Should product managers get certifications? Ask a Good Product Manager asked us to answer.
Is There Value in a Product Management Certification?
In a recent question / article at Ask a Good Product Manager, an MBA student with a background in engineering and an interest in product management asked:
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?
For my complete answer, please check out the response on Jeff’s blog. And if you’re new to it, sit back with a cup of joe, there’s a big pile of great questions and answers there.
I re-framed the question to match the title of the article – “Should I get product management certification?”
No and Yes and No
[ Thanks Wendy for the photo]
In my response to the question at Jeff’s blog, I pretty much start and end with the “no” side of the argument.
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.
I’ll also add that I haven’t heard anyone I’ve ever worked with express that they “care about” certifications for product managers.
I mixed some “yes” into the middle:
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 add that someone who has attended Pragmatic Marketing’s training probably gets the benefit of the doubt. I still “trust, but verify” their perspectives when interviewing a candidate or deciding to rely on someone to make a product great.
What, Then, Should You Do?
Is platitude format: Get good at product management.
What does that mean?
It means you need to learn how to manage your time and focus on strategic activities that add a ton of value. It means you need to make sure you aren’t spending time doing other people’s work (because they won’t be doing yours).
- Understand your market and market segment – and understand the problems your customers face.
- Determine the value of solving your customer’s biggest problems.
- Learn how to really listen, and become a great communicator.
- Include the cost of solutions when prioritizing them by ROI.
- Create product roadmaps that communicate the vision of your product.
- Learn how to lead, especially people you aren’t managing.
A certification won’t help you develop those skills. And to date, I don’t know of one that vouches for them either.