By some estimates, between 2017 and 2019 demand for product management roles in the United States increased by 32%. It’s a career track that has only grown in popularity since as businesses place ever-greater importance on data, software development, and design in their decision-making.
Product managers, or PMs, are “a hub to a bunch of spokes,” says Emi Rosanwo, a second-year, dual-degree “MMM” student at Northwestern University’s McCormick School of Engineering and Kellogg School of Management. Graduates of the multidisciplinary program earn both an MBA and a Master of Science in Design Innovation; notable MMM alumni can be found in the C-Suite of IBM, American Express, and Harley-Davidson.
“You have to interact with legal, compliance, technology, and design — all to drive towards a specific business vision,” Rosanwo says.
‘SO MANY DIFFERENT PEOPLE CAN BE PRODUCT MANAGERS’
It’s a career whose reality varies widely across different companies and industries. In short, for a product to succeed, a product manager must act as the conductor to its many functions.
Poets&Quants spoke with a pair of second-year students at the Kellogg School whose summer internships in product management demonstrated how diverse their PM career promises to be. The conversations centered on how Northwestern Kellogg equips its students for success in the role.
“This field is a bit of a buzzword, and it can get confusing to know what it really means to be a PM,” Rosanwo says. “If you’re coming to Kellogg, people are willing to help you navigate it and figure out what companies are the right fit for you.”
Prior to starting the MMM program, Rosanwo worked in the startup space and then spent time as a technology consultant. “From both of those experiences, I learned that I care about improving people’s quality of life,” she says.
In order to do that, she realized that she needed to better understand people’s needs. She decided to try a PM role at Nike as part of her summer internship.
ONE SUMMER, 13 PMs, 13 DIFFERENT ROLES
Rosanwo worked as one of 13 PM interns — each of whom had a vastly different role — in Nike’s Digital Product Department.
“What was most surprising to me is that so many different people can be PMs,” she says. “I met amazing PMs at Nike who were focused on different types of products and stages of product. I wasn’t expecting there to be that much opportunity within the field.”
Her internship was centered around reconsidering how Nike applies technology to customer service and its digital products. Through interviewing consumers across North America and Europe, she was able to identify consumers’ pain points and learn how they’ve been interacting with the company. This led to the creation of a new potential product and approach, which Nike will start executing in Europe.
Coming from the startup world, which she describes as “collaborative and team-oriented,” this PM role exposed her to seeing how to own and drive a product. “My biggest takeaway was the ability to really assume ownership and autonomy, which is something that Kellogg has equipped me well for,” she explains.