Learning the 'Magical' Process of Product Management

Students who take Northwestern's Master of Engineering Management (MEM) program's Product Management course are introduced to the fundamentals of product management as well as what it takes to secure a job in the field.

As a student in Northwestern's Master of Engineering Management (MEM) program, Jason Beauregard (MEM '21) enrolled in Product Management with little knowledge of product management. Less than two weeks into the course, he realized he found his future career.

Today, Beauregard is an associate product manager at Redesign Health, where he helps the healthcare innovation platform bring together entrepreneurs, industry experts, and investors to elevate healthcare companies. He would not have his current job if it weren't for the MEM course.

"The product management class was instrumental in developing my ability to identify unmet needs and build a product to meet those needs," Beauregard said. "I do my job effectively due to the lessons learned in class." 

That is the goal of the course, said adjunct faculty member Birju Shah, who is the head of product at Redesign Health and chief operating officer at SabantoAg. Shah has taught product management in MEM since 2017, and he designed the course to be project-based as a way for students to best understand foundational product management skills. His focus is on teaching students what product management is, how to take their own idea and launch a product, and ultimately how to secure a product management job.  

"Product management is a process," Shah said. "You come up with an idea, but then you have to go talk to people, you have to research and understand if your idea helps fix a problem for them. That process of researching problems and solving people's pain points with technology is something magical."

In addition to MEM students, the Product Management course is open to students in the Kellogg School of Management and Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications. Since Shah's arrival at Northwestern, he has taught more than 500 students, and of that group, he estimated 25% have gone on to pursue careers in product management. 

Shah also said that dozens of past students have gone on to launch products and businesses that originated in his class. 

One example is Kevin Mertic (MEM '22), who launched Screen Surf, an app meant to make navigating digital streaming services more efficient for consumers, with two of his classmates.

Mertic credited the program with providing students the opportunity to identify customer needs and then preparing them with the skills to go out and solve those needs..  

"MEM is a great place for entrepreneurs because it gives you the skills and confidence required to take your ideas or dreams and turn them into a product that can help other people," Mertic said. "The combination of business and technical classes gives any aspiring entrepreneur the background they'll need to be successful."

Beauregard also believes the foundation of the course is important for all engineers to understand, no matter if they have previous experience with product management or not.

"The course teaches entrepreneurs the tools, processes, and will power to build a scalable product," he said. "A majority of engineers will touch the product realm in one way or another during their careers. It is important to understand the iterative process that goes into the development, launch, and ongoing development of a product."

McCormick News Article