Member Spotlight: Brian McRae with Product School

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Before we get going, Brian, can you tell us about Product School & what they do?

Absolutely!  Product School is a private product management educator based in San Francisco with 14 campuses globally including both Seattle and Bellevue.  We were founded in 2014 by our CEO Carlos Gonzalez de Villaumbrosia who was formerly a product manager. We initially made our presence in Seattle in December 2017 and we’ve been at the Pioneer Collective since February 2018 which is around the time I came on board.

Our focus is hands-on, practical instruction in Software Product Management with each class resulting in a certificate.  Our part-time programs are designed for aspiring product managers looking to transition to a product management role as well as current product managers who desire formal training.  In addition to Product Management we offer courses in Data Analytics, Coding, Digital Marketing and later this year—UX Design as well as Product Leadership for those more experienced product managers.  

Another focus of ours is to foster product management communities both online and in person.  One way we do this is by having weekly events at our Seattle location (every Wednesday at 6:30PM) and once or twice a month in Bellevue.  We’ve had and continue to have local product management experts present fascinating product management-related topics that elevate understanding of this growing field.

What is it that you do day-to-day role for PS?

I am the regional campus director and I oversee courses and events at both the Seattle and Bellevue locations.  Most of my day is spent speaking with prospective students. When I am not engaging with students I am planning and leading our campus events that we have here at the Pioneer Collective every Wednesday and pursuing local opportunities to broaden our exposure.

You have some pretty experienced instructors working for some big name companies (Microsoft, Amazon, etc), what else sets Product School apart from other similar courses?

Most of our students are aspiring product managers who have made the decision to change their career.  One of the things that separates us from other learning opportunities is that all of our students get prepared for their post-course job search.  We provide training on interviewing for a PM role as well as resume reviews. Our instructors are also mentors for our students well after the course has ended to provide those students ongoing support.  Anything from being a job reference to leveraging key connections that would be beneficial for the student to know to being available to provide product management advice.

We are honest and upfront with our students in terms of giving them a realistic understanding of the difficulties of making this transition happen.  We don’t hide from the fact that getting a product management job is challenging and competitive and it takes much more than a certificate to land a job.  But if they use our resources, continue to find opportunities to increase their exposure to product management (including pro bono work and other volunteer opportunities) and leverage their networks they will be successful.

How can a PS student/graduate expect their certification to affect their life & career?

Our certificates merely indicate that our students have had formal training in product management which by the way MANY experienced product managers never had.  The certificate alone is not the life/career changer. It’s the momentum that you can generate by starting with a certificate program and utilizing Product School resources.  Then find ways to further your passion for product management and build on your experience.

Following up on that note, what is your favorite student success story?

I have a few!  But my absolute favorite is when one of our students who took the product management course in Seattle last year.  She put a lot of time and energy in her final project. So much that her instructor was extremely impressed and he ended up hiring her on the spot.  She now works on his team which is the product management team for the mobile app at Best Buy.

If an individual is interested in product management  class or one of PS’s other courses, what is the best way for them to find out more?

They can always connect with me directly at brian@productschool.com.  I’ll be happy to provide further details on how our courses work. I also invite anyone interested to check out our online resources such as the Product School website at www.productschool.com, connect with our Slack and Facebook communities and spend some time on our YouTube channel that has over 700 videos of former guest speakers from around the country as well as London.  And, don’t forget about our weekly events in Seattle.

What is your favorite part of having your Seattle Campus in Pioneer Square? Do you have any recommendations?

I love the fact that it’s a dichotomy of old and new.  We’re in a neighborhood that is rich with Seattle history but at the same time we are in one of the most modern, progressive and technologically savvy communities in the world.  One of my favorite sections of Pioneer Square is definitely Occidental Square. When the weather’s nice it’s a great spot for lunch or to have a coffee break and sit and people watch with my latte from Zeitgeist.