How do you get a PM job if you don't have an MBA?

I have five years of product design experience. I’ve worked with large technology companies as well as mid-sized and early-stage startups. At the early-stage startup, I was responsible for tasks that a PM would generally investigate. What are the following steps if I wish to transition to a PM role? Where I work now, it’s nearly impossible to shift laterally. Should I apply to startups and attend online courses? Do I need an MBA? I already have a master’s degree in design, and I want to make use of the five years of product design expertise I have. I’m not sure how, though. Undoing my recent career growth in this field is what troubles me. I would value any advice you have on this.

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True dumb luck. I was given a job in operations management for a business that is expanding significantly. Early on, I stood out, and when the product developed and the PMO needed to be expanded, I was asked to take on the role of product owner for a piece of internal software that I used on a daily basis in my Ops role. I don’t believe I would have stood a chance of getting hired for that PO role from the outside. I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time, but I had also given myself the best chance of success by performing above expectations and building relationships with coworkers both inside and outside of my department.

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I have a similar story. I was employed into this company’s most technical PO vertical despite having no prior tech knowledge. Despite the fact that I wasn’t qualified, they recruited me based on my potential and the interviewer’s assessment that I was intelligent.

After about a year had passed, a position in the product became available that made sense for me, so I was immediately placed there. I have three years of tech experience, of which two are as a project manager, and I recently started a new external position as director of Product.

I consider myself to be reasonably intelligent, but a lot of it is just dumb luck and being likeable.

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Usually, who you know matters.

Contact coworkers and other individuals you get along with on LI. Tell the truth about what you want.

Inquire about any connections.

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In the same company where I was employed, I moved from a go-to-market group to a PM position. The manager asked me to apply for a position that had recently become vacant. I had collaborated with him while performing my job duties, and my performance ratings were consistently “above expectations.” He (and everyone else) probably knew I was hungry for more since I had been conveying at quarterly town halls that our firm had stated we will have access to development programmes and learning opportunities, and I constantly asked when we would have access.

Perform effectively, communicate your intentions (however that may appear—by contacting bosses, etc.).

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I recently had an interview at a cyber security company, and the guy thought I was awesome but questioned why I was trying to do this work without an MBA despite having a background in project management.

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Can you be more specific about companies looking specifically for MBA? Curious to see the data.

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I would caveat this with… don’t enroll in an MBA unless you can afford the cost. It’s entirely realistic if you have a lot of money, your parents will pay for it, or you’re confident you’ll be able to work long hours as a PM at a large firm to pay off your debt.

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Although not true for many individuals, this is probably true for the OP and anyone else who already works at a tech business and interacts with the products.

An MBA will be very useful if you come from a different background or need sponsorship for your immigration. It is not required to be HSW.

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I work for a company that increased its PM workforce from 4 at the start of 2019 to 200 at the moment thanks to internal promotions and external hires. I’m not aware of any of the 200 candidates’ MBA status at the moment, and as someone who participated in the interviewing, evaluation, and decision-making processes, I never gave candidates’ MBAs or lack thereof any weight when making a choice.

Just my humble 2 cents - based on a single org, other companies may do it differently, etc, etc.

The majority of judgments are made based on an applicant’s prior experience with product management duties, knowledge of product mentality and tools (and I don’t mean Jira/Miro), communication skills, and - in the end - their capacity to perform the duties of the position for which they are applying.

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Thanks for your response @DhirajMehta! I read the very popular “cracking the PM interview” book by Gayle McDowell. It touched upon a few things. Could you recommend me any resources to ramp up with the “product mindset” aspect?

At the early-stage startup, I helped the founders with road mapping, prioritization, scoping the MVP, etc. However, my current role is a specialized product design role. I influenced product thinking but did not have the ownership over it. I don’t have a formal understanding of PM skills. But kind of dabbled at it through self-learning.

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Regarding the product mindset I would highly recommend Escaping The Build Trap. It is a really good introduction to product mindset, and how this is different from other mindsets.

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It appears that you have some prior expertise with PM-related duties. That will suffice to land you an interview (make sure to stress that out in your cv). I would immediately start applying if I were you. To demonstrate your commitment and to gain some theoretical grounding, you can also pursue certification or training.

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Internal transfer to an APM role.

Had to interview and all that but had gained a great reputation and the product VP called my current VP at the time to ask if they should move me and he gave me a glowing review. I also had been working with engineers and improving an internal tool in the current role and had become friends with one of the PMs and asked how I could help her, all that gave me PM things to talk about in my internal interview.

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I don’t even have a degree. I think when a lot of people go the MBA route, the biggest value is the networking and contacts they make. I can’t imagine many orgs having MBA as a job requirement.

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started off in an agile consulting firm as a business analyst. Several c-level and vp-level executives as well as senior development teams were interacted with. Afterward, depending on the client, moved into a project manager or PO role. I stopped consulting and finally switched to programme management full-time. Most recently, I joined a series C startup as a TPM.

Overall, it was only exposure to clients, their needs, thoughts, and factors to take into account from the technological and business side of the house.

I probably learned this the hard way, because I suffered a lot in my youth (and often). I used the knowledge I learned from them to best position myself for the role I desired. I found mentors in my supervisors, coworkers, and clients.

Anyone who tells you an MBA would get you the job faster or will help you succeed in the job is fooling you.

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Internal transfer at a rapidly expanding startup that required PMs and where I was doing work related to products. Most PMs I am aware of received the title through internal transfer. You might want to think about joining a smaller company as a designer with the goal of transitioning into product development because it tends to be easier there.

It also helps to seek businesses that appreciate your prior experience when hiring PMs and are more design-centric. Here is an article with more information.

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If I were you, I would simply change your title to “PM” on your résumé and LinkedIn. Then begin applying for PM jobs while showcasing your years of experience.

I held the positions of inside sales representative, digital sales representative, and website manager during my first five years of product management experience.

Interviews should go well if you genuinely have some PM experience or at least sound like you do. The CV and LinkedIn title change will cause employers to contact you after you apply, at which point it merely becomes a numbers game.