Product School starts at around $4,000 according to their website. That’s a lot of money. What do you get in exchange?
- 2 months of hands-on training
- Free copy of ‘The Product Book’
- Lifetime membership in alumni community
- Lifetime access to jobs board
- Compatible with your regular work schedule
- 1 Specialization Certificate
Have any doubts? Does this sound expensive? Well, that’s because I’d argue it is, but it depends on the value you attribute to their offering.
The biggest qualm I have with the concept is that you can’t train into product management. PM is inherently a difficult field to get into because it’s based on “soft-skills”. Frustratingly enough, the best way to get into it is to get a PM job, is to be a PM already. Speak to any tech HR manager, and they will tell you that the industry mostly hires experienced PMs; try it for yourself.
There isn’t a certification or degree that has historically guaranteed employee within the area of product management as far as the largest tech companies go. The closest effort to this is Carnegie Mellon’s MS in Product Management which is super new. I wish this were different, and I admire institutions for trying to change this precedent.
So the question is then, how do you get into Product Management if you’re not already one of the lucky few with experience?
Most common ways to break into product management
- a training program (Uber’s APM, Facebook’s RPM etc)
- transitioning at your current company (ie. from business to PM or DS to PM)
- give it a shot at a small/medium start up where they’re more flexible with roles/titles
- get an MBA or masters and use summer internships as a chance to get PM internships
- few companies offer PM internships to undergrads, but eBay is one of the few I know that do
- Amazon also likes to hire MBAs as product managers, regardless of their prior experience
- become a freelance PM for a side project or a small business
- hustle & network
Notice that none of them involve certifications? The product management field is very stringent, unfortunately.
What is Product School’s offering?
Product School claims to provide one of the best courses to become a “fullstack product manager.” What that means is that they can provide a glimpse into the various product skills one may exercise as a PM, such as data analysis, user research, coding infrastructure, design and wireframing etc. Which is very valid and could be useful. However, no amount of “learning” these skills on paper will get you a PM role. At the end of the day, you will need to find a way to actually apply your learnings to a real life business in order to land a job.
They’ve built a business by providing a platform for already established PMs from top companies like eBay, Facebook, Airbnb etc to practice public speaking and “support aspiring PMs.”
Product School also hosts a conference where they, as mentioned before, hire a series of PMs from various tech companies to talk about PM life and how to get into the field. Twitter had a field day with #productcon with many likening it to the infamous #fyrefestival which disappointed thousands of rich millennials by failing to deliver on its promised beach side music festival in the Bahamas.
Here is what people were promised:
And here is what was delivered:
It’s tough to break into product management; it’s undoubtedly one of the hardest areas to break into. Product School offers ways to learn about what it’s like to be a PM and courses that will make it easier for you to work with a cross functional team, but be clear that there’s no straightforward path into the field.