One of the fastest growing careers in the country over the past few years has been product management – and it won’t be slowing down any time soon.
It is a profession and a career path that benefits any ambitious professional as well as their employer.
A well-managed product management function in a company puts it on the path to sustainable growth. Sales teams are inherently driven to generate short-term revenue. Corporate strategists focus on long-term goals.
An excellent product management team bridges these opposing goals and manages the short and long term, in line with the company’s product roadmap.
So what is product management anyway?
A product manager is someone who identifies the customer’s need and the larger business goals that a product or feature will fulfill, articulates what product success looks like, and rallies a team to turn that vision into reality.
The work is both artistic and scientific. The art comes from the ability to navigate the nuances of a business, a cross-functional team, and the ability to manage both up and down the corporate ladder. The science comes from using tools and frameworks to implement best practices, conducting solid market research, and hands-on leading technical teams on the development of any software or hardware product.
Technical skills aside, successful people in product management are self-directed, iterative, great listeners and storytellers, design thinkers, have a data-driven mindset, and think strategically.
Employers on growth trajectories actively invest in this area of their business and in the people who occupy these seats. Leaders like Elon Musk rely heavily on a well-thought-out product development plan, even prioritizing investments in product management over more traditional marketing, advertising, or sales activities. Stock price and valuation trends, such as Tesla’s, prove that the market responds well to prioritizing revenue gains by solving real customer problems rather than advertising.
For employees, it’s a path to greener pastures in their careers. It’s a job that gets people into the C suite or into starting their own business. Both paths are financially rewarding.
According to a 2021 study by Pendo, 29% move into managerial roles outside of product management – which is most often general management. Cross-functional experience coupled with possessing a strategic vision for a feature or product translates to success at a broader level of an organization.
They know how to assess a market opportunity, research and develop a solution to address it, set the price, and get it to market. No other corporate job better prepares a person to become an entrepreneur. And most importantly, they are paid to develop this skill set – generously.
How are they paid? A product manager is paid three times the average American occupation. There are 41,370 product managers in the United States with an average salary of $113,446. In the two areas with the highest concentration of product managers, San Francisco and New York, they earn $159,000. This does not even take into account higher level roles within the function.
For any company that manufactures a digital or physical product, investing in this function is paramount to its success. Since product managers come from many different academic and professional backgrounds, they tend to be more experienced. In fact, the average age is 38 years old. They bring this experience to drive short-term and long-term growth.
There are a growing number of open jobs in this field across the world and the country. So for anyone with a mix of technical, design, and business skills, this is an area to seriously consider.
For anyone looking to hire and grow their product management team, it’s also important to know that this is an area to be prepared to pay for talent. The market would normally demand it, but with the Great Resignation combined with today’s innovations such as Web 3 and artificial intelligence, their skills have only grown.
They are worth it. A great product manager will drive business growth like no other can.
• Justin Mayer is Product Manager at Pathfinder Product Laboratories and has over 15 years of experience developing and managing products from startups to Fortune 100 companies.