Udacity is excited to introduce the newest addition to our School of Business: the Product Manager Nanodegree program. Product management has become one of the hottest career fields today. From MBA graduates to former entrepreneurs, the product manager position is a role in the tech industry coveted by some of the boldest and brightest. Over the past decade, interest in the product management profession has grown by 300%; and rightfully so. Rated as a top 15 job on LinkedIn’s 2020 Emerging Jobs Report, product managers boast a 24% job growth rate and an national average base salary of $125,000 a year.
As Alex King, Product Manager Nanodegree program instructor and Product Manager at Google, states, the Product Manager role entails high responsibility and reward.
“Product Managers play a critical role in making sure that the right product gets built. This starts by deeply understanding your users and the problems that you are solving for, then working with a number of different teams to identify and build a solution. After launching a product, it’s an amazing feeling when you see people using your product in the real world.”
This Nanodegree program is great for those looking to break into the Product Management space, and has no technical prerequisites, so it’s accessible to learners from a variety of backgrounds. Once you learn the foundational skills required in Product Management, you will be equipped to further specialize your skillset with the AI Product Manager Nanodegree program, as well as the Growth and Data Product Manager Nanodegree programs.
Product Managers Drive Company and Customer Value
Let’s go through a few examples of why Product Managers are so valuable to companies. Have you heard of ICQ? Most likely not. However, most of you probably have used or at least heard of AOL’s Instant Messenger. ICQ was an early messenger tool similar to AOL’s Instant Messenger, but unlike Instant Messenger, ICQ had too many features that struggled to deliver customer value; as a result, it never took off because it became too overwhelming and inadequate for users. Now, let’s examine an example that is a little more recent. When Apple released its first version of the iPod in 2001, Microsoft released a competitive offering five years later called Microsoft Zune. However, unlike Apple’s iPod, Microsoft’s Zune failed to deliver any additional value to listeners and was late to the market, resulting in listeners sticking with Apple’s iPod instead of switching over to Microsoft’s Zune, causing Microsoft to discontinue production of the Zune product after a few years.
So what distinguishes exciting ideas from industry-changing innovations? A Product Manager. Product Managers make visions a reality by tactfully blending insight-driven strategy with influential execution. Whether it’s adding a feature that enhances customer delight for an existing product, such as in AOL’s Instant Messenger, or a completely new offering into the market, such as Apple’s iPod, Product Managers serve as the bridge between what problems a company spends their resources solving and the value that gets delivered to the company’s customers.
Moreover, with the rise of digitization in the past few decades, all companies, including ones that were previously primarily selling physical products, such as Nike, Procter & Gamble, and Lego, now need Product Managers that can guide the development of software products. As a McKinsey article states, Product Managers are critical for companies in today’s digital era, connecting software-engineering teams to the rest of the organization, and ensuring resources spent internally create extraordinary customer value externally. Such an influential role requires a dynamic set of skills, including mastery of both soft skills, such as influencing without authority, and hard skills, such as distilling customer and market-based insights into a product spec. Being able to apply this breadth of skills throughout the product development lifecycle is what allows impactful products to be delivered into the market at the right time with the right features.
There is a Product Management skill gap in the market due to a lack of industry-relevant programs that focus on both the soft and hard skills
However, this dynamic set of skills that set Product Managers apart are a rare breed in the workforce, especially in countries like Australia and India. The gap of skilled Product Managers in the workforce can be attributed to the lack of practical, industry-relevant training. McKinsey claims the maturity of a Product Manager can be measured across six pillars, and that the best way to upskill in these pillars is through working on real-world projects with regular coaching and feedback. In other words, Product Managers need to have a good sense of business, tech, and design, and be capable of seeing synergistic opportunities and switching contexts between those three domains constantly. However, there are very few Product Management training programs available in the market that enable synergistic problem solving across the business, tech, and design domains, and there are even fewer that teach the hard and soft skills needed to work effectively at the intersection of these three spheres.
The projects in the Product Manager Nanodegree program will prepare you to lead a cross-functional team in your organization, and act as the CEO and general manager of a mini-startup within your company.
Students who enroll in the Product Manager Nanodegree program will learn to define product strategy and KPIs based on market analysis, pitch a product vision to get stakeholder buy-in, and design a user-centered prototype that adheres to engineering constraints. Then, perform key activities that occur during development, including the lifecycle of a code change, creating test plans, getting early feedback, effectively prioritizing issues, and running a go/no go launch meeting. Finally, they will build tests to enhance product features based on market data. Projects in this Nanodegree program include:
Project 1: Pitch a Product Vision
Perform market research to identify target users and size the market opportunity for a new product. Compile your analysis into a pitch deck, and present the vision of your product to business stakeholders.
Project 2: Run a Design Sprint
Take a product opportunity and explore potential solutions. Narrow down ideas to the most compelling one, create a storyboard and prototype, conduct user research, refine ideas, and incorporate findings into a final product spec.
Project 3: Managing Product Development
Take a product through the development process, with a focus on high quality, risk management, and communication. Focus on key activities that occur during product development, including the lifecycle of a code change, test plan creation, early feedback intake, issue prioritization, and go/no go launch meetings.
Project 4: Deliver a Product to Market
Create a pre-launch process, including identification of launch risks and mitigations. Develop a marketing and pricing strategy, and create collateral to prepare the Sales and Customer Support teams to evangelize the product. Use customer feedback to design an A/B test for a new product feature.
Collaborating with Top Product Management Professionals
To develop this program’s world-class curriculum, we collaborated with professionals from companies including Cornerstone OnDemand, Lyft, and Microsoft. Each of these collaborators contributed guidance and feedback to focus the program on the most in-demand skills. Also, each of the instructors in the program has extensive professional experience as Product Managers in technology. Below is a list of contributors to the program.
- Alex King, Product Manager at Google
- Anastasia Root, Product Manager at Google
- Yuva Murugan, Product Consultant
Begin Your Career in Product Management Today
Product Management roles in the US have grown an astounding 32% over just a two year period, from August 2017 to June 2019, higher than software engineering job growth (21%) and overall US job growth (6%) during that same time span.
This program will teach you both the hard skills of leading product development, and the soft skills of sourcing user feedback and influencing cross-functional teams. Udacity’s Product Manager Nanodegree program allows learners to develop experience across the business, design, and tech domains through hands-on, industry-relevant projects and mentor feedback. Enroll today to begin your career in Product Management!