3+ years experience dealing with product but I still feel the need to have formal PM knowledge

Here’s a bit about my background. I have a diploma in Mass Communication with Design and Film specialized, and Degree in Marketing with Psychology minor. 5 years ago I decided to take up business development role in an obscure tech startup that led me to develop interest in user experience design, and took up a course on User Experience Design.

I left the company, and join my manager in his new venture startup. This venture allowed me to gain exposure to business strategy and operations. And because of my experience in UX, i developed the company websites (Via no-code software) and then got involved in tech development as well by being the Product Owner, UI/UX designer. Soon later I was managing kanban cards and planning the product features and prioritizing them but I never fully understand what I was doing. I know there were technical terms in the product management world such as user stories, epics, burndown charts, roadmapping etc. but I never fully applied them. I’ve searched them up before but the more I read the more I realized I don’t know enough.

So this leads me to think I need some formal PM knowledge in order to apply PM methodologies correctly. I feel whatever that I am doing now is too haphazard and this may lead me to make less-than-ideal product decisions. Furthermore, while the tech engineers/developers respect me enough to listen through and execute, I always felt that our work dynamics can be better if I had governed the product with proper PM framework.

I am exploring taking up Kellogg’s Professional Certificate in Product Management. The cost is USD$6500 but the cost to me is not of a concern here. Can anyone advise that this is the right step for me to take? I want to achieve some sort of Product Management Mastery by learning actual methodologies of PM and at the same time, gaining experience hands on while at work.

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It’s really up to you, but I’m just gonna give you my opinion.

That course is probably not necessarily worth the cost, nor the time.

I believe you can learn about the same stuff from videos, cheaper courses online and experience you already have (doing UX, kanban cards, and prioritizing) is more valuable to me.

As long as the Devs/Engineers/QA and other non-tech people understand what you mean then you’re doing good.

I’ve been in product space for awhile and it can often feel like you don’t know enough, that is not uncommon! You deal with ambiguity on a frequent basis, and that’s usually why it feels like that. What kind of “formal” PM methodologies are you interested in? And which do you think you’re doing haphazardly?

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  • The use of Scrum, and the use of user stories, story points, milestones, release management and also measuring output and performance of product.
  • The business is small and we are constant releasing versions without proper QA. I’ll write out Kanban cards consisting feature details with an explainer on what the developers need to execute but I never really know how much work/time it requires and it feels like there is a lack of tracking and management of the product. I often check in and see how things are going along but never fully understood the process. I think someone pointed out here correctly, I lack mentorship in PM and my concern here is that I’m executing incorrectly and end up going down a path where I think I’m doing things right when I’m actually not.
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A formal Scrum master training course might help you gain confidence in some of those items in the first list. There are lots of different approaches to doing story points, release management, etc. You need to find an approach that makes sense for the development team and the business (eg. release cadence, tolerance for some items not being delivered in a sprint)

In terms of QA and having a feel for how complex something might be, keep asking questions of the dev team to help you learn more about the technical ecosystem that they’re working with. The requirements/stories should inform the QA process, but there is usually a lot of depth there that sometimes should fall on the engineers rather than product.

You can build additional time into your estimates to allow for more thorough QA. It’s sometimes difficult in a small business/startup, as you’re still building proper QA processes and people have to do multiple jobs.

Use retrospectives after each sprint/release to talk about how you can improve your process.

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I am starting to believe Product Management is best learned through apprenticeship. There is a science and an art to it. I don’t know anything about the course, but do agree with some of the other commenters that you can learn a lot from videos… that’s the science.

But like most humans, experience is an integral part of learning and that’s how you develop the intuition for the art of Product Management. There is so much to learn to be effective.

Take the course, watch the videos… but find a mentor.

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@Karan, Second this. I’ve done the courses, classes, and verifications. The main thing there is reinforcement of core stuff you get in articles and videos free online.

I’m on the process of exploring for mentors outside the company I’m at because there’s a distinct lack of experience there. Between my lack of applied experience and general imposter syndrome in a new market, I could use some learned wisdom to latch onto.

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@Karan, I think you hit the nail. I know I can read concepts online, find video contents etc but it does feel directionless when I try to apply them in my work. My colleagues assume that I am the subject matter expect when it comes to product management. While I know the concepts to an extend I just don’t know whether I am doing it right. There is no one senior that I can seek guidance from.

And hence, I felt that a structured course with instructors that I can communicate to can help me with this.

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I would definitely not spend any money on formal training. Just read a bunch of articles online. I promise you there is nothing in that training, that couldn’t be accessed for free online.

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@LawrenceMartin, And maybe more important, nobody cares about the certificate anyways lol

All these programs prey on people and get them no ROI.

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It’s less about certificate but more about giving some structure in my learning. Someone here mentioned about mentorship and I believe this is what I am lacking because I never know whether I applied knowledge from these articles or video contents correct.

I would think an interactive course would allow me to ask questions and seek guidance from industry experts.

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I think you should list what your business and product needs are and then find the exact solutions, blog posts and other info about them. Reading books give you a 10K feet view of everything so you can pick what you need.

The paid course can be good if your company is paying and build network but not helping you to be better at what you need to do.

Each PM role is also very customized depending on the company and the product needs. Just think about it.

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My $.02

I think much of it is in your own head because you don’t come up with tech background and you feel if you have a better framework you will not feel inadequate.

If it’s for your own piece of mind. Do it. Just spend that money and do what you want to. Try and get structure if you think.

And tbh, it seems like you’re doing a great job and some of the advice here is really good. There is a lot of good stuff.

But my suggestion is ,if you’re a bit stuck in your head. Just do it and see if it makes a different

Good luck buddy!

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PM, lean startup, agile, etc… books are great and give you a high level framework but they won’t give you the details to use the techniques effectively for your specific work. Those techniques are like knifes, pans and pots for a chef. Necessary tools but you need to learn the proper ways to use them, when to use them and most importantly how to adjust them.

When we train new PMs we encourage them to read about these techniques and then we have working sessions with them in using it for their daily work so they can ask questions as it relates to their individual tasks. It’s not something that can happen in a short course. They will give you a high level walkthrough but the real value is implementing it into your daily work and getting constant feedback.

What you are looking for is a PM mentor. If you don’t have one available at work look for one on LinkedIn. Look for ones that are in similar fields, in startups and if possible in a close area. One thing about startups is that the grind is real and the sense of paying it forward is pretty strong (at least in the Bay Area). If you don’t get a response keep reaching out to people until you find someone willing to chat with you.

See if they are willing to give you 30min once a week or once every two weeks. Buy them lunch. Make sure you have specific questions that they can address. For my PMs I ask them to prep problem, possible solutions and suggested next steps (most important). Good luck to you.

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This is insightful. I agree that I need someone senior to bounce about ideas and make sure I am doing things right. I am hoping a course that consist of interactive sessions with instructors and peers would help me with this.

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Not a product manager but worked as a business analyst. I had similar experience in that I never got formal training for business analysis but rather learnt on the job and there were many terminologies that were like I don’t exactly sure how they worked.

What I did was after working on some successful projects where I did the work properly even though I did not have full knowledge of terminologies I just went over some highly rated Udemy courses and started reflecting on the knowledge I got to the tasks I did. This helped me understand the work I was doing in a proper structure and get better at my job.

I would suggest you to try some of the Udemy courses and do it over some span of time instead of going over it all at once and I believe it will help you get a more structured knowledge of what you already do and fill in the gaps of things that you maybe do not know.

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Whenever a career option is hot someone jumps in offering a course. I have interviewed many people who have done the PM courses and honestly they have mostly fallen short. Experience almost always beats courses. Most startups will have their own way of doing things, and you should not expect for some framework to learn. It would also depend on CEO/CTOs favourite tool: you might master Kanban but what if your CTO hates it? PM is a people’s role more than technical. Try to get more work, learn on the job.