Venturing in to Product Management with Certifications

"I am at a pivotal point in my career and I am looking to transition into product management. I recently acquired my PMP certification from PMI. Soon I will be attending a two-day Certified Scrum Master training event and have also enrolled into a SAFe Product Owner/Product Manager (POPM) course. After some research, I am leaning towards an additional certification in either Blackblot PMTK or AIPMM. Your thoughts are greatly appreciated."

The first step in building your career is to establish your professional identity and focus. Once complete you can work back from that identity to build a professional development plan.

The main challenge is often to determine a definitive and very clear identity. You need to identify and create an occupation and specialization statement. This is a statement that will accompany you in your career for at least the next decade.

For example, Doctor Gregory House, the main character of an American TV medical drama is a medical doctor (occupation), specializing in diagnostic medicine (specialization). One can be a software developer, specializing in backend web server applications.

Please complete this statement replacing the <variables>: "I am a <occupation>, specializing in <specialization>". Whatever you write, it must be very clear and easy to explain. This will help guide all your career decisions and also tell you which specific certifications and type training to invest in.

Being certified demonstrates to employers, peers and customers a designated level of knowledge and allows an individual to provide evidence of merit to potential employers. Being certified also allows companies to differentiate relevant candidates in the hiring cycle.

However, during stable economic conditions and positive job markets, certifications alone without any adequate and relevant work experience whatsoever will only marginally increase your chances of securing work. 

If you do not have the relevant work experience at all then certifications can only help you secure a job when demand for workers outstrips supply, and that can possibly happen when the overall economy is experiencing sustained rapid growth or the specific industry alone is going through a period of massive growth (e.g. the era).

I have identified four types of product management. Under the Generalization approach to product management (product manager does everything, aka CEO of the Product), all your multiple certifications can be useful. But multiple certifications on tangential topics can also indicate a lack of career focus. 

With the Technology approach to product management (product manager is part of product development, and subservient to the development method) only your technical certifications and the Scrum and SAFe certifications can be beneficial.

The Methodology approach (product management is governed by foundation rules) is represented by Blackblot PMTK Methodology™. In this case, if you wish to be a PMTK product manager then the only meaningful certification is the Blackblot Product Management Professional™ (BPMP) certification program. The other certifications and courses are just nice to have.

To compare the Blackblot BPMP certification to other product management certifications, please see the Product Management Certifications – A Bit of History and Are They Worth It? article.

Also see the Transitioning from a Scrum Product Owner to a PMTK Product Manager article.