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Future-proof your career with Product Management

Ayman Jawhar - February 25, 2019

Product Management is coming to a place near you very soon, whether you like it or not. Here are some thoughts to give you a sense of what it is.

Entrepreneurs: Nature v Nurture

Why is Product Management relevant for MBAs?

Future of Work studies (like this one) can help you understand what a Product Manager (PM) does in today’s work environment: virtual collaboration, cognitive load management, design mindset, transdisciplinarity, new media literacy, cross-cultural collaboration and more.

It's a role that operates at the intersection of business, technology and user experience. A common path is for Product Managers to grow to become the Chief Product Officer, which is becoming a prominent leadership role to influence the direction of a business. In 2018, Prodigy Finance hired its first CPO, Michael Smith, who has spearheaded our company’s collective product focus.

But, more than that, product is an attitude. It’s closer to being a culture than a function. That's why I loosely use the word product to mean the role, the discipline, the process and the way of thinking. It is grit, stamina, dealing with conflict, constant learning, and thinking 10x. It’s what your typical MBA is all about. You’re already halfway there.

In the same way that practising structured thinking through case studies can help you get into consulting, practising product thinking will help you be at the centre of value creation in tomorrow’s economies.

So, if you want to future-proof your career and position yourself for the market of tomorrow, start understanding and flexing your product muscles today.

How did we get here?

The current hype around Product Management seems to have surfaced with increased digitisation and software eating into all sectors. As more sectors are driven by software and technology, we’ll need more PMs to work with engineers and connect with other departments in a company.

Whereas operations were the initial centre of gravity and the value creation engine of companies, finance took that role towards the end of the last century. More recently, we’ve seen consulting and strategy do the same, and that centre has finally shifted to Product Management. Product Management seeks to create value from economies of creativity, rather than economies of scale and scope.

As humans, we own millions of objects and the increased complexity in value creation in our modern economies requires a different breed of knowledge workers who can make things happen to ultimately create order out of chaos.

With the rise of an ever-knowledgeable, individualistic, demanding and sceptical customer, only the fluidity of product can manage the creative process of addressing customer needs in realtime and in a personalised fashion for the ‘segment of one’.

Product Managers are focused on helping businesses with their biggest issue: not knowing what to build. By applying skill sets focused on discovering product-to-market fit, Product Managers can help businesses figure out what to build in a quick and precise way.

This is distinct from the skills required by Project Managers, who tackle scheduling, execution, and management of coordination risks.

What is the future of Product Management?

No one really knows. But, if we can learn anything from economics, it’s that job specialisation is how economies naturally evolve - leading to comparative advantages between entities trying to trade. Similarly, the PM role will likely undergo a series of splits into narrower role specialisations that will have to work together in networks to create value. That split could be based on functional expertise, such as data or partnerships, or it might be in based on sectors, such as consumer or financial technology.

Sooner rather than later, a lot of these specialisations and deductive thinking processes will become more frequent and predictable tasks, and they’ll be replaced by automation, robotics and AI. What will remain is the inductive thinking, creativity and human-centric aspect of Product Management. (Tip: make sure you pay attention during your organisational behaviour courses!)

The future of Product Management may be that the role itself disappears, as everyone will have become a PM, with the scope of work for this new dominant labour class focussing on being more humane. We will indeed resemble poets more than quants.

At Prodigy Finance, we see the need for this function every day as our international customer base expects, and rightly so, a customised personal relationship with the company and an increasingly rich user experience. It's no longer just about a loan; it's about getting help along the journey to your education and unlocking a new lifestyle. As customers prepare to start a new life in a new country, they are looking for expert advice on visas, foreign exchange, financial literacy and finding a job abroad.

The Product Games at INSEAD is a step in the right direction. It raises awareness about this new career track and helps students get a taste of the craftsmanship of product and its know-how, which evolves faster than any academic programme. It’s fresh to see leading institutions and students awaken to this new world of value creation.

Want to know more about Prodigy Finance?

If this article peaked your interest, Prodigy Finance would love to stay in touch about our company’s mission to enable people to unlock opportunities to change their worlds.

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