This article originally appeared in Carnegie Mellon University Tepper School of Business + School of Computer Science MS in Product Management

Product Executive in Residence, Brian Nejmeh Discusses Product Management at CMU

By Zahra Qureshi

I’m excited to be named Product Executive in Residence (PXIR) at Carnegie Mellon University. This new PXIR role enables CMU to bring the voice of industry into classrooms and product leadership curricula. It also allows me to connect CMU and its world-class graduate degree programs and students who are interested in and excited about product to industry through internships, capstone projects and employment opportunities. So, it is a win for all involved and I am delighted to contribute to industry, CMU and its students.

Why Choose Carnegie Mellon for Product Management?

Simply put, CMU is an unsurpassed institution with its world-renowned School of Computer Science (including the Human-Computer Interaction Institute) and Tepper School of Business. I find the interdisciplinary nature of how CMU looks at product to be unique and compelling. It is the first and only university in the United States to offer a Master of Science program in Product Management that draws from curricula of two leading schools. Plus, CMU is situated in the city of Pittsburgh, a thriving tech ecosystem where tech giants such as Facebook and Google have a growing presence.

Why the MS in Product Management degree?

I have spent 30 years in the enterprise software space, as a founder, entrepreneur, investor and board member. In my view, the disciplines that drive product success – strategy, planning, marketing, development and operations – are also critical for company success. Establishing and cultivating product-market fit across product category stages – early market, growth, scale and maturity – are important parts of a product manager’s job.

There is also the ubiquity of what’s often referred to as the “product problem.” It can be said that “all companies are SaaS companies today.” That is, the need for all companies to be product companies has become more of a requirement. The problem is there are not enough trained product managers. Not surprisingly, a recent survey by CMU alum Neal Iyer indicated that there was a 32% increase in product management roles in the U.S. alone over a recent two-year period. Interesting, you will find companies like Home Depot, DICK’s Sporting Goods and Walmart hiring many product managers. The point is, not only tech titans need product managers. Indeed, “all companies are SaaS companies.”

But it’s difficult to get proper training for product managers since it is an interdisciplinary role that transcends business, technology and design. Each of these disciplines has a deep body of knowledge and associated practices and tools that are key parts of product management. While a professional can learn these skills on the job, and many do, I am deeply committed to being part of a world-class institution such as CMU that is developing and sustaining purpose-built product programs focused on training the next generation of product leaders.

Training Product Leaders Ready for Employment

Any company can benefit from engaging with CMU’s product graduate students through internships, capstone projects or hiring our highly sought-after students upon graduation. In my role as a senior operating partner at a private equity firm focused on B2B SaaS companies and with other tech companies I advise, I’ve seen the world-class work of CMU graduate students up close and in person. Their work is insightful and performed with a level of maturity and with impact you would expect of seasoned product managers. I have also had the pleasure of teaching a number of graduate courses in the MSPM program where I got to know the students well.

Finally, it’s important to know that the typical CMU MS in Product Management graduate student arrives for the one-year program with seven years of industry experience (often in tech) and with an undergraduate (and often graduate) degree in technology or business from a highly-regarded institution. Historically, their GMAT/GRE scores place them in the top 10-15%. It is smart, inquisitive and accomplished students ready to be the next generation of product leaders who are attracted to the MSPM program at CMU. These students go on to be product leaders at top companies like PayPal, Microsoft, Amazon, UPMC and many others across retail, healthcare, manufacturing, and other industries.

CMU is the place for product people. The MSPM degree is just one excellent example.

Brian Nejmeh is the President of INSTEP, Inc., a software technology advisory firm where he is an advisor, investor and board member to start-up and advanced stage software companies. Brian’s focus over the past 25 years has been on building and scaling enterprise software companies leveraging his core competencies in software product development, product management and technology leadership. Brian is a Product Executive in Residence and Adjunct Professor in the Master of Science in Product Management Program at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA.