At the moment I post this, there are 1839 open product management jobs in San Francisco/Silicon Valley. (Check here.) My inner optimist and pessimist argue about whether this is a good thing.
INNER OPTIMIST: Product management is suddenly sexy again. Lean startup champions have helped all kinds of companies rediscover customer value, and they realize that product/organizational skills are needed to grow past a dozen employees. Ben Horowitz and Marissa Mayer provide street cred. Product events/meetups are everywhere. Someone has slipped product into the water supply.
INNER PESSIMIST: Many of these postings are a muddle of list keeper, water boy, project manager, UX ninja, product janitor, business model locator and televangelist. Some hiring teams have never met an actual product manager, so resort to a job description blender. Most of these jobs have been open for months: strong candidates must have inspected and rejected them to sidestep clueless hiring managers, broken organizations, low-ball offers or already-failing products.
IO: Smart development managers who’ve experienced good product management know that they get twice as much of the right stuff build. With the massive shortage of developers (16,000 open slots), it’s harder to double development teams and discard the customer-irrelevant half of the output. So it’s fashionable again to measure twice and cut once. Not building the wrong product is the highest form of efficiency.
IP: Unrealistic expectations lead to quick disappointment. Internal stakeholders, especially in Sales and the executive team, confuse “relentless prioritization to meet real market/customer needs” with “someone can finally get me everything I think I want, as soon as I want it.” Instead, product managers have to be even more sensitive in explaining why today’s bright shiny object is no more strategic than yesterday’s – and why we’re going to stick with our agreed product strategy until contrary market information arrives.
IO: Fashions don’t matter, titles don’t matter, buzzwords don’t matter. Adding value matters. Validating, building and shipping great products – that make money – matters. We humbly earn our place every day as product managers: bringing clarity, market/segment focus and alignment of the tactical short term with strategy.
Perceptive development and executive teams see that good product management helps everyone work smarter. So they keep looking for product talent and adding positions. For today, optimism wins out!
As always, it’s a great time to be a product manager and help create winning products. There’s pretty steady work for those who can demonstrate their love and product skills.