I don’t want anyone to think you need to go to business school to be a good PM (plenty of terrible MBA PMs). Sadly, too many MBA PMs would have you think that MBA PMs are simply the best.
BUT … I do think there are a lot of important things I learned which have proven invaluable in my Product Management career.
Another caveat, I went to MIT Sloan for my MBA. It’s definitely one of the most tech & entrepreneurship focused programs . So, my experience might not be the same as others.
You get really good at excel
One very common result of most finance, marketing, or statistics classes will be a much better understanding of excel. Considering data analysis is now a core skill for any good PM, knowing excel is important (SQL too).
You get better at working with others
Team projects, group meetings, student organizations, and a myriad of other tasks that require working with, influencing and leading others, who you have no authority over, are core to every good b-school experience. A core PM skill is working with others (engineering, marketing, design, management,etc). With the myriad of egos, personalities, ambition levels, and backgrounds of any b-school class … you will get a very quick crash course (if you do it right) on working with others.
Understanding the Business Component
Most companies hiring a product manager are making most of their money from their products. Hence, to manage the product is to manage the business (at least a large portion of it). Do you focus on monetizing or retaining users? Do you work on something that enhances your marketing efforts or long term user happiness? Going to business school helps you understand business, which makes you better at making product decisions with business impacts.
Making Decisions with imperfect Information
The single most useful thing I learned in business school that helps me everyday as a PM is making very big decisions with very bad information. The data is always missing something, or needs more data points, or has something wrong with it. Any MBA program will inundate you with cases with crap information and expect you to “solve” it. While doing them, I kept thinking “this is stupid. In the real world I would have much more information”. WRONG! So much less! Getting comfortable with making very important decisions with minimal information is the skill I cherish the most.
An MBA isn’t needed for a job in product management. In my opinion, a technical degree (or something heavy in math or analytics) is more useful, but … it helps a A LOT. The non-douche MBA (had to be said) has received several skills that will really help in a long and lustrous career in product management.