The role of Product Manager has gained a lot of popularity in the past several years. Now listed as one of the most promising jobs by LinkedIn, Product Manager roles have seen a 30 percent growth in job openings year over year.
The responses from the product field indicate that professionals have come from a range of different backgrounds to work at the forefront of digital product development.
88 percent of respondents working in product started their careers in a different field, which was the most of any other discipline. This is unsurprising, as there is not one single path to becoming a Product Manager. In fact, Product Managers tend to come from diverse professional backgrounds.
Additionally, over 80 percent of product respondents are working in an intermediate or higher position level. This could be because most product respondents have ample professional experience before moving into the product field, and therefore don't always start in an entry-level position.
Small teams are the reality for the majority of Product Managers, with 62 percent of respondents working on teams of 10 or fewer. Professionals working in product spend most of their time developing requirements and specifications or participating in team and client collaboration.
If we break this down by seniority, junior employees are more likely to list team and client collaboration or research as their most frequent activity, while more senior employees focus on developing requirements or product ideation.
As the vast majority of respondents started their careers in a field other than product, it makes sense that the most important skills for Product Managers are soft skills, which are transferable across industries. Respondents chose communication, leadership, and empathy above research, project management, brainstorming, and design as the most important skills a Product Manager can have.
This may indicate that the technical skills required to succeed in product management can be learned through training or on the job, while effective interpersonal skills are often harder to develop. In terms of digital skills, data gets cited nearly twice as often as others when it comes to the most important secondary skill for a Product Manager.
Looking at the tools Product Managers are using, traditional, hands-on methods are still the favorite for brainstorming and ideation. Whiteboarding is the most popular, with 67 percent of respondents stating that they use it as a method for ideation, followed by pen and paper, at 53 percent.
Email and Slack dominate as the most popular tools for team communication amongst product professionals, while Jira, Confluence, and Trello are the top three tools for project management.
Most product professionals have participated in multiple types of professional learning opportunities. The most common forms of learning for those working in product are workshops, seminars, and conferences; online courses; and in-person courses.
When we break down these learning opportunities by seniority, it's clear that in-person courses are most popular for entry-level product respondents, while workshops and seminars are the learning method of choice for management.
Product professionals use a diverse range of resources to learn new product management techniques or gain ideas. The top five types of resources were: colleagues; blogs; digital skills training and courses; books; and workplace lectures.
We asked respondents whether they had experience with some of the trends that are gaining traction in the world of digital product development.
83 percent of respondents have not participated in any projects involving voice-based experiences, and 87 percent have not been involved in the augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR) space.
One trending area of technology that product professionals do have experience with is the internet-of-things. Over 31 percent of respondents had experience with a project involving an internet-of-things device or platform, which is the highest proportion of respondents involved in an emerging technology across all fields. This makes sense, as Product Managers often play a large role in the ideation phase of product development, which takes place before most other fields get involved.
Interestingly enough, although product professionals have the most experience with the internet-of-things, only 51 percent of respondents believe this will have a significant impact in the next five to 10 years, which is less than both artificial intelligence and machine learning.