A Look at the MEM Product Management Concentration

Discover how the program's unique set of opportunities teaches students to 'implement changes to the existing marketplace that add value and solve real-world problems.

When incoming Master of Engineering Management (MEM) students arrive at Northwestern University to begin the program, the most popular professional aspiration is product management. These students are interested in developing a wide skill set so that they can be fully involved and invested in taking a product idea and making it into an actual product.

To better reflect this popular area of study, the MEM program recently announced its Product Management concentration, which will incorporate the components of what previously was known as the Design and Innovation concentration as well as expanded NUvention options.  

"Product management is for anyone who goes around day-to-day and sees problems and then has ideas of how to solve those problems," said adjunct faculty member Birju Shah, who is a Silicon Valley Product Executive and current Head of Product: Platforms and AI at Uber,  and who also teaches the Northwestern Engineering MEM program's Product Management course. "If you ask, 'What if this existed?' and have a propensity to build, this is the role for you."

The strength of the MEM program is its multidisciplinary approach, combining core business principles with graduate-level engineering education. Students learn the basics of management, quantitative analysis, and behavioral science and choose advanced engineering electives in their area of specialization. 

Product Management is one of four optional concentrations available to MEM students, along with Healthcare Systems, Managerial Analytics, and Project and Process Management. To complete the Product Management concentration, students take three of the courses listed below.

A hallmark of the concentration is the opportunity to participate in NUvention, a program designed to expose students to the entire innovation and entrepreneurial life cycle and help them understand how innovations can become a viable business in the real world.

"NUvention brings together all the technical and business dimensions into a single startup-focused pursuit," said MEM Program Director Mark Werwath. "It is by nature a course on applied disruptive innovation and requires whole-brain thinking in the broadest sense. It requires students to integrate knowledge on the product, the technology, the market and business model into a single compelling value proposition that is investment-worthy."

NUMiX Materials is a startup launched by MEM students that manufacture and supply sorbents to remove dissolved heavy metals from contaminated water. Werwath said the students behind NUMiX represent the potential of what students in the MEM Product Management concentration can learn and accomplish.

"Startups like NUMiX Materials are the perfect examples of how the disciplines of engineering, technology, and business acumen can combine in a disruptive way to create and implement changes to the existing marketplace that add value and solve real-world problems," he said.

Learn more about the MEM curriculum.