PM102 Decisions

November 16, 2017

You're nearing the end of the semester and you’ve made so much progress on identifying the true pain points of the right target persona. Imagine if you had started to build your product in September? Would it be what your target user really needed? As discussed many times in class, you are never done with the discovery or testing process, but by the end of PM101, you should be well on your way towards building your MVP.  That MVP will be the next step in testing whether you’re onto a good solution for the problem you are trying to solve.

 

PM101 and PM102 prepares you to launch your product for real or to be a Product Manager at a startup or mature company. You are learning how to do this in a safe and supportive environment - before investor funds or tough bosses are on your back. You are getting a true sense of how exciting and challenging the role can be.

 

Many of our course graduates go on to start companies with the product they developed in our classroom. Here are some examples of some of the great results just from the class of 2017: 

 

  • One team got into YCombinator and have since raised funding and launched in NYC

  • One founder met her co-founder in the course and raised funding in SF this summer

  • Another founder brought her project into PM102, had two PM101’ers join her project, built the MVP and launched her company this fall.

  • In total, ten PM101/102 ‘17 graduates went on to start their companies and another twenty students accepted roles as Product Managers or similar, (e.g., Product Strategy, Marketing, etc.) in companies that range from Facebook and Amazon to Handy, Box, LinkedIn, Workday and so many others!

 

So what to expect in PM102? This second half of the year is where the product you’ve been discovering and specifying comes to life. You will learn how to hire and work with an engineer, how to launch your product, develop the right metrics to measure for your product and further develop PM skills such as roadmapping and feature prioritization. There is a lot more building outside of class, more workshops in class and less paper writing. Weekly assignments tend to be more about things you need to develop for your product vs. conceptual tasks. ...and of course, more social gatherings with Julia!

 

With this in mind, here are a few things to consider about continuing on to PM102:

 

Founders: You are in the unique situation of being able to "safely" test your idea before you go out there and do it with confidence and perhaps someone else's money. You are also testing the process and narrowing the scope of your MVP so that if you DO go forward post-HBS, you are more likely to build the right thing. You may also decide that the idea you experimented with in PM101 is not "the one" but you are now better equipped to pursue another idea in PM102 or post-HBS (see more about this below).

 

Joiners: You may be thinking "I don't really love the product idea I am working on" or "this thing will never take off" or maybe even "I don't love the team I am working with.". Just like the real world, these situations always arise. I suggest you zoom out a bit and think about how the product idea you are working on/team you are working with is serving as a vehicle for learning about the PM role or even working on teams in general. From discovery, testing and wireframing in PM101 to building, launching and testing your app in PM102, you will be more equipped to interview and secure PM roles and working effectively in teams by sticking with it.

 

All that said, I want to be sure everyone feels good about what they are getting out of the course and if at the end of PM101 you decide "it isn't for me" then I hope it at least gave you insight into what PMs and Founders have to do to build products. You may have to work with either or both during your career!

 

Finally, I know some of you are starting to think about how to maximize your final semester at HBS when we all get back from J-term. There are so many good courses to take and tools to put in your tool boxes before you head back out there. So help that process, you should all be aware of the options that lay ahead for PM102. Please remember, all students enrolled in PM101 have a guaranteed spot in PM102, but what you do in PM102 can change:

 

  • All-in!: Love the idea, love the team, let's build!

  • Want to keep learning, not sure about the idea/team: Year after year, we have students who stay with us in PM102 but swap teams either to fill a vacancy from someone who doesn’t continue or to start something new (see below)

  • Love the idea, but my team is abandoning me: Not to worry! We will either work it out with swappers (noted above) or if you have other EC friends who want to join the course and are up for doing some reading over J-term, they are welcome to join us in PM102.

  • Want to keep learning, but I have a whole new idea: PM101 Founders and Joiners are welcome to do some work during J-term to get a fresh PRD and wireframes together for a new idea they want to build in PM102. That idea has to be as close as possible to build stage, however, to ensure you are not starting the semester behind your classmates.

  • New to PM102, but needs joiners: Occasionally, I get an EC student who’s interested in joining PM102 with an idea they have been working on as an IP or on their own. They use J-term to get the PRD, etc. work done and hit the ground running with current joiners looking for a new team. I will facilitate the matching process if this comes up or if you have an EC friend(s) who has a good project you’d like to work on, send them my way to discuss the possibility of joining the course next semester. NOTE: I cannot guarantee that funding will be available for new teams that join PM102. It will depend on how many teams stay with us from PM101 - these teams get first priority on funding.

 

In the final session this semester, I will go over funding and other details so if you stick with us in PM102, you can do some planning over J-term. Meanwhile, feel free to add this topic to our next team/individual office hours meeting. Happy to dig into it to be sure you’re all on the best path for each of you!  ...and if you decide not to continue, I am still here for you for networking and career advice. Once a PM101’er, you always part of the PM101 family :)

 

Final details….

 

Deadlines:

New projects for PM102 - Applications due Dec 29

Commitment to stay in PM102 - Notify Julia by Jan 12

New projects approved on or before Jan 19

 

Check the work-in-process (WIP) tracking sheet of projects and team members for PM102 regularly in the coming weeks as we finalize plans for everyone. I will update the sheet as soon as you/your team commits one way or the other.

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Julia Austin, Senior Lecturer

Harvard Business School

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