Innovations That Inspire

Business + Computer Science = Leaders of the Future

Recognition Year(s): 2023
School: Tepper School of Business, Carnegie Mellon University
Location: United States

The future of business education is collaborative. Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business and School of Computer Science partnered to create our innovative MS in Product Management, priming graduates to lead tomorrow’s businesses.

Call to Action

The MS in Product Management (MSPM) program was born of necessity. In his days as director and vice president at Google in the early 2000s, Andrew Moore observed that finding and hiring qualified product managers was nearly impossible. At the time, there was no clear, direct path for an aspiring product manager to acquire the technical, design, and business leadership skills that Google and Moore’s team required. In short, the tech industry had a supply versus demand problem for this rare blend of skills.

In reference to this recruiting difficulty, Moore is quoted as having said, “When we hire an engineer, we ring a bell. When we find a good product manager, we throw a parade.” In 2014, Moore left Google to become dean at Carnegie Mellon University’s (CMU) School of Computer Science (SCS). Understanding firsthand how in demand product managers were, Moore also recognized that these skill sets—computer science, design, and business—were already centers of excellence at CMU. Since its inception, the Tepper School of Business has specialized in coursework uniquely positioned at the intersection of business and technology.

Accordingly, Moore partnered with Bob Monroe, a professor of business technologies at Tepper. Together, they proposed an innovative program that would create the great product managers Moore once craved as a hiring manager. Out of that close collaboration between the Tepper School of Business, SCS, and the Human-Computer Interaction Institute, the MS in Product Management program arose.

Innovation Details

Tepper’s mission is to be the business school designed for the intelligent future. Launching an MSPM seemed to be a natural outcome of the school’s strengths as a university and a means of meeting a fast-growing need in the market.

Long before the curriculum was developed, Monroe met with industry leaders to not only confirm high demand but also to understand what qualities would best prepare graduates for successful careers in product management. For example, employers said they wanted product managers with solid work experience. Thus, the MSPM was designed to be more than just a year of classroom lectures. Students get hands-on, experiential learning and solve real-world problems on behalf of leading companies.

Tepper and the SCS created the only program of its kind focused on the four major skills necessary for product management excellence: business principles, technology, user-centered design, and team leadership. The one-year, on-campus program starts each January with coursework, followed by a graded summer internship, and concludes with a highly regarded capstone project. Our capstone partners include diverse industry leaders like Nike, Google, Honda, PNC, and Home Depot, as well as two robotic startups and two charities.

Dutiful research and collaboration by our two schools ensured we would deliver an innovative program in high demand. Recent employment data quoted 46,000 job openings for product managers—five times the number of openings for mechanical engineers. Schools that offer similar programs tend to offer them as MBA concentrations, certificate programs, or online-only formats. In fact, the novelty of the program can also be a challenge when it comes to recruitment. Currently, neither the GMAC nor the GRE offers a comparable specialty in their searchable databases, placing Carnegie Mellon at the forefront of product management education.

Innovation Impact

In our first year, we had four students. This fifth year, we have 40 students and, even better, our 2021 cohort had 100 percent placement and a base median salary of 150,000 USD. We expect 50 students in our next cohort and feel reasonably confident in our forecast given that our last round of applications yielded a 100-percent acceptance rate.

Our successful launch signified CMU’s commitment to collaboration across our campus and across disciplines, thereby setting the stage for CMU’s next joint partnership. The MSPM program shows how we can expand the graduate business education market, rather than cannibalize it. We found our MSPM students to be older than typical MBA students with deep science and technical backgrounds. They are at a different stage of educational and career development, in a different world. Rather than switch industries, they prefer to stay in tech and pursue the C-suite, whether that is CIO, CTO, or even CEO.

Finally, the MSPM program attracted as many women as men, thus signaling a female-friendly, high-tech campus. As industry evolves, leading companies are becoming more product focused. Our MSPM graduates, armed with business, computer science, and design expertise, will be first on that path to lead their companies and colleagues into the intelligent future.

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