Test drive: Software Product Management Specialisation by University of Alberta (Coursera)

When I contemplated changing the track of my career to focus on digital products I started to look for a good practical course on product management to help me upgrade & refine my knowledge in the field.

After doing my bit of research on available training options I enrolled for online Coursera specialisation provided by University of Alberta and now upon my successful completion (yey!) would like to share some impressions and thoughts about the learning experience.

Let me start with what I liked about the specialisation

  1. Comprehensive overview of product manager’s competencies and skills.

The specialisation comprises 6 courses (Introduction to Software Product Management, Software Processes and Agile Practices, Client Needs and Software Requirements, Agile Planning for Software Products, Reviews & Metrics for Software Improvements, Software Product Management Capstone) that walk you through all main areas of expertise a software product manager should master.

The first 5 courses provide you with a theory, methodologies and frameworks mixed with tests & exercises to practice what you learnt. The last course (Capstone) is an online simulation to give you a real taste of what working days of a product manager look like.

2. Great study materials provided within the specialisation.

Each course has quite extensive course notes that you can save locally and go over main concepts in your free time. Also, for me those course notes acted as a pretty solid foundation that I would be able to build upon taking more specialised and advanced courses (e.g. product analytics etc.).

Apart from course notes every week of the course ended with a list of additional resources on a topic so that you can delve into concepts you are interested in. I found some really insightful videos and articles in those lists that probably saved me some time googling.

3. Discussion forums and networking.

As an additional bonus I enjoyed a chance to share experience with multiple course takers from around the world. If you are curious about how things are done in different geographies and want to meet colleagues the specialisation is a good networking opportunity. I ended up connecting with a few product people via LinkedIn.

What could have been improved

  1. More practice in Reviews & Metrics for Software Improvements course.

Although I enjoyed the exercises and assignments in other courses of the specialisation (especially writing user stories for client requirements and creating wireframes) I felt that the course on metrics should have included much more practice. Alas, without the opportunity to apply some of the covered concepts they did not quite sink in for me and I would need to take a more deliberate course on analytics.

2. Peer-to-peer review of assignments did not quite work for me.

The specialisation implies that most assignments are reviewed and graded by other course takers. For me it meant that you cannot ensure high quality of all reviews and also had to wait in some instances for grades to be ready to continue with the specialisation. It was not a critical factor though as I focused more on a study material rather than on grades.

Overall

I am glad that I completed the specialisation as it provided a solid and comprehensive overview of software product management and its structured approach allowed me to map product manager’s competencies I have and the ones I need to develop further on.

You will definitely take advantage of this Coursera specialisation if you are an aspiring or a junior product manager or looking for a career change. Having said that do not expect the specialisation to cover everything in detail as its program is meant to become a foundation rather that an advanced learning track.

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Product manager at fintech. MBA @ IE Business School. Currently B2C Product Lead at Revo Technology. Bookworm.

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