Meet Promeet Mansata, 2015 graduate of the Berkeley-Haas Evening & Weekend MBA Program. Upon graduating, he made a career change from database/application systems management to product manager with @Walmart Labs.
What did you do prior to going to business school?
I worked for LinkedIn as manager, Database/Application Systems.
Why did you want to work in product management?
Early on in my career I enjoyed working with technology, but after several years of being an operations engineer, I had this craving to do something more career-wise.
I didn’t quite know what it was initially, but during the first year of business school we were exposed to several different career choices (based on class learning as well as having such a diverse class of professionals). I started exploring career choices by speaking with classmates, the Haas Career Management Group (Thanks, Luke & Pat!!) and quickly decided that a career at the intersection of technology and business was where I’d excel and also have an advantage. That is exactly what product management is; you need to understand technology, the business value, and the strategic direction—and be able to balance all three.
Was an MBA helpful in breaking into product management?
Breaking into product management is hard and quite honestly the degree isn’t a silver bullet that will get you a job in product. However this DOES NOT mean that the MBA wasn’t important for landing the job. The MBA gave me a large toolkit of skills, the ability to look at things with a different set of lenses and identify problems, connections into so many companies, and a wonderful network of classmates that helped at every stage.
Most important, however, was that the MBA gave me the courage to step outside the box I was trapped in for many years. In addition to the large toolkit that the degree provides you with, it also teaches you how to deal with ambiguity, how to work in teams, and how to make tradeoffs between two or more equally compelling situations by looking at the data. There is this wonderful quote by W Edwards Deming - “Without data you are just another person with an opinion.”
Almost every class we attended at Haas taught us how to look at and interpret the data, how data can be misinterpreted and what metrics really matter in a specific situation. I use these skills on a daily basis to make decisions, understand tradeoffs, and make the best possible decision with the data that I have at hand.
Do you recommend pursuit of an MBA to people interested in product management?
As I mentioned above you don’t need to have an MBA to pursue a career in product, but having the credential, without question, sharply increases your odds of success at not only landing the job but also doing the job well.
The job requires you to be both a generalist and a specialist. A significant part of the job is spent in context switching, understanding the different challenges of the business, and putting the pieces of the puzzle together into one coherent picture that everyone can understand.
I’d also like to point out that the MBA will allow you to change careers from product into other parts of the business if you choose to do so. I highly recommend that anyone pursuing a career in product get an MBA.
To learn more, read more blog posts about product managers, learn more about the Evening & Weekend Berkeley MBA Program, or download our free ebook on breaking into product management.