What does a product manager do?
In his book Inspired, Marty Cagan describes the job of the product manager as “to discover a product that is valuable, usable and feasible”. Others describe the role of product management as existing within the intersection between business, technology, and user experience functions (2011, Martin Eriksson). To excel as one, it’s asserted you need be, “… experienced in at least one, passionate about all three, and conversant with practitioners in all”.
Which certification courses will give me the best grounding for product management?
There are many providers of both off-line and online certifications for Product Managers to choose from these days.
However, some insider perspectives and recommendations might be worth checking out before you commit to a course of study:
1) From someone who works in the role currently:
Sebastion Ungureanu, Product Marketing Leader at Bitdefender (2016-present): His top picks are: Pragmatic Management Certification from the Pragmatic Institute which offers 7 levels of certification and will take you through every possible activity required from Product Management; and the AIPMM Certified Product Manager and its variations from the Association of International Product Marketing and Management. AIPMM is the largest association of Product Managers in the world, and their exams are very strict and rigorous. His reasons for these choices are, “they are widely recognized by all companies with a product management function; they have withstood the test of time as a proven way to boost your career and your salary”. He does however caution that many PM certs are provided by companies whose exams can be passed by anyone, so of little credible value or whose certification is only recognised by their own alumni.
2) From someone who has done a product manager certification recently:
Manisha Sadhwani, student at The Product School, " I was a part of the Nov 2020 - Feb 2021 cohort with the instructor Shilp Vir (PM at Google, Mountain View)”. Apart from the great instructor who related learning areas to her real-life experiences, other positive aspects of the certificate course commented on are: “…the sessions focussed on strengthening your resume and personal brand; also… the product school slack channel and Product School pro is buzzing with activity from AMA sessions (twice a week), blog posts, forum questions etc. Being a part of that ecosystem keeps you connected and in proximity with the world that you want to be a part of keeping you motivated and inspired along that quest”. Areas noted for improvement were the length of the course which was too short and the pace too fast to cover all the topics and secondly the lack of real world exposure, such as, in apprenticeship roles.
3) From employers/recruiters of product managers:
This is likely to be the most important feedback for you as an aspiring product manager, if getting a job as one is your goal. Summarizing common points from the like found on quora.com in response to the question of the best certification courses for product management, the following is their collective advice:
1) “I've never considered any PM certification of real value in interviewing or hiring real-live PM candidates…My #1 criterion for interviewing and hiring product managers is that they've actually done product management before. Not in a class, not from a book, and rarely in a position that "has a lot in common with product management except under a different title." Having established that a candidate has already done this job before, I'm looking for a resume/interview that shows core PM experience and skills”.
2) “I assume that folks who bring up certification are very light on actual experience and trying to fill up time.”
3) “If you want to get a certification, by all means do so - it's always good to have exposure to different ways to skin the Product Management cat - Pragmatic offers a great program, and I've heard reasonably good things about Pivotal's programs as well.”
4) “Success is the most respected certification any Product Manager can have. Book smarts don't cut it, dogmatic beliefs and structures don't cut it. Adapting to changing conditions and market needs is the only thing that matters for a good Product Manager”.
There’s no one-size-fits-all product management certification. Beginners or newbies to the profession, will likely gain the most from certifications that focus on Agile methodologies and delivery, while experienced product managers and product leaders will benefit more from certifications that teach advanced discovery techniques, strategy, vision, and leadership.
Reading between the proverbial lines, it seems that as a new professional, doing a Product Management Certification might be a good starting point to learn a range of the skills you need. However, actual work experience in the field and related roles can’t be replaced by a certificate in terms of getting hired. Of course, all the certification providers are going to tell you how superior their respective courses are. Do your research, know what skills and hands-on exposure you need and whether the provider will meet these needs, before embarking on this route. There are plenty of options available.