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Student Experiences

Building a Tech PM Bridge

As Grant McQueen, director of the MBA program, spoke with MBA students during their exit interviews, he perceived a common thread: many students wanted to develop stronger tech product management (PM) skills.

Meanwhile, McQueen also noticed that companies wanted to hire graduates with PM talent and experience. He knew BYU Marriott was up to the challenge.

Tech PM is an emerging field in which professionals oversee the creation of a digital product. Product managers supervise the PM life cycle, which includes researching, designing, defining product requirements, and engineering the product.

To give students more PM experience, the MBA department created an MBA tech product management course in Winter 2018 semester. “This class offers students a unique opportunity to focus solely on overseeing the management of a project,” McQueen says, “and it also generates great support from the local community.”

Professionals from companies such as Ancestry, Microsoft, Amazon, and Adobe enter the classroom to teach about tech PM in their respective fields and to interact with students, which provides a unique and treasured dynamic.

“My favorite part of the class is the guest lectures,” says Debahuti Panigrahi, currently a second-year MBA student from Phulbani, India. “I learned different perspectives from professionals representing a variety of companies.”

The professionals bring not only industry expertise but also tech PM projects. Groups of three to five BYU students each tackle a different project for the companies by approaching it through one of the elements of the PM life cycle. For instance, one group was assigned to work on WeRemember.com, a project for Ancestry. The students focused specifically on the research portion of the life cycle by reaching out to Ancestry’s potential users to gather data about what features to include on the website.

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Tech PM is an emerging field in which professionals oversee the creation of a digital product.
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“I landed my summer internship with Ancestry mostly because of my project from the class,” says Nate Johnson, a second-year MBA student from Spokane, Washington. “This class was valuable, as it gave me access to one of Utah’s top-tier tech companies and had practical application.”

The professionals were impressed with the results from the student groups. “Having a smart, engaged team of students perform user research and deliver a product design based on that research was amazing,” says Brian Hansen, senior vice president of emerging businesses at Ancestry. “We are currently implementing many of the team’s proposed elements in our initial launch.”

Because wait lists for future sections of the course are growing and Silicon Slopes companies are asking for additional opportunities to participate in the class, the MBA program is in the process of adding sections of the course. “The goal of the class is to build a better bridge between BYU Marriott and tech leadership careers in PM,” says Jaekob Chenina, a product manager at Adobe and the adjunct professor who teaches the course. “We have been successful in achieving this goal since we created stronger relationships with project sponsors and several students landed jobs with the sponsor companies. And, of course,” he adds, “there was a tremendous amount of experiential student learning that took place.”

Written by Sydney Zenger