Survey: Scam or Shrewd Move? Certification for Product Managers

If you follow the CPM on Twitter, you know she’s been pondering the issue of Certifications in Product Management and Product Marketing lately.  Are they worth it? 

And if so, which ones are worthwhile?  There’s the AIPMM Certified Product Manager (CPM), the AIPMM Certified Product Marketing Manager (CPMM), the PDMA New Product Development Professional (NPDP), the Pragmatic Marketing Certified (PMC) one… A sea of initials that no one knows.

If Google searches on this blog are any indication, lots of other people wonder if certifications are worthwhile as well.

So help the Cranky Product Manager, help your peers, and help yourself. Take the below quickie survey.  Forward it to other PMs/PMMs you know.  The Cranky Product Manager will publish full results in about 10 days, and she will also make the entire results spreadsheet available for download on this blog.

And then finally, we can have a better idea whether these certifications actually mean something.

(And if you are a consulting firm that sells training for these certifications, DON’T BE A CREEP AND TRY TO SKEW THE RESULTS BY GETTING YOUR ENTIRE FAMILY TO VOTE).

If you are viewing this in an RSS feed reader, access the certification survey here.

19 comments

  1. Dr. Jim Anderson

    CPM: nice form, but you skipped right over the BIG question – why would one go to the effort of getting one of the PM certifications on your lengthy list? I’m thinking that the #1 reason is money – with certification I could get a higher paying PM job. However, I have yet to see that happen. Maybe when one is starting out, but after that it’s pretty much the reputation of the products that you’ve managed that will open job doors for you…

    - Dr. Jim Anderson
    The Accidental PM Blog
    “Learn How Product Managers Can Be Successful And Get The Respect That They Deserve”

  2. Geoffrey Anderson

    I am with Jim on this. If you read my comments, I was pretty brutal. I have interviewed some people who have these mystical certification letters that they feel compelled to broadcast, and they have been pretty weak in general.

    When I am looking for a good PM, it is all about their experiences, and how they answer some pucker factor questions. All good PM’s have had some real “oh shit” scenarios, and they have vivid stories about how the shit went down, and their recovery.

    I also cringe when people are proud of their freshly minted MBA from some pissant online program (mostly the University of Phoenix), and how they are ready to be a titan of business. Snort, that really makes me laugh…

    Geoff

  3. The Cranky Product Manager

    Ah, Dr. Jim, you’re always busting the Cranky PM’s chops. Keepin’ her honest, she supposes. Anyway, she thought she did cover your BIG QUESTION with survey question #3.

    Anyway, the CPM is dying to share some results with you (80 responses already) but feels she must not do so publicly to avoid skewing the results of the still-in-progress survey.

    Geoff, agree with you about the freshly minted MBAs. But in her experience both HBS and Phoenix MBA grads think they are ready to be titans of business with little to no real experience or perspective – they are both equally annoying but in slightly different ways.

  4. Paco

    Just noticed the timestamp on my previous comment – 12.12.08. Occurs to me that we only have 4 quasi-interesting events left in the next 4 years before we have to wait for another century to roll around:

    9:09 9.9.09
    10:10 10.10.10
    11:11 11.11.11
    12:12 12.12.12

    Dang, I missed 8:08 8.8.08 without even thinking about it. And by “missed it”, I mean I didn’t remember to go buy a lottery ticket or build a weird shrine to the number 8 in one of the empty cubicles at the office.

    Hrrmm… it’s Friday…

  5. Mark

    IMO, certifications are about as valuable as standardized testing in elementary school. They show you have internalized the letter of the material presented, but they don’t really indicate whether you’ve “learned” anything or not. The best objective measure of a PM’s effectiveness is a product revenue curve that goes up consistently.

  6. Saeed Khan

    Certifications are important in a few situations:

    1. There is critical knowledge that is needed to perform a task, and not having that knowledge can lead to dangerous or catastrophic results.

    2. A certain minimum (hard — i.e. clearly measurable) skill set is needed to competently perform a task or job, and there is wide market agreement that the skill set is best attained via training or education.

    WRT to Product Management, there is not even a simple and clear standard definition of the role, so how can there be certification? What is being certified.

    I’d also point the finger a bit at the groups that deliver certification tests. They’ve not gained the credibility of the market so that there is value placed on their certifications. Their objective should not be simply to certify people. Instead, it should be to create the market demand for certified professionals thus driving the certification process.

    Given the domain is Product Management or Product Marketing, I’d classify this as an epic fail on those promoting certification. They, of all people, should understand market forces and how to drive market demand for their product.

    One question you might have asked would be to those hiring managers, and whether they require, prefer or seek out certified candidates.

    Saeed

  7. Pingback: The value of PM certification « On Product Management
  8. Jesse Smith

    I remember an article by Tom DeMarco (writing about certification of software developers) where he wrote “it has always been a big hit among those who get to do the certifying.” I share that view – the ones who benefit the most from certifying are the ones granting the certification, a) by creating jobs for themselves and b) by getting the power to decide who gets to be certified and which methods and processes are “blessed” and sanctioned.

    At least in the software field, I’ve yet to see a certificate that really gave me any useful, trustworthy information about a candidate that I couldn’t get from an interview.

  9. Pingback: PM Certification Survey Closes 12/19 midnight | The Cranky Product Manager
  10. Pingback: Who Me? Biased? (More on Product Management Certification) | The Cranky Product Manager
  11. Bruce Sherman

    Oh, I am so sorry I missed this post when it first hit. I am a little late to this party but I will add my 2 cents just the same for those who straggle on in behind me.

    First things first; I am a Pragmatic Marketing Certified alumni. I paid the bucks, sat the course, took the test, passed the test, and posted my certification on my LinkedIn account like a badge of honor. Why? Not for more money, not for job security, and not for bragging rights. I did it to belong to the brethren. To tie myself to a group of people who want to adopt a methodology that makes as much sense as anything else out there. After all, you have to believe in something or you’ll fall for anything.

    My education efforts with the Pragmatic group has definitely made a difference in my career search. Their efforts to promote themselves have been responsible for helping me land my last two jobs. That’s not to say my resume didn’t speak for itself, but in each case the hiring manager recognized the Pragmatic brand name and this was essential in getting my resume to the “in” pile.

    Now it doesn’t always work that way, you can ask any one of the umpteen million people who became Microsoft “certified” (MSCE). This was a certification program that became too successful. So much so that almost overnight the famed card carrying members of the Microsoft guru wannabe’s became, … irrelevant. So, the law of diminishing returns does apply.

    So I would suggest you pick a team, take their course, learn something, and more importantly just add yourself to the club. Because until you do, I look more dedicated to my profession than you do….. nothing personal.

  12. Geoffrey Anderson

    Bruce,

    Having spent time at Cisco, and through the boom of the MCSE program, it was clear that Microsoft’s certification was little more than a factory to process people through the program as quickly as possible. The fact that one could get their MCSE without ever having actually set up a Windows system, server, domain, and merely by taking some classes, and passing some tests guaranteed that it would become little more valuable than toilet tissue.

    Cisco has a fabulous certification program, with several tiers, and each tier represents some blood, sweat and tears shed to attain. Achieving the almighty CCIE is a feat worthy of its title. In fact, many of the internal people working towards it spent time in their support center fielding calls from all over the world to handle network issues.

    Compare that with the Pragmatic program. They offer great classes, and valuable courseware, but the fact that one could attain certification without having spent time in the crucible of what product management is, certainly lessens the value of said certification. I often send junior or entry level PM’s to their classes (and also the 280 Group’s offerings) as a way to break them into the reality of the role, but I don’t believe that an engineer who took their classes is immediately going to transition into a successful product manager.

  13. Bruce Sherman

    Geoffrey,

    Point well taken, the poorly selected correlation between the MCS(X) programs and the Pragmatic program was only to point out how varied certification programs can be. And no doubt that in the world of technology certs the Cisco medals rank in the deity status. In either case, much like your diploma on graduation day it holds no weight without some real world battle scars.

    As I said, I was more interested in identifying a PM theology that had been somewhat broadly accepted and associating myself with the many alumni that have passed through the program. I don’t know that it’s the best program oput there, but it one in a field that is very loosely defined. There only one, last I checked, college in the US that offers a degree program in product management.

    Nope, the 2-3 days in a nice hotel meeting room with 20 of your peers learning any “best practices” methodology gets you nothing in the way of experience. But it’s a good thing for the rookies and a good thing for the veterans that need some continuing education now and then.

  14. Jeff

    I’m currently studying for the PDMA certification. I chose them because they seemed to be the most organized and the quality of their publications is quite good.

    I decided to do it not for the achievement of being certified, but for the road that leads to the certification. Going though the books, I couldn’t help to get new ideas that are helping my current projects, and I took notes on the best ways to start future projects.

    Like an old Chinese proverb says: It’s the journey, not the arrival that matters

  15. Tony

    Yes, Microsoft’s MCSE cert is just another ‘seal of approval’, but my years taking PCs apart and getting answers via books & the web paid off in spades.