3 Berkeley Haas alumni on how an MBA helped them break into product management

By Jenn Bridge

If you want to have a hand in creating products that impact people’s lives, you might be eyeing a career in product management. The product manager role requires a broad skill set while allowing you to dive deep into many aspects of a business. 

While an MBA is not required for a career in product management, it can be immensely helpful for building the leadership, research, analytical, and negotiation skills needed to excel as a product manager. 

Three Berkeley Haas grads share how an MBA helped them pivot into product management from more technically focused positions.

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Build relationships and create networks

Sung Hu Kim, MBA 06, worked as a management consultant before earning his MBA and moving on to a career in product management. 

For Sung Hu, who had moved from the East Coast, an MBA from Berkeley Haas was incredibly valuable for building ties in Silicon Valley. While classes like New Product Development exposed him to fundamental problem-solving strategies and techniques for product management, he says it was the culture of community that had a lasting impact on his future. 

“I have friendships and professional relationships through Haas that will last a lifetime.” - Sung Hu Kim

While earning his MBA, Sung Hu was very active in making connections with students and alumni. Sung Hu and fellow classmates formed a campus group aimed at meeting industry leaders, learning about key companies and trends, and building relationships with classmates who shared his interests.

Gain the courage to step outside the box

For Promeet Mansata, MBA 15, earning an MBA was about more than building a large toolkit of applicable skills—it was also about building courage. 

Promeet knew he wanted to be “at the intersection of technology and business.” However, after several years as an operations engineer, he felt trapped in a career box. The skills he built during his MBA studies allowed him to build Confidence Without Attitude, which helped him leap into product management. 

 “You need to understand technology, the business value, and the strategic direction—and be able to balance all three.” - Promeet Mansata

Promeet said an MBA taught him many things, including how to be both a generalist and a specialist (and context-switching between the two), how to deal with ambiguity, how to work in teams, and how to use data to help you make tough decisions.

Flex your skills and build experience

Going from Bloomberg equity analyst to Amazon product manager was a big pivot for Stephanie Curran, MBA 14. But the flexibility of the Haas MBA program allowed Stephanie to make the most of her learning experience. She hand-picked classes and projects, customizing for the exact skill set she would need after graduation.

Especially if you have no technical background, Stephanie says an MBA could be crucial for success in product management. For her, an MBA was key to catapulting her into a new role and industry. 

“You get to work cross-functionally with software developers, designers, finance, editorial, legal, and product managers in other programs...” - Stephanie Curran

While earning her MBA, Stephanie practiced skills and built practical product management experience she could talk about in interviews. Stephanie says she learned how to manage a program, how to prioritize feature development, the nuances between marketplaces, and the principles of user experience, user interaction design, and tech development. 

Stephanie says she still uses fundamentals she learned at Haas when creating plans for new features or products. In one class, she drove a product from concept to minimum viable product (MVP), noting “I still think back through this exercise every time I begin writing a Business Requirements Document for a new product or feature we are planning.”

How an MBA can make you a better product manager

At its core, the product manager role is collaborative and requires well-rounded business knowledge.

In your time at Haas, you’ll learn and practice the skills that will make you a better product manager including organizational behavior, customer and market development, statistics, financial modeling, negotiations, leadership communications, market research, strategy, and entrepreneurship. The MBA experience also provides great opportunities for internships where you can apply what you’re learning to real-world projects. 

Like most business schools, there’s no “product management track” at Berkeley Haas per se. But future product managers find valuable learning and development opportunities within our MBA programs through classes, activities, clubs, internships, networking, and career development services

Think an Evening & Weekend Berkeley Haas MBA, Full-time MBA, or Berkeley Haas MBA for Executives degree could help take your career to the next level? Compare MBA programs now!

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Posted on September 8, 2020
Themes: Product Management  |   Career
Jenn Bridge
Jenn Bridge is Senior Director External Engagement. She oversees the employer relations, industry readiness, and business development teams including the marketing and communications strategies for the MBA Career Management group. She has corporate experience in consulting and retail (Gap Inc. and Strategy&) prior to Haas. She's a passionate leader who is thinking about the student experience all the time.