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The Rise of The Product Manager in 2021

by Xcede

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The demand for Product Managers has sharply increased across all sectors over the past year as businesses have adapted to the new challenges brought about by COVID-19. Companies across the globe have had to reshuffle their teams, rethink their long-term growth plans, and reassess their status in the market.

ITJobsWatch has revealed that Product Manager roles have jumped a whopping 73 places in the rankings of the UK's most in demand tech jobs over past 6 months alone. From ecommerce brands to tech start-ups, it seems the demand for Product Mangers across every sector shows no signs of decreasing any time soon.

Here we speak to one of our Product Consultants at Xcede, Stella Shkreli, to learn more about the current state of the Product market, which Product jobs are in demand, and how the pandemic has impacted the sector. She also shares her thoughts on the Xcede Salary Survey 2021. Read her thoughts below.

As our 2021 Salary Survey reports, the UK’s digital technology sector is experiencing growth six times higher than any other industry. How has this affected hiring?

Hiring patterns have been affected by the tech boom, especially within the Product Market. The skills needed to be successful in Product roles are more tech/digital heavy than before, and the people that come with those skills tend to be on sufficiently higher salaries.

Sometimes you will find that a Product Manager/Owner with less experience, but a more specific digital skillset, can be paid more than a counterpart with more years of experience.

Salary is completely subjective due to company budgets. Google will be paying a lot more than the average Series A start-up, for example. The salary market in general is fiercely competitive at this point in time. A company could be developing world-class products, but if they cannot provide a competitive package, top talent will look elsewhere.

Have you seen a shift in the demand for product managers across different sectors since the arrival of the pandemic?

A lot of the roles that are urgent hires seem to be within the FinTech/data sector, and the requirements are heavily digitally focused. If you look at the stats around October last year to where we are now, the increase in demand is huge.

Exponential growth like this is rare and just goes to show how the role has adapted to emerging technology to the point where every department in every business is bursting at the seams to get talented product professionals through their doors.

Has there been a demand for product managers with experience of working across a specific product or technology?

There has been an increase in demand across all sectors and levels of Product Management, but I would say specifically within B2B start-up/scale-ups. A lot of clients are looking for tech savvy people who have experience in SaaS, SQL, growth & strategy, which seem to be recurring themes in desired expertise.

How has remote working affected how product managers work?

Product Managers are usually at the forefront of in-person collaboration, brainstorming & effective communication. They are always raring to go and full of energy, which is one of the reasons they are so collaborative across cross-functional teams.

Moving to remote working has seen a change in how roadmaps are delivered, how teams use specific software/tools, how senior team members are able to delegate work and assess performances, and how effectively they are able communicate/implement product changes & development.

What are some of the challenges that COVID-19 has brought to the hiring process, when companies are looking to add to their product management teams?

In general, there’s a lot of uncertainty as to whether it’s the right time to move because it is difficult to predict how a company is going to handle the pandemic. In some cases, business is booming, and in others, a lot of roles are being put on hold because there isn’t enough budget to make new hires.

A lot of candidates are in stable roles, but their salaries do not match the calibre of work they are producing, and with companies wanting the best of the best but being unable to match salaries or offer bonuses/equity, people are not willing to risk making a move.

Companies need to offer more than just standard government benefits to really entice talented market professionals, and if they cannot, then their competitors will beat them every single time. It is a candidate driven market and they need to up their A-game to be able to attract the best people to produce the best work. 

What are some of the key things you look out for to distinguish between candidates who will and will not progress to the next stage of the hiring process?

Many candidates are driven by a handful of key factors which tend to fall around learning and development opportunities, competitive financial compensation, and company culture. When we speak to candidates, we ask them what their biggest motivators are when they are looking for a new company to join. Then we pair them to the best role and remind them at every interview stage or process what those key motivators are, as it is easy to get cold feet and feel unsure of change.

What’s next for the sector?

Many industry professionals say that customer feedback is the most important form of data collection as it is the number one source of creating new ideas, so continuous new experimentation across all sectors will boom.

I also see Product Managers as a whole being more adverse and adaptable meaning not only sticking to Product, but rolling up their sleeves and tackling a little bit of everything, be that more UX, UI, data science, design & even account management.

We’ve seen Product shift from a project-based role to a more tactical and strategic role, so strategic, user-centric mindsets will be more in demand, as well as people who are specialists in stakeholder/client management.

Are you on the hunt for your next product management role, or are you looking to expand your team? If so, get in touch with our specialist product team to find out more.