Coronavirus Updates

How did you make your way into product management?

I studied chemical engineering in college and then spent the first two and a half years of my career working as a product design engineer, so I was involved in product development right out of college, working for Amway, the world’s largest direct sales company. I was doing a lot of research and design around residential air and water purifiers for Asia. While this role was fulfilling and challenged me as a professional, I knew I didn’t want to work as an engineer for the duration of my career and I really wanted to take on a broader set of responsibilities that were still related to product. That vision is what brought me to Booth.

Tell us more about your role

Since starting at Booth in the fall of 2017, I have changed roles numerous times, first within Amway and eventually externally. Within a few months into my time at Booth, I switched from engineering to a role that more closely resembles product management (PM), however, it’s worth noting this role was not in technology, which is where a lot of PM roles are focused today. Instead, in this role I was responsible for a portfolio of sports nutrition products. Amway acquired a company that produced energy drinks and they brought me on board with the focus to expand the portfolio outside energy drinks and introduce these products to some of our international markets.

In this role, my responsibilities were to understand changing consumer taste preferences and then with that data, identify different development partners and manufacturers so we could rapidly formulate different beverages and get them into the market. This started with energy drinks, and then expanded into ready-to-drink coffee, functional sparkling water, and even CBD. Sports nutrition consumer preferences are changing all the time, and it’s fascinating to figure out what ingredients people are willing to spend money on and to develop a strategy on how to launch the product quickly and profitably.

After this role in sports nutrition, I decided to venture beyond Amway in May 2020 when I accepted a consulting internship position at Kearney. With product still in mind, I worked on a summer project focused on relocating aerospace production facilities as part of a merger. After the internship I accepted an offer from McKinsey & Company, where I will likely continue to focus on strategies behind engineering and product development after I graduate in March 2021.

What courses would you recommend to someone interested in product management?

New Products and Services

I think this class would be particularly useful for individuals with no prior product background. The essence here is you can take a structured, analytical approach to help predict consumer behavior and demand around a product concept, and then you can dial in and develop said products or services targeted to a specific customer or segment. The class takes you through the journey of how you collect and analyze these data, and ultimately develop the product or service so you can address an unmet customer need.

Commercializing Innovation

I find this class encompasses a wide array of business topics and would prove useful in understanding how a product might scale with time, especially at a start-up or small company. The course is centered around venture capital and teaches you how to quantify the attractiveness of an idea. Product Managers face similar questions relating to attractiveness of future concepts on a regular basis. In this class, you’ll learn all sorts of tools to validate if you should expand your idea into different categories or if it’s a good idea to start a company with a particular product.

Booth Weekend MBA student Austin Teerman

"As for prospective students, I'd encourage you to have an open mind as you begin this journey. I entered this program with a clear goal, and it took less than a year for my direction to change. I was simply unaware of all the offerings Booth provides, and my journey unfolded before me as I continued to visit Chicago each weekend."

— Austin Teerman

Why did you choose Booth?

I wanted the strong business education early in my career to supplement my engineering background. The Chicago Business Fellows program really caught my attention and I couldn’t find any other program that had similar offerings and catered to young working professionals. I knew I wanted to begin my MBA as soon as I had a couple of years of professional experience under my belt. This program was the best of all aspects—I could continue working with my company at the time, which I really enjoyed, while building an additional skill set on the side. Ultimately, I chose Booth because of the strength of the education and the sense of humility embodied in this program, which I find particularly attractive. My fellow students are genuine, down to earth, intelligent, and approachable. These are attributes that I was actively seeking and were also uncommon across the other MBA programs I evaluated.

What other extracurricular activities at Booth are useful for product management?

Product Management Club

The club offers the Booth community an additional education on the different avenues students can take in product management. We foster connections with both local and big tech companies and bring PMs to campus (or now over Zoom) to speak with students and share insights about their jobs as well as tips/tricks to get a role at their company.

Marketing and Consulting Clubs

While not focused on product management, both these clubs offer events and resources to help aspiring product managers go through the thought process of taking a business hypothesis and learning how to validate it. These clubs can be valuable in a multitude of ways and are worth joining.

Any additional advice for aspiring product managers or prospective students?

I would encourage students to understand that product management roles vary depending on the company and industry, so I would begin by articulating the size of the company and the type of product you’d like to work with. Also, this is a career path that I feel is still evolving, i.e. the responsibilities, recruiting processes, and promotion cycles are not as solidified and structured as some of the more common post-MBA career paths such as consulting or investment banking. The most structured path in product management is likely at the large tech companies. What’s exciting is I have witnessed an uptick in interest in product management roles within the Booth community, and we’ve seen great success in the PM roles Booth students are landing.

As for prospective students, I’d encourage you to have an open mind as you begin this journey. I entered this program with a clear goal, and it took less than a year for my direction to change. I was simply unaware of all the offerings Booth provides, and my journey unfolded before me as I continued to visit Chicago each weekend. Additionally, understand that Booth is a massive commitment. The balance between work and school can be tough, and earning this MBA takes two or three years. I’d encourage prospective students to connect with current students and pick their brain, as this is really the best way to gather the more minute information that is not readily accessible online. Once in the program, I invite students to be intentional with how they spend their time outside of work and the classroom. Having structure proves invaluable as you seek to maintain your energy and balance!

Read more on Product Management:

Evening MBA student Lauren LaVan offers product management advice.

Evening MBA student Taylor Barker on Booth’s Technology Group’s Tech Product Management and Product Marketing Management workshop.