Even before the pandemic hit, demand for product managers was on the rise. In a 2019 survey, LinkedIn ranked product management as one of the most promising jobs of the year, with a 29% year-on-year growth in job openings. In 2020 that demand was even higher.
Twenty twenty may not have been the most productive year for many. However, while the global pandemic put the brakes on many companies and career climbs, it has accelerated digital transformation.
More people than ever now work remotely and remote working means organisations are no longer constrained geographically to a limited talent pool. Ergo, changes bring opportunities.
So why the rise in demand for product managers?
Aside from the pandemic speeding up firms’ digital adoption, there was an increased need to manage technical products in industries such as logistics, finance, insurance and health care. There has also been recent rapid growth of the tech giants and the number, size and investment amount in eCommerce businesses all increased.
And given that senior product managers in the US command an average salary of $124,000 (according to Glassdoor), it’s starting to look like an attractive career path.
So what does a product manager actually do?
The role can be broken down into three main functions:
Research - getting to know both the product/project/.. and customers. Asking the questions, “what is the problem, and how do we solve it?”. Working collaboratively with the whole product team and gathering customer feedback
Planning – using data to present findings to management. Strategising with management and communicating with stakeholders
Execution - working together with engineers, designers, and marketers to launch the product to market
In essence, the role of a product manager is to take ownership of the whole process of developing a product, from start to finish.
The skills and traits of a product manager
Product management can be a great career move for a jack-of-all-trades, but you need to be a skilled jack-of-all-trades.
A project manager should be good at:
A broad understanding in areas such as coding, design, marketing and finance.
Negotiator and excellent people skills
Great project managers also have:
A strong desire to understand how things work
The ability to walk in the shoes of and understand your customers
Passion for creating, innovating and making change for the better
A team player but belief in your own ideas
Although product management can be viewed as a natural career step-up for developers, there are many more skills needed other than technical ability. So if you don’t come from a tech background, how do you make the move?
Make friends with programmers and developers. Move in their circles and pick their brains.
Get certified in a relevant field - C+, Microsoft, data analytics, coding, digital marketing, stakeholder management.
Sell the skills you already have. A technical background isn’t compulsory so shout about your marketing, communication and/or analytical skills.
In any career move it never hurts to brush up on your soft skills. It’s important to bear in mind that product management is as much about people as it is product. Being a natural communicator and connector is an essential part of the job. And be prepared to go in at a junior level. Think of it as a short-term sacrifice to move into an industry with the promise of growing opportunities and frequent promotions.
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