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How can I become a Product Manager? Where should I start – Which Certifications will help me?

  • by Sanjeev Kulkarni
  • Product Knowledge

The general myth, i see with a lot of people around, is a 2 Day Certification Course will help you become a Product Owner. While a certification course may not make you a Product Management professional, the learnings will help you to get started on the Journey towards becoming one.

Should I get certified?

There are many good certification programs available in the market. But the question really is what do you want to achieve? There are different reasons why different people want to do certifications. Some reasons maybe:

  1. I’m a Business Analyst / Developer / Scrum Master and a I think, a Scrum Product Owner Certification will help me become a Product Owner.
  2. I’m a B-School graduate and want to make a career in Product Management.
  3. I’m a Scrum Master and want to be an Agile Coach. A Scrum Product Ownership certification will help me coach Product Owners better.
  4. I’m a Product Owner without any certifications yet.

All of these are valid reasons. But if you believe that a certification alone will help you become a Product Owner. Think again !

A certification helps increase the credibility of a professional. While a certification is not a must have, ‘Learning’ cannot be compromised - It may be on the job or formally via certifications. We all have different reasons to get certified - If you have a clear vision about what you will achieve with a certification and can justify the investment, go for it. But if you cannot see value in it, feel free to learn from other sources.  

Which are the best certification courses?

As i said, there are many certification programs available. But what matters the most is who is the ‘Trainer’. Certification courses may be expensive, and for the best ‘Value’ you may want to learn from someone who has been there and done that. Product Management is a specialized function. There is a lot to Product Management than just Scrum and Agile.

Some of the most well known Product Owner certification courses available in the market are as follows:

  1. Scrum Alliance offers the Certified Scrum Product Owner Course. This is one of the best basic courses to understand the Scrum Framework in the context of a Product Owner. You will need to attend a 2 Day Classroom Workshop. There are no exams. For more information visit: Scrum Alliance. Jeff Sutherland of Scrum Alliance and Ken Schwaber of Scrum.org are the co-founders of the Scrum Framework.
  2. Scrum.org also offers similar a certification program called the Professional Scrum Product Owner (PSPO). You will not need to attend any trainings for this course. You can just take the PSPO I exam to get qualified. For more information visit: Scrum.org. Jeff Sutherland of Scrum Alliance and Ken Schwaber of Scrum.org are the co-founders of the Scrum Framework.  
  3. EXIN Since 1984, EXIN is a leading independent exam- and certification institute, having certified millions of professionals in the digital domain. EXIN offers Agile Scrum Product Owner, Agile Scrum Product Owner Bridge and BCS (British Computer Society) Business Analysis Foundation - courses for those interested in Product Ownership and Business Analysis. We are a proud EXIN Partner and offer all of these courses.
  4. DASA (DevOps and Agile Skills Association) offers the DASA DevOps Product Owner Certification extends traditional Agile Product Owner programs and deals with the extended set of requirements that the Product Owner faces when teams start to take on both Dev and Ops responsibilities. We are a proud DASA partner and are happy to bring the DASA DevOps Product Owner certification to you.   
  5. SAFe® (Scaled Agile FrameWork) offers the SAFe POPM Certification, for Product Owners and Product Managers functioning in a large Scaling environment. In large organisations where there is a necessity to bring in cadence and synchronisation across multiple teams a SAFe POPM certification will help Product Managers understand the Scaled Agile Framework and imbibe the scaling practices from SAFe®.  
  6. ICAgile (International consortium for Agile) also offers a complete learning plan with a series of 3 certifications under their ‘Product Ownership’ learning track. These include their certifications in Business Value Analysis, Enterprise Product Ownership and the Expert Product Owner Certifications. For more information visit IcAgile.com  

Where should I start?

It is a good idea to start with a certification from an experienced trainer, and a reputed certification body. But the Journey just begins there.

You may want to shadow a practicing Product Owner / Product Manager within your organisation, if you are not already a Product Manager, and if this is a possibility. If this is not possible, find a mentor / coach who can help you.

Formal education in Product Management (Like a Post Graduate Diploma) may also help, provide access to a huge alumni network, if you choose a good school.

A Business School degree also helps.

Having said all of this - the most important thing for a Product Manager is to become ‘Knowledgeable’. Start learning the domain you want to start your Product Management career in. Read books, blogs, attend webinars and meetups. Everything helps.

If you are already a Business Analyst or a PO, explore playing a more strategic role within your organisation. This will help with an easy transition into a Product Management role.

Some qualities you may want to develop to become a great Product Manager:

  1. Become a Visionary
  2. Think long term (Keep the Big Picture in mind)
  3. Prioritize ruthlessly
  4. Let go off (Features / Products that need to be killed)
  5. Test and Learn
  6. Always measure - Everything !   

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