Dec 7, 2016 2 min read

Metrics for Product Career Schools?

Metrics for Product Career Schools?

December 6th’s Wall Street Journal called out that some of the Valley’s largest firms have delayed reporting metrics on engineering diversity. Clearly, this was because these firms were unexcited about the results, not because they had problems gathering data. Companies, like people, would rather not share unflattering results.

I’ve been wrestling with a similar problem over the last few months.  Lots of folks wanting to get into product management call me for advice about courses or workshops that are supposed to help them land their first product jobs.  They tend to be developers, newly minted MBAs, or others who don’t have a way to transition into product management roles at their current companies. Dozens have asked me some variation of “should I spend thousands of dollars out of my own pocket for a course, workshop or certification that will get me a job as a product manager?”

My anecdotal experience – interviewing candidates who’ve recently completed such programs – isn’t very encouraging. And I’ve failed to find any quantitative market evidence that these programs matter (see my three-year-old data).

Here’s the dilemma: programs that claim some success on getting folks their first product management jobs should be able (willing) to provide success metrics. For instance:

  • M = number of students without previous product management titles who completed the course/workshop
  • N = number showing product management titles on LinkedIn within 6 months of completion
  • Success ratio = N/M (e.g. 45% of product management hopefuls hold product management titles within 6 months)

That would let prospective students answer their own question: “is this likely to help me land my first product management job?”

As with major tech companies called out on diversity metrics by the WSJ, this seems more about intention than analytics. From the outside, I’d guess that the results are somewhere between not-very-impressive and atrocious.  If results are terrific, I’ll humbly recommend/promote the best offerings.  And apologize.

Of course, this is more complicated. Some students may already be product managers (and want to build up their skills); other attendees might just be looking for empathy/understanding for their product peers, etc.

A more targeted metric might be “% enrollees who started the course with a desire to get a product management role and either received an offer or achieved that role within 90 days of active interviewing.”

As product management leaders and educators, we understand personas and success criteria.  (And we teach our students about them.) It’s our job to target our offerings, know what ‘good’ looks like, and be clear on the value we provide.  So, if a program includes “master the product management interview” training and highlights its connections to tech recruiters/hiring managers, I assume it is specifically aimed at folks who want product jobs.

Sound Byte

We should know the efficacy of what we offer. So here’s an open invitation to make me a champion of such programs: show me that they work.

Full disclosure: I guest-teach at Dublin’s DIT in a master’s program for current product managers. Its focus is in-place skills development for incumbent product managers, primarily paid for by employers, and does not target job-changers.  DIT is a not-for-profit.  And see some of my gratis career advice on Quora and here.

Top image is from the referenced WSJ article, which is mostly behind a paywall.

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