There are many paths to a career in Product Management. Many prospective PMs consider business school, internships, side-projects, startup experience, or bootcamps.
Bootcamps are a very popular learning model in the tech industry for several reasons. They are usually a great way to get condensed, accelerated learning for a fraction of the cost of a traditional degree or certificate.
One of the more well-known product management bootcamps is called Product School and I had the pleasure of attending their Product Management Certificate course in the spring of 2018. In this article, I’ll discuss what Product School is, what the courses cover, and how it might help your PM career.
What is Product School?
Product School offers various courses in product management. The courses are in an 8-week format where you learn the basics of product management and progress to more advanced PM skills. The courses are generally taught by a PM or Senior PM in the tech industry and you will be a part of a small class of roughly 8-10 peers also looking to break into PM.
Product School was intriguing to me because it was a relatively short program and focused solely on product management. I was looking for in-person instruction and Product School seemed to fit my particular needs at that time.
Product School Admissions
When you decide on a course and apply, an admissions coordinator from Product School will reach out for a conversation regarding your goals and how they align with the program. I was contacted within a day and the conversation lasted ~30 min. Product School then sent over an acceptance letter afterward and reserved a spot for me in the class - asking that I finalize payment within a few business days.
Make sure you come prepared to ask questions during this conversation. It’s a great opportunity for you to vet the Product School program before making a financial commitment.
When I attended Product School, the Product Management Certificate course cost roughly $4000. Occasionally, Product School will run specials on their courses and allow you to purchase a 2nd course for a small discount or encourage you to extend your learning into the next course in the series.
In my particular case, I paid for Product School out of pocket. I figured it was much cheaper than an MBA and landing any PM job would be worth the cost in salary bump. Check with your employer to see if they’ll help cover tuition costs, especially if you have an education reimbursement program.
Class schedule & location
The product management certificate course is approximately 40 hours of work spread over 8 weeks. Product School offers two schedule types that emulate part-time MBA programs. You can choose to attend two 2.5-hr weeknight classes or a 5-hour (plus breaks) class each Saturday.
They also offer Product School courses in many cities. Check on their website or speak with your admissions coordinator to see where the classes will be held.
If you anticipate needing any scheduling accommodations, Product School is generally flexible in allowing you to attend different times or classes. I had to miss a few weekends due to work and they allowed me to attend the weeknight sessions instead (held in a different classroom in another part of the city). They sometimes have students call into class remotely via Zoom as well.
Make sure you plan out your class schedule for the 8 weeks you’ll be attending. If you have any issues, let your instructor or admissions coordinator know as soon as possible.
Classmates & Instructors
Product School students are typically looking for their first break into a PM career. They come from various backgrounds such as QA, developers, customer success managers, etc. There may even be classmates in the course who are there just to learn for fun.
Product School touts veteran PM instructors from top tech companies, but the quality of instructors may vary widely. When I was selecting my schedule, I did a lot of research into the announced instructors for the courses. I wanted to see how much PM experience the instructor had, what companies they worked for, etc.
In my particular case, I found a great instructor who had made a transition into product management himself years prior. I was looking for someone to give me both career guidance as well as product management knowledge, and this particular instructor fit the bill. I was also able to chat with other PM instructors from the weeknight classes and my instructor even brought in guest speakers for me to network with - giving me exposure to a lot of different perspectives in the industry.
Because product management is a rapidly growing profession, there is no shortage of learning material in the form of books, videos, programs, etc. Many of this material can even be found for free online.
In Product School, you cover a wide range of PM topics, including:
- Opportunity hypotheses
- Defining personas
- Writing PRDs
- Wireframing designs
- Market analysis
- A/B testing
- Planning launches
- Frameworks galore
The course mixes at-home reading with in-class, hands-on assignments. You’ll get an opportunity to work alongside your classmates in team projects and sometimes present your projects to other PMs.
While the curriculum didn’t cover any of the above topics in-depth, it helped me identify personal strengths and weaknesses so that I could continue to hone my product management skills.
Because the classes were in-person, it motivated me to attend, pay attention to the lessons more, and absorb the information more so than skimming through free information online.
My personal review
Overall, Product School was a relatively quick way for me to break into Product Management. While much of the same content and curriculum could be found online, I was personally interested in the networking and in-person format of the course, knowing it would push me to take the curriculum a bit more seriously.
I was very happy with the quality of my instructor and had great classmates who were bright and encouraging. I very much enjoyed going to class, working on projects, and gaining some hypothetical PM experience through coursework.
In my case, attending product school allowed me to transition into a PM position internally at my old company, kickstarting my product management career. By taking the initiative to obtain a PM certificate on my own time, I demonstrated that I had the interest and aptitude to become a PM. I used this as a stepping stone to move from one PM position to another, making sure that I would gain new experiences and skillsets at each stop.
If you’re someone who prefers learning in-person, learning by doing, or having a structured, scheduled, classroom environment–Product School is probably a good choice for you.
If you feel like you can pick up PM fundamentals on your own, but want to focus on the PM interview process—or don’t have $4000 to put towards the class, alternatives like Exponent would likely be a better choice.
How does it compare to Exponent?
Compared to Product School, Exponent is a much more affordable option. Additionally, when it came to preparing for PM interviews, Exponent had a much more extensive support than Product School, offering specific interview questions, access to interview coaching with seasoned hiring managers, and a great network to other established and aspiring PMs so that you can constantly practice your interview skills.
Product School gave me a good overview of the PM process, but Exponent helped me land a real PM position by helping me show my product management potential during the interview process.
Both programs are fantastic and complement one another very well. As Exponent is launching our own brand new PM Skills course around fundamental product management skills, if you are looking for an all-in-one course to help break into product management at an affordable price range, I would encourage you to check out Exponent's PM Skills Course and the Interview Preparation Course so that you learn the PM fundamentals and ace your next PM interview!