"Ace the App: CMU MS in Product Management Application Workshop and Director AMA" was an illuminating session tailored for individuals interested in unraveling the intricacies of the application process for the Product Management Program at Carnegie Mellon University. The event offered a unique opportunity to delve into the nuances of application components, admission prerequisites, and the art of presenting a standout application.

    Guiding participants through this journey were two seasoned experts: Kari Calvario, Director of Masters Admissions at Carnegie Mellon Tepper School of Business, and Brad Eiben, Executive Director of the MS in Product Management. The event started with a Tips and Tricks presentation on how to craft a successful application and unfolded in an interactive Ask Me Anything (AMA) format, encouraging candid conversations and insights.

    Kari Calvario began by unveiling the archetype of an "ideal" candidate profile for the MSPM Program. She emphasized a holistic review process and highlighted the diverse factors considered during the evaluation. Addressing a standard question, Kari clarified that an undergraduate degree in Computer Science isn't obligatory for applying to the Master's in Product Management. An intriguing statistic emerged: 80% of students possess technical backgrounds, underscoring the committee's focus on identifying individuals with the potential for success. On average, candidates showcase approximately 5 years of work experience.

    “No matter your background, we’re looking for people that have strong social, written and spoken communication skills. There is the technical piece, of course, but remember that Product Managers are also communicators, they are the bridge between a lot of departments.”, said Kari Calvario when asked what the biggest secret to success is.

    Transitioning into the practical realm, the session continued with a series of actionable tips to enhance one's application:

    Remark: The Application Process at Carnegie Mellon is in paperless format and takes approximately 30 minutes to fill in. You can find the application form here.

    [8:21] Tip 1: Opt for a one-page Chronological resume, prioritizing Achievements over Responsibilities. Highlight accomplishments like collaborating with a Product Owner to achieve a 20% efficiency increase.

    [12:28] Tip 2: Showcase impact, focusing on genuine enthusiasm. If extracurricular activities aren't your forte, authenticity trumps forcing unrelated ones.

    [13:09] Tip 3: Address employment gaps through the optional essay, leveraging it to your advantage.

    [14:04] Tip 4: Demonstrate research and a clear post-graduation goal. Adaptability and transferable skills are key.

    [16:39] Tip 5: Transcripts and test scores are just facets of the holistic review, which weighs various factors. Soft skills and quantitative scores both hold importance.

    [21:25] Tip 6: Leverage two professional recommendations, preferably from your current or former supervisors, mentors, or professors. Choose those who can speak authentically about your abilities.

    [23:57] Tip 7: Use the essay as a canvas to unveil your story, letting your genuine self shine.

    [27:28] Tip 8: Approach the interview as an engaging, authentic conversation. The goal isn't intimidation, but mutual understanding.

    The presentation smoothly transitioned into an interactive Q&A session, addressing a wide range of questions such as: 

    [34:16] What is the timeframe to get a Visa? 
    Approximately a week after deposit submission, you gain system access for Visa-related documents, which occurs about 6 weeks prior to the beginning of the semester.

    [35:34] How many students enroll each year?
    Around 50 students, over 50% of which were female last year.

    [38:51] What are you looking at first when you see an application?
    Kari likes to go to the video essay first,  to understand the candidate's perspective and thought process, while each committee member initiates the review process from a distinct standpoint, offering diverse perspectives on the application.​​

    ​​​​​[40:59] What can be done to improve my profile?
    Consider it as a balance; if your undergraduate score isn't particularly strong, counterbalance it with an argument showcasing your ability for self-critique. Additionally, don't overlook the optional essay – it's your opportunity to present your strongest case to us.

    [43:25] Can you give us some tips on the video essay?
    Test it out, and make a few attempts to experiment with the camera and setting, you can use a script but don’t read from it or memorize it. Just be yourself. Use the proper equipment and tell us honestly why you really want to become a PM.

    [47:48] How do you feel about extracurricular activities? Do they matter for the application?
    It's the opportunities provided by components like essays that have the potential to make an applicant stand out. The Committee is eager to catch the personal aspect. In fact, the concluding question that Kari often poses during interviews is “What do you do for fun? What makes your life interesting?”.

    [50:00] How does a 3-year undergraduate program work for admission?
    For international schools, a 3-year duration is common, although it's important to note that the duration itself isn't a strict requirement; possessing an undergraduate degree is the key factor.

    [50:55] In terms of recommendations, will you take a look at the candidate’s Linkedin profile?
    Sometimes we do, out of curiosity, but it’s not a requirement. We are not comparing if it matches your resume. It’s not a standard part of the process. 

    [52:20] Do you accept the executive assessment over GRE/GMAT?
    We do. 

    [52:47] Should we convert the percentage to GPA?
    We just need the mark sheet/grading scale from your university in order to compare and verify your score. 

    [53:58] Is a home-based GRE score accepted? 

    [54:09] What’s the ratio of female students in the course?
    53%, we’re full steam ahead in maintaining parity and involving more women in our class

    [54:50] What’s the deadline for submitting a recommendation form by the recommender?
    In the initial application, you provide their name and basic information. Subsequently, they'll receive an email with the form to complete, and you'll receive a confirmation once they've submitted their recommendation about you. It's worth noting that recommenders sometimes hold up the entire application, so it's beneficial to gently remind them if necessary.

    [57:08] What kind of relationship is required between the recommender and the applicant?
    The significance lies not solely in titles, but in their ability to provide substantial insights about you. While their title may hold relevance, it's crucial that they can offer pertinent and valuable information about you.

    [1:01:20] Will an applicant be considered for a scholarship? 
    At the time of admission, we will tell you if you’re eligible for a scholarship. Everybody has the opportunity to qualify for financial aid. 

    [1:03:46] Has anybody landed more senior roles after graduating?
    In the previous year, we had a student who graduated and now holds the position of Vice President at J.P. Morgan. Notably, a significant proportion of students experience swift promotions after completing their degree, with around half to a third of graduates beginning their careers at a Senior Product Manager level.

    We are striving to improve each year, by learning from previous years in order to keep our students as competitive as possible. 

    Our ongoing efforts involve continuous improvement, leveraging lessons from previous years to ensure our students remain as competitive as can be., shared Brad Eiben as concluding remarks.

    With the event coming to a close, participants were enthusiastic about continued interaction. Those seeking more information were encouraged to reach out at: [email protected].

    Extensive application information can be found here, and by using the code "WOMENTECH24", applicants can benefit from an application fee waiver.

    Watch the full event recording here.