Does a Product Manager Need an MBA?

Why I Started — and Then Quit — an MBA Program in Less Than 24 Hours

As a product manager, should I get my MBA? I have been wrestling with this question for a long time. I even interviewed other product managers — some who have their MBA and others that do not.

Ultimately, I decided to go for an MBA. My company offered tuition reimbursement and I figured I should take advantage… why not!? I got accepted into a local MBA program, and signed up for one class with a ‘I’ll see how it goes’ mentality.

Then, these 5 things happened that made me change my mind at a stunning speed.

  • During orientation week, I was told the dress code was business casual. I work for one of the 10 biggest tech companies in the country, and I wear jeans to work. Because it's 2018. And we're not on the East Coast. I had to google what business casual even means these days. I had a flashback to a developer that quit at a former job because he couldn't wear flip flops to work. 

    I wore jeans.
  • Apparently, buying really overpriced text books is still a thing in college. This whole thing hasn't changed since I was in undergrad. The text book is typically written by the professor or one of his buddies. The book I was supposed to buy was priced at $150 - for the digital version. And only 3 of those chapters were required reading for the class.

    Textbooks are a total racket.
  • The program requires classes that are not applicable to my job in any way. I know the point of an MBA is trying to give you a well-rounded business education, but why do I need to sit through 5 months of Accounting 101, when I could probably do an intensive online course and grasp the same basic concepts in a few weeks? 
  • On the first day of class, the professor said two (albeit random) things that made me decide to drop out immediately.
    • "If a product isn’t in the exact place at the exact time I want it, I’m not going to buy it." Ummmm, iPhones anyone? This is old school thinking. Oftentimes, scarcity creates demand. 
    • "Self-driving cars are scary." He continued with how it will never work. <Kimberly shakes head and sighs.> No conversation on the benefits, on the successful pilot currently happening in Pittsburgh, which I have witnessed with my own eyes.  

      I decided right then, this was not for me. I emailed admissions to drop the program. I still feel good about this decision. 

In Sum:

  • Unless you can take time off work (2 years) to focus only on your MBA, and can attend a Top 10 business school (like Haas or Michigan), experience in the industry is much more valuable than an MBA.
  • This medium article — An Analysis of 100+ PM Job Posts — discovered that only 1% of PM job postings require an MBA.
  • Instead of clocking numerous hours working on my MBA, I’ll be focusing on my Grow with Google Scholarship classes, and other Udacity Nanodegrees. For me, this is a much more efficient way for product managers to learn in-demand skills that are relevant to my job.
  • I have also now freed up some time to allocate additional red panda photos.

If you're looking to learn new skills as a product manager, check out my comprehensive guide to free online classes for skills relevant to PMs.

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