Product Management Unpacked
Women Succeeding in the World of Product Management
“Growing up in the 1970’s, I watched The Bionic Woman and Charlie’s Angels. They became my female role models and heroines – strong, intelligent problem-solvers who used their feminine skills to their advantage,” says Kate Hare, Chief Product Officer at Photobucket, to Women 2.0, a media and tech industry leader in gender equality.
Today, young women aspiring to launch into Product Management roles have more than fictional heroines to look up to. Women, like Kate Hare, are at the top of the field, shaping the products, brands and experiences that have become staples in our digital repertoires. These female professionals define the future of technology, product and what it means to be a woman in product management.
Marissa Mayer led development of many of Google’s most recognizable products, including Google Maps, Google Earth, Gmail, AdWords, and Google’s site. In 2012, she became President and CEO of Yahoo, where she doubled the search engine’s stock price, recharged the brand, had a baby, and topped Fortune’s “40 Under 40” list in her first year. Dubbed “Google’s chic geek”, she’s been controversially unabashed in facing complexities as a female tech executive, fueling national debate around femininity and credibility as a female professional. She told CNN, “You can be good at technology and like fashion and art. You can be good at technology and be a jock. You can be good at technology and be a mom. You can do it your way, on your terms.”
Another Google alum, Camille Hearst, began her groundbreaking Product Management career as one of the first Product Managers at iTunes. She told Forbes, “iTunes was the number eight music retailer when I started, and the number one when I left”. Today, she is the cofounder and CEO of Kit, a social recommendation platform where tastemakers share products they love. She is one of only a handful of African-American women ever to raise more than $1 million to grow a startup.
While Marissa Mayer and Camille Hearst represent the pinnacle, it may be easier to see yourself in the shoes of someone in an earlier stage of her career. Miranda Luna became a Product Marketing Manager for Microsoft Azure at just 23 years old. She understands the essential relationship between apps and mobile users and uses this to help mobile developers optimize ability and affordability. In a profile by Microsoft, between details of her professional skills and accomplishments, you see who she is – a millennial, a daughter, a horseback rider.
Stories of success beg the question, “How do I get there?”
Answers vary – some product management careers are built on work experience alone, while others are driven by formal education or professional certifications. However, many industry leaders have educational backgrounds that address the unique skillset needed for the product management field. Marissa Mayer found this through an interdisciplinary undergraduate degree – she has a B.S. in symbolic systems, a program integrating computer science with philosophy, linguistics and cognitive psychology. For Marie-Pierre Belanger, VP Digital Solutions Product Management at Pitney Bowes, this meant pursuing a Master’s degree in UI/X to complement her electrical engineering background. She stressed that product management requires creative, technical, financial and industry knowledge to 280 Group. “Product management is a cross-functional discipline. I touch a little bit of everything and that’s what keeps me going with it.”
While there are various combinations of degree programs and work experience that encourage the diverse skills of a successful product manager, CMU’s MS of Product Management is the first-of-its-kind degree – specifically tailored to launch professionals to the top of the product management field. The product management degree program, blending two of CMU’s globally leading departments, the School of Computer Science and Tepper School of Business, presents a unique educational opportunity. In one short year, you’ll be deeply immersed in the realities of product management and prepared to take your career to new heights.
With professionals coming from all types of backgrounds – from computer science to the liberal arts – find a path that suits how you want to get there. Women professions continue to bring a much-needed female perspective to the world of product management, paving the way for industry-changing products.