PMC launches program to elevate product manager careers

Kaitlin Juarez

The Product Management Center (PMC) at the UW Foster School of Business is launching a new program to elevate product managers’ careers nationwide by providing access to top executives in the field.

The Elevate program is specifically designed to support product managers’ success by combining skills-based workshops that advance participants in crucial areas and facilitate access to experts who provide just-in-time assistance, both on a day-to-day basis and throughout their career progression.

“What sets the Elevate program apart is unparalleled access to senior executives that wouldn’t otherwise be available,” says Kaitlin Juarez, the staff director for the PMC. “Community members will receive personalized attention from the executives in residence, addressing anything from advice on current work challenges that they can apply immediately to guidance on how to take the next step in their career.”

Juarez has recruited a roster of C-level executives and vice presidents from industry leaders, including Microsoft, Amazon, and Oracle to serve as Executives in Residence. She emphasizes that their eagerness to help advance the careers of today’s working product managers is more critical than the executives’ titles.

Product management is growing and ranked 10th in Glassdoor’s Best Jobs for 2022. However, it is a complex field that necessitates a broad skillset, which, up until now, has lacked effective ways of addressing real-time challenges and development opportunities. Traditional classes and online workshops require more personalization to address the wide-ranging business demands facing product managers.

During regularly scheduled small group “office hours”, Executives in Residence will share their expertise, guide product managers in advancing to more senior roles, serve as mentors, and offer customized career guidance that would otherwise be unavailable. The program also includes quarterly workshops providing in-depth training on topics including customer-centric product innovation and intersection of artificial intelligence and product management.

Leslie Grandy

“Elevate is unlike other professional development programs geared towards the product management community. It bundles access to a diverse group of Executives In Residence who were carefully curated to provide counsel and content with the unparalleled resources of the University of Washington – Michael G. Foster School of Business,” says Leslie Grandy, UW Alumni and CEO of The Product Guild. “For the price of an hour with a professional coach monthly, senior product managers can connect with a variety of successful product leaders multiple times to learn from their experiences, receive training, and get career guidance across different domains and organizations of all sizes, serving both business and consumer customers.”

Grandy is one of the nearly 20 Executives in Residence who have signed on to bring her expertise to the Elevate program. She brings her experiences serving in leadership roles in companies such as Amazon, Best Buy, T-Mobile, Apple, and Discovery Communications to serve as an advisor to The Product Management Center and help bring Elevate to life.

“I joined Elevate because I recognize how important it is as a Product Manager to continue learning about the process of building products,” says Elevate member Leslie Thomas. “There’s no better way to learn that than to have access to Executives in Residence who are, collectively, product leaders that have decades upon decades of experience building some amazing products.”

Increasing diversity and building community

The Product Management Center’s core mission includes increasing diversity and inclusion in the field of product management, and this extends to the Elevate Program. Juarez intentionally recruited executives from varying backgrounds and encouraged product managers from historically underrepresented communities to apply.

“We have recruited senior leaders from different industries to provide unique perspectives to product managers from all sorts of companies, whether you’re in transportation, communications, or technology,” she says. “The idea is to connect people to those who have experience in different areas, and representation in terms of backgrounds and inclusion is something we embed across all of our programs in the Product Management Center.”

The Elevate program is also designed to build community among the product manager participants. The quarterly workshops and office hours will provide opportunities to connect with peers who can learn from and network with one another. Juarez says the program has plans to include additional community resources, such as real-time communication tools for participants to share job openings, ask questions, and discuss trends in the industry.

“Regardless of where you are in your career, you’ll be able to pick up information along the way to help you progress,” says Juarez. “And this is a peer group offering support to each other, so you’ll be elevating others while you’re elevating yourself.”
The program is geared to current Product Managers, regardless of industry. Those who will find the most value from the program will be personally responsible for product development at their company and have a strong interest in advancing their careers and helping their peers. The time commitment is minimal, with participants having the option to sign up for time with the Executives in Residence on an as-needed basis.

Elevate began earlier this year as an invitation-only pilot for alumni of PMC programs such as the Inclusive Product Management Accelerator. It is now available to all product managers who can apply and learn more here. The rate is $100 monthly, billed annually, and an introductory 6-month membership package is currently offered for January to June 2024.