Spring 2 Duke MBA: Deep Dive into Marketing Part 1 Product Management

My apologies for the lack of posts lately. I've been totally immersed in my internship at Bristol-Meyers Squibb and haven't been able to find the time to write. Thank you for everyone who had emailed me about the blog - I'm gearing up to getting back to publishing two blog posts a week. I know that many prospective students are starting to apply for Round 1 for the Class of 2017. Now that it's July, the Class of 2016 will be joining us in Durham soon as well. I hope that my perspective as a second year MBA student may help.

Now to the main content. Many other first years at Fuqua have exclaimed that the Spring 2 term is reminiscent of Fall 2 in terms of work load. While MBA recruiting was wrapping up at the time, most people were loading up to get ready for their internships. In my case, I did not take any healthcare courses (those being Medical Device Commercialization and Health Law in 2014). 

As I was doing an internship in marketing, I thought it'd be great to learn the fundamentals - and I'm very glad that I did. There really is no time to learn the basics on the job - it is expected that we perform right away. My goal was to learn as much as I could on marketing strategy and tactics. Furthermore, the Duke MBA has a superb reputation in marketing with exceptional professors.

I decided to take Product Management by Professor Carl Mela (Carl's site) and Marketing Strategy by Professor Christine Moorman. (Twitter, Chris's site). The third course I took was Decision Models by Professor David Brown (David's site). It taught prescriptive methods in making complex decisions and rounded out the two marketing courses. I've continued taking the Mentored Study course in Spring 2.

While Product Management and Market Strategy appear similar, they are different and complemented each other well.

Product Management

Product management puts you in the shoes of a product manager and teaches you the day-to-day role. The course highlights the responsibilities, decisions and challenges that product managers face. It is very tactical and we learn how product managers think and discuss ways to analyze marketing decisions and the ways to respond to market research and financial data. 

While the course is uses almost exclusively consumer and tech cases, it definitely prepared me for the product manager intern role I am currently in. Health care marketing is unique in two ways: 1) The customer who pays is different than the customer who prescribes the product, who is also different than the customer who uses the product. 2) Regulations make messaging more complicated.

My favorite part of the course? The guest speakers. Carl did a fantastic job bringing in senior product managers from a variety of industries. They shared with us their experiences as practitioners and their insights - many of which I'm still reflecting on today. It was also a great opportunity to get questions answered, and complements the cases well. 

The most useful? The simulation we did in class was very helpful in my current internship. It allowed students to really experience what it is like to be a product manger. As a team, we analyzed market research data, developed channel strategies, manged a P&L, strategized over messaging and, debated launching a brand extension, and were held accountable for the financial performance of the brand. Being able to get hands on and apply the things we learned in the classroom was very useful. All the teams got back together in the last class of the term and one of my most powerful learning experiences in the Duke MBA thus far. 

Read Part 2 here.


  1. It's great to see your posts again. Hope you're having a great summer!

  2. Can you explain what the role for a product manager is like?? Thx

    1. A product manager is typically an entry position for MBA grads for the marketing function. Day-to-day, product managers help companies commercialize and manage their products. It can be both strategic and tactical. Typical projects may include market research, competitive analysis, product marketing, launch planning, depending on the stage in the life cycle of the product. Product managers are responsible for the financial performance of their brands.