PM102 Decisions (2019)

December 5, 2019

[Updated to reflect course changes since 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. You may have also been inspired tackle a new pain point altogether - good news is you've now learned how to do that!

 

PM101 and PM102 prepare you to launch your product 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 bosses are on your back. You are getting a true sense of how exciting and challenging the role can be. Most students who take these courses report even years later that there are many core learnings they draw from regardless of what they do after HBS - from how to talk with customers or key stakeholders to having empathy for PMs and engineers having experienced it themselves in PM101 and PM102.

 

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 and/or a designer, 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 things you need to develop for your product...and of course, more advisory time and social gatherings with the faculty!

 

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 or adjacent roles and working effectively in teams by sticking with it.

 

All that said, we 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 we 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 to help that process, you should all be aware of the options that lay ahead for PM102:

  • 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. Please send those friends to Julia so they can be educated on the process to apply as a joiner 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 test hypotheses, 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. You must also have at least two team members for the new idea to be approved. Budget for this new idea is not guaranteed and will depend on how many PM101 projects continue into PM102.

 ...and if you decide not to continue, the faculty is still here for you for networking and career advice. Once a PM101’er, you are always part of the PM101 family :)

 

For more insights, check out past students' reflections from PM102 here and here.

 

 

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Melissa Perri, Senior Lecturer

Harvard Business School

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