A new master's degree program at Carnegie Mellon University aims to teach computer scientists and engineers to become product managers, the much sought-after specialists in technical organizations who shepherd new products to market.
The 12-month master's degree program provides the technical skills and business acumen students need to be successful in this high-demand area. A required internship and capstone project supply the practical skills students need to return to industry prepared for their new careers.
"A product manager is first and foremost the CEO of the product," said Bob Monroe, associate teaching professor in the Tepper School and co-director of the MSPM program. "They are responsible for building the right product to solve the right problem for the right customers, and selling it at the right price through the right distribution channels. They own and are responsible for the overall success of the product."
Because their roles involve technical knowhow and marketing savvy, good product managers must exhibit excellent interpersonal skills, business acumen and technical knowledge. Carnegie Mellon's MSPM degree builds on the university's global leadership in computer science and business to train these hard-to-find gems of the tech world.
"One message we consistently receive from industry is that truly good product managers are incredibly hard to find," said SCS Dean Andrew Moore. "In software companies big and small, there is no such thing as a great product manager who doesn't combine technical excellence with passionate leadership, so SCS and the Tepper School are the perfect partnership."
Carnegie Mellon has designed its MSPM program for early career professionals with an undergraduate degree in computer science, software engineering or computer engineering. Students will begin the program in January and spend one calendar year in Pittsburgh. SCS's Human-Computer Interaction Institute (HCII) will provide technical education in courses ranging from digital service innovation to data science for product managers. The Tepper School will supply courses on management topics that include marketing for high-tech product managers, product strategy, and managing people and teams.
"The role of product managers continues to gain importance in today’s technical product companies," said Bob Meese, vice president of business for language software company Duolingo and former director of business development for Google Play. "The best product managers partner effectively with engineering managers on near-term product development efforts while also centrally directing cross-functional teams and keeping the customer’s perspective present throughout longer-term product planning."
In addition to providing the hard skills product managers need, the program will focus on training students in the interpersonal and communications skills that are imperative to getting a product from concept to customer.
"The MSPM program offers a deep dive into all the skills good product managers need to have," said program co-director Jason Hong, associate professor in the HCII. "This program will help technical professionals change their career trajectory and make the leap from technologist to product manager at tech companies."
"Through the Tepper School's Accelerate Leadership Center, students will create a personalized program and work with an executive coach to develop the leadership and interpersonal skills they’ll need to succeed," Monroe said.
Applications for the program are open, and the first application deadline is July 1. Visit the MSPM homepage for more information.