Product Manager is now listed as one of the most promising jobs by LinkedIn, and the position has seen a 30 percent growth in job openings year over year.
The responses from the product field reflect this rapidly changing space, with professionals coming from a range of different backgrounds.
Much like last year, 86 percent of respondents working in product started their careers in a different field, which was the most of any other discipline we surveyed. This is unsurprising, as there is not one single path to becoming a Product Manager.
Additionally, 63 percent of product respondents are working in an intermediate or higher 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 40 percent of respondents working on teams of 10 or fewer, and the rest split between mid- and large-sized teams. 29 percent of product respondents said that team and client collaboration was the most time-consuming aspect of their job, with 26 percent instead citing developing specifications and requirements.
As the majority of respondents started their careers in a field other than product, important skills for Product Managers tended to be soft skills, which are transferable across industries. Like last year, respondents chose communication, leadership, and empathy above research, project management, brainstorming, and design as the most important skills a Product Manager can have.
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 59 percent of respondents stating that they use it as a method for ideation, followed by pen and paper, at 52 percent.
Email and Slack were once again the most popular communication tools amongst product professionals, while Jira, Confluence, and Trello are again in the top three for project management.
78 percent of Product Managers feel that digital skills training would make them more successful at their role.
Most product professionals have participated in multiple types of professional learning opportunities. Product professionals use a diverse range of resources to brush up on new product management techniques or gain ideas. The top three types of resources were blogs, colleagues, and digital skills training. The most common form of digital skills training for product management professionals are in-person courses, which may indicate that this group prefers a more personal touch when it comes to learning.
Like other fields that we surveyed, product professionals listed data (32 percent) most frequently when asked which digital skill would most help their career.
They also believed that their organization would be more successful if people had more data skills, although this was tied with product skills at 26 percent. Fittingly, most product professionals reported the product management literacy in their organization as intermediate (47 percent) or basic (31 percent).
We asked respondents whether they had experience with some of the trends that are gaining traction in the world of digital product development.
Like all other fields surveyed, product professionals said they felt that AI (77 percent) and machine learning (76 percent) would have the largest impact on their field in the next five years.
82 percent of respondents have not participated in any projects involving voice-based experiences, and 88 percent have not been involved in the augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR) space.
Continuing from last year, we see that product professionals do have some experience with the internet-of-things. 30 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. As we noted last year, this is likely because Product Managers will play a role in the ideation phase of product development, which takes place before most other fields get involved.