Why did I do On Deck Product Management?
- It seemed interesting & I love learning
- I’m trying desperately to avoid an MBA.
- I wanted to get more confident about my PM skills, because I knew there were things that I wasn’t learning about or getting to practice at my full time role
- There was no reason not to:
- I had the bandwidth to dedicate 5-6 hours per week, and the flexibility to attend remote sessions in the middle of the day
- The cost was greatly reduced between On Deck’s financial aid and my job’s L&D budget
Did it achieve these goals?
Did I learn things?
- Unequivocally yes – and it showed me a lot about how product management should be done.
- From attending the sessions, I got a lot of really good exposure to leaders in the industry, frameworks, and how to approach problems. I left mostly every session with something new to apply in my full time role.
Was it a replacement for an MBA?
- Probably not, but it’s good enough for now. From what I can tell, an MBA gets you three things: hard skills, clout, a network.
- Hard skills: The sessions are targeted to PM skills like setting product vision & strategy, developing product, leadership, goal setting etc. I’m certain there’s some stuff I’m still missing, but this was at least enough to get me to the next step.
- Network: It is access to a great and diverse network. It’s a good distribution of seniority (people just starting out vs. people later in their careers) and company types (scrappy startups, scaling orgs, large orgs). If you have a question about something, there’s almost certainly someone to answer it.
- Clout: it might bring your some clout true in some circles on twitter, but it’s not nearly selective, competitive, or well known enough to bring the same clout as an MBA would.
Did I Get More Confident?
- Yes and no.
- Between the programming and the mastermind group, I got exposure to way more thinkers, leaders, working types, and sets of expectations about what a PM ‘should’ be and what the role should look like. A more comprehensive picture of what it means to be a PM across the industry gave me a good framework for evaluating my then- and future-roles. This was confidence-boosting.
- I started trying new things at my job that I had learned in the sessions. I started structuring my written communication differently and got some great feedback, I started asking better questions of management and got good feedback on that, I noticed that we were talking a lot about metric development at ODPM and not a lot at work, so I started pressing on that. These were all confidence boosting.
- The other PMs were really impressive, and doing things in their roles that I didn’t even know I needed to be doing. I felt very junior in comparison, and had a little bit of imposter syndrome when chatting with people more senior than me. Sometimes I didn’t know if what I had was a dumb question or a good question. This was not confidence boosting.
Some Additional Notes:
- There isn’t an enforced capstone project or demo day equivalent. You walk away from the program with some new skills, some good resources, and the network. These are all worth it! But it’s probably not a good option for someone who’s trying to break into PM’ing and wants a “portfolio” to speak to.