Product Management Internships
Question: "I am doing my MBA right now and it is a two year program that requires a summer internship between the two years. I am curious, how hard is it for someone to get involved in product management as an intern? It seems to me that product management is such a critical role and often a full-time, long-term one that it seems unlikely you could find one as an intern. Perhaps most people work as some kind of assistant/junior product manager to another product manager to start out? What have you seen happen?"Answer: Roles in product management require both Domain Expertise and Functional Expertise.
Domain Expertise is one's knowledge in the technical and business aspects of the product, industry, market, and technology. In essence, a person's industry knowledge and workplace and career experience in a particular field constitute domain expertise. This is akin to claiming being an expert in software, networking, storage, cellular, etc'.
Functional Expertise is one's ability in using tools and executing techniques, processes and tasks that create winning products. Many companies focus and hire employees for having domain expertise, yet most overlooked by employers is functional expertise.
This means that correctly using tools, understanding product management methodologies, knowing and managing complete product management processes; are all areas where many people who have domain expertise must improve.
Being a student would likely mean that your domain expertise is lesser than that of the current employees of a company where you would like to have an internship position. Accordingly, to bring value to a company in a transitional short-term role would mean that your functional expertise knowledge and skills should be high in order to have a chance at a summer internship in product management. You would then help the company in making things such as processes and documents more efficient.
Generically, internship can be viewed as a temporary junior position (as you are seeking) or as a beginner who is in apprenticeship. From our collective experience at Blackblot and based on an unscientific poll that we had conducted with several companies, our opinion is that temporary junior positions (internships) in product management are very rare to non-existent. Conversely, internships in marketing are quite common. Also, full-time product management roles for a beginner who is in apprenticeship are common in product management.
For an MBA student, seeking a position and gaining experience in product management is a wise career move. Product management professionals need to be good at a multitude of topics including finance, marketing, product, technology, customer interaction, public addressing, diplomacy and politics and more. There is no other job at the organization that prepares a person to be an executive manager such as product management.
Furthermore, the product management team nowadays is considered the talent pool and management reserve from which a company's future executives are drawn. Assuming roles in product management reflects a natural career growth path and is an obvious stepping stone to leadership positions in the company.
Product management professionals are in the best position to assume leadership roles given their accumulated market and customer knowledge, on-going collaborative work and exposure to multitude corporate functions (sales, finance, marketing, development, etc'), and intrinsic role duties that develop the multi-disciplinary skills that are required of an executive manager.