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Kellogg Professor Mohanbir Sawhney, shown here teaching a class in 2014, conducted a one-day “turbo version” of his ten-week product management course for alumni at Cicso's San Jose campus.

Mohan Sawhney

What it takes to be a good product manager

Professor Mohan Sawhney visits Cisco to discuss the ins and outs of product management

By Natalie Edwards

10/8/2015 - Being a product manager, especially in the tech industry, isn’t easy, says Mohanbir Sawhney, the McCormick Foundation Chair of Technology.

The process of bringing a product to market is fraught with numerous, complex challenges, from analyzing opportunities to leading cross-functional teams to planning and marketing the product. It’s little wonder Sawhney likens the role to that of an orchestra conductor, bringing a diverse group together to work in harmony.

So when a former student — also a current Cisco employee and member of the Kellogg Alumni Club of San Francisco and Silicon Valley — reached out to Sawhney for a refresher of his tech product management class, Sawhney was happy to oblige.

Traveling to Cisco’s campus in San Jose, California, Sawhney conducted a one-day “turbo version” of his ten-week product management course last September.

The pilot event, hosted by Cisco and the alumni club, kicked off with a panel of distinguished Kellogg alumni in the product management field, featuring:
  • Don Angspatt ’02, vice president of strategy and operations, enterprise products and solutions, at Cisco
  • Pete Thompson ’96, senior vice president, advertising and consumer insight at Ericsson
  • Ram Krishnan ’96, former vice president and general manager at Hewlett-Packard
  • Tom McCleary ‘96 vice president, strategic product partner alliances at Salesforce.com

The panel discussed how they navigated their careers in product management and how to be successful, but also touched on the core of the three remaining sessions, which examined how to take a product from ideation and discovery, to taking products to market, and how to use these strategies in a start-up context.

“The object of these panels is for you to get a better understanding of, ‘how do I navigate my way, from a career standpoint, through this maze and continue on the theme of what does it take to be a successful product manager,” said Sawhney.


What it takes to be a good product manager: Tom McCleary ’96 and Ram Krishnan ’96


Partnering is key in product management: Tom McCleary ’96


The product manager's path to the executive level: Don Angspatt ’02


The future of general managers: Pete Thompson ’96