Question: Is there any value in getting product management certification?
I am a MBA student with an engineering background looking to pursue a career in product management. This question is about the certifications helpful to people with my profile looking to start in product management, particularly in boosting the intial career search opportunities.
Among the certifications from organizations like Pragmatic Marketing, AIPMM, 280 Group and others, what are the aspects I should look for in deciding about product management certification?
Answer from Scott Sehlhorst of Tyner Blain: I remember going to a stump-speech given by a congressional candidate in Fort Wayne, IN, about ten years ago. After giving his pitch, he took questions from the audience. After every question, he would say “that’s a great question” and then he would say whatever he was going to say, which was not always an answer to the question. Sometimes I wonder if he meant “that’s a great question” in that it was great that someone asked a question that gave him a reason to speak.
As to the question of which certifications to go get as a product manager — that’s a great question.
When I’m interviewing a product manager candidate, I don’t care if he or she has any certifications. I care a little bit about what they know (what skills do they have), and a lot about what they will be able to learn. Personally, I have the Pragmatic Marketing “practical product management” certification, which I believe is useful shorthand for “think strategically” and is a primer for discussion, but otherwise does not provide value. Their practical product management training is to this day the best single training class I’ve attended in any topic. I would place significant value on a product manager having the perspective that Pragmatic espouses, and being able to demonstrate their ability to apply it. Having the associated piece of paper is secondary. I’ll also add that I haven’t heard anyone I’ve ever worked with express that they “care about” certifications for product managers.
Great product managers understand their markets and customers. They can discover and value the problems and opportunities faced by the customers in those markets. They can prioritize the problems and their solutions to achieve a product strategy. They can pull that ‘big picture’ together into a vision and a roadmap. And they can communicate — both with customers and with internal stakeholders. A great product manager can lead people (note: I did not say manage, that can be useful, but is not always required) — because a product manager usually has ownership of a product, but not a team.
Are there any certifications that say “I can do all of that?” None that I know of. Can a product manager learn enough about the customers in a particular market, about the competitors in the space, and the team that will deliver success? That’s what I want to know.
Thanks again, and great question.