There is no doubt that a trend is your friend. Ride the "big wave" and you'll be fine. There's various ways to say that same thing. Silicon valley has been one of those waves, smartphones has been a massive wave that we are still living and surfing on.
We see these trends come and go and we see these things play out slowly at the beginning and then it picks up speed.
One of these things that I've witness being in the Product Manager jobs market is how education is being democratized and distributed.
You've seen it by now, Udemy, Khan Academy and Coursera to name a few. These started out as an aggregate of digital curriculum at first but has since moved upstream to offer partnerships with employers and certifications.
What's interesting is that in recent years, the conventional and traditional higher education institutions have also started offer online only courses and certifications through that. MIT, Stanford has some amazing courses in data analytics, big data, entrepreneurship and some of which are free.
Recent developments have taken us to where employers are looking further afield. Especially in the United States where the labor market has been amazing in the 2010s and increasingly tight, finding talent, good talent is increasingly hard.
Add to that, a mix of jobs that doesn't match up with a 3-4 year associates degree with courses that might not be relevant to the job, we are moving into this big trend now where employers might now also become the educator.
In the very least, we've seen this happen, where employers are providing the necessary jobs training, apprenticeships and internships. This, of course, is made all possible by the ubiquity of the information and data found on the internet where people can legitimately self-study and being an expert in various fields.
This example really amazes me: a teenager who self studied airflow dynamics and created a better airflow system that can limit the spread of germs on passenger airplanes.
With the internet and with broadband, information isn't locked in one educational institution anymore. This is not to say formal education isn't good or needed, but there are now a multitude of ways to learn, find information you need.
That's one of the amazing things about being in the digital product space -- it transcends industries and also disciplines that are so cookie-cuttered in higher education.
And I see this trend happening by the demand from tech employers -- they no longer necessarily need a four-year degree or diploma as a perquisite for hiring. Of course all jobs require some experience or at least some basic knowledge, but I think Product Management is unique in that we all come from all over the place.
No product manager job is the same even in the same company and not everyone needs or has a technical degree although we see the vast majority of employers do ask for that nowadays.
What we've seen now is very encourage for associate product managers or those are want to break into product management. Google and other silicon valley giants are looking for those who don't have the experience or the degree. It's no longer important for aptitude on the job.
The list of employers go on and on: Ernst & Young in recent years have voiced their opinion about this and followed suit. Others include: Apple, Home Depot, IBM, Bank of America etc.
If we think of Digital Product Management as the 21st century version of manufacturing (instead of widgets, we make digital product), then product management should take the experience of the manufacturers before it who created a program to support the development of early talent into key individuals in production of products be it physical or digital.
An associate product manager program, designed to develop unspecialized individuals into a product manager role is important. The first company really to pioneer this was Google. Marisa Mayer created this program along with other early employees at Google and the program had a massive contribute to the success of a then growing Google.
Finding the right people, finding the Smart Creatives that can be in your associate product manager program can discover untapped talent in your own rank and file. It could also serve as a way to recruiter people who don't necessarily think they are a right fit, but it's a trial period to see if there is possibly one.
So that's powerful trend we see -- we are unlocking more human capital by not needing people to be saddled with thousands of student debt by the time they get their first job.
After-all how many of us have careers that were even close to what we majored in university or college?
How many of us use the skills we learned in college and apply it directly to our jobs everyone. I know the whole experience from school is to learn critical thinking, learning specific skills and knowledge, but the reality is that we can learn that on-the-job and knowledge on the internet.
Looking back at my own career, so much of what I've learned is on the job. Especially for product managers, so much of our work is to unlearn what we've learned, learn the dynamics of the team, how to be good leaders, how to say 'no' intelligently and how to build relationships.
You can't learn these things stuck in a library or taking a written exam.
I'm glad to see this trend where people are applying themselves and leaning toward action than sitting idle.