mentoring. Another trend in
product-management training is peer
mentoring. This is similar to the role
of conferences and meetups, but with
more of a one-on-one experience with
another product manager.
One way to find a peer mentor is
through an existing network. Product
managers at Union Square Ventures-funded companies can apply to its
peer-mentoring program. Other firms
may start similar programs.
If you are a manager with connections across the industry, consider
talking to other managers to help connect your product managers to those
in other companies. (You could also do
the same for junior engineers!)
Early exposure. Another way to get
better product managers is simply by
training more people in school and
ensuring technical students have the
opportunity to pursue product management. Students should be made
aware of the opportunity and have the
chance to practice before entering the
This does not mean engineering
students should be doing less technical work. Product-management skills
can be introduced as part the work
students are already doing, and a substantial benefit can be made with small
Technical professionals who have
entered the product-management
discipline should spread the word.
They can return to their schools and
give talks on their work as product
managers. Companies can be sure
to mention product management (or
sponsor talks on the discipline) during industry events.
Within academic programs, requiring more projects will allow for more
product-management experience. Two
programs that already do this are the
Olin College of Engineering and the
Rochester Institute of Technology.
Product management started out as
brand management, and in the software industry was redeveloped to fill a
gap in engineering. It then proliferated across companies. Unfortunately,
product-management education has
not caught up to its prevalence in the
industry. The field does not have consistent product-management education. This makes it difficult to have a
consistent set of expectations. A more