MSPM Students Identify Strategic Opportunities for Multinational Corporation
Carnegie Mellon’s Master of Science in Product Management (MSPM) is a unique, year-long program that enables students to acquire a key combination of tech, business, and design skills that are crucial to launching successful product management careers. Offered jointly by the Tepper School of Business and the School of Computer Science, the intensive program helps students with technical backgrounds make the leap from team specialist to strategic leader.
One of the program’s essential elements is a full semester capstone experience in which small student teams explore the real-time, real-world needs of industry partners.
“For a job as critical as product manager, companies want to hire people with experience,” said MSPM program Executive Director Brad Eiben, in stressing the value of the capstone projects. “The capstone is also a chance for students to practice what they’ve learned in their classes, interact and address problems as a team, make new connections, and apply their skills toward industries and scenarios that may be new to them.”
Capston Offers Valuable Practice
Last year, one group of students had the opportunity to engage with Juniper Networks, a major provider of networking products to large corporate customers. Team members included Sascha Demetris, Nutan Jaiswal, Sreyantha Chary Mora, and Neha Singhwal.
Juniper Networks asked the group to examine and recommend strategic expansion and differentiation opportunities. More specifically, they would explore the potential addition of new features to a recently acquired networking product that simplified data center operations. This business project was complex and highly technical, and the team initially spent several weeks making sure that they had a thorough understanding of the industry, the company, and its current product capabilities, as well as its customers, competitors, and supporting service providers. They accomplished this through market reports as well as numerous interviews with customers and industry professionals to uncover unfulfilled user needs. They later spent weeks sorting through this gathered information, evaluating, and ultimately determining the best next steps to address Juniper Networks’ goals.
“The capstone gave me valuable practice,” said Demetris. “At that point in the program, I had picked up a lot of tools but they weren’t refined. This project was broad and gave me the ability to hone my skills through practical experience.”
Through the process, Demetris and his fellow group members also enjoyed regular meetings with Juniper Networks representatives Michael Bushong, Yogesh Kumar, and Jeremy Bloom.
“We’ve worked with Juniper two years in a row and Mike and his team have been extremely supportive and engaged with making sure that the students learn,” said Eiben. “Mike has been exemplary in establishing what’s possible with our projects, including the offer of mentoring sessions with our students. We’re very grateful.”Bushong noted, “I got help in my career early on. A few well-placed words can make literally years of difference in someone’s career and it’s incumbent on me to pay that back. I take mentoring very personally. It’s not just about the project, it’s about the people.”
“The Juniper team members were very helpful throughout and managed a good balance of mentoring while also giving us autonomy,” commented Demetris.
Bushong pointed out that the process has a dual mentorship angle for Juniper.
“For all three of the projects the company has sponsored we’ve put people in the team leadership positions, given them an opportunity to manage a project and mentor before they take explicit leadership positions in the company.”
Projects Inform Real-World Decisions
Ultimately, the student team specified four primary areas with high-level strategic potential:
- Network observability
- Infrastructure configuration
- Hardware management
Additionally, they identified options that were not as compelling for Juniper Networks to pursue.
To this end, Bushong noted, “Large companies are using these projects to inform real-world decisions and guide the business. I created a team that did not exist before to work on the capstone’s problem space and effectively chase down the students’ prioritized set of capabilities.”
He added, “We’ve had a very good experience three times now with students getting familiar with a complex work-space in an unfamiliar industry and reaching fairly sophisticated conclusions that we’ve used to steer our business.”
To learn more about how your company can engage in experiential learning through supporting an educational project, review the Tepper School’s student project sponsorship information.