What’s next for the Product Management Career

Adrienne Tan

When it comes to the future of Product Management, there is great focus on the Product Management career.

In October 2017, Brainmates hosted a round-table discussion with six accomplished Product Leaders in Melbourne.

When asked about what’s on the horizon for the profession, the conversation turned to how Product Management is viewed as career and how that’s evolving.

Product Leaders talk Product Management Career
Product Leaders talk Product Management Career

The growth of the Product Management Career

Without doubt, the digital era has been a key contributor to the boom in Product Management.

“We’re seeing businesses now starting to see more and more of a need for product management because they hadn’t considered themselves digital companies before, and now they are. I think there’s just going to be more and more opportunities to really make a difference and professionalise,” said Paul Greenwell, Head of Product, Partners at MYOB.

Nick Coster, Founder and Head of Training at Brainmates agreed: “We’re seeing product managers become a hot commodity.”

How to create more Product Managers to meet demand

There was much discussion about how to make great Product Managers, since many hiring managers report good talent is hard to find.

Nick Coster thinks Product Management makes a great second career.

“They almost had to have done something else before you can have the chops to go product management role. Not because it’s particularly different, but because you almost need that real world experience,” he said.

“Someone coming completely green from university will lack that experience until he’s been burned a few times… Until you’ve dealt with failure and fallen on your face a few times, you’re almost not quite ready to be a product manager.”

Jarod Pickering, Digital Program Manager at Cricket Australia, sees a place for more formalised education.

“Potentially a university course, that could be created… a Bachelor of Product Management. And it becomes recognised as a desired profession,” he said.

Internships and apprenticeships were another suggested solution to help build the right talent.

“The concept of internships that are safe for the organisation, yet are a place of growth for people who are interested in product management… I think that’s an interesting space,” said Nick Coster.

“I’m not quite sure how to crack that yet, but I think that’s something that I’m definitely interested in seeing how that could play out,” he added.

What can people expect from a Product Management career

Product Management has often been characterised as the intersection between the business, technology and design.

This description captures the leadership and collaboration roles Product Managers play, but it’s worthwhile expanding on the purpose of Product Management.

“The focus is very much on solving the problems. I think that’s really rewarding. That getting out there and solving problems, and focusing on that, rather than just technology,” said Paul Greenwell, Head of Product, Partners at MYOB.

Nicole Brolan, Product Director at Seek says Product Management is increasingly about customer contact and research.

She says we’ll “continue to see a huge amount of experimentation going on… emphasis on time with customer, and product really being out in market.”

“People are going to get more and more creative about how they go about doing that, which is exciting,” Nicole added.

Adam Fry, Head of Product Management, Melbourne IT Group, agrees the practice of Product Management will evolve quickly.

“The tools at our disposal – prototyping, A/B testing, data, analytics and AI etc are speeding up the ability of product managers to identify opportunities and really nail the solution much better and more quickly than before,” he said.

What’s the trajectory of a Product Management Career?

Experience in Product Management opens many doors.

“I think it’s a position of influencing, and those who can influence, can be anything in your company,” said Erica Wass, Director of Product at Zendesk.

“They can be the heads of, they can run the whole organisation. They can be on the board… The product experience, because it’s well-rounded, gives you opportunity. You’re going to see former product people doing super interesting things,” Erica added.

How can we develop the Product Management career?

While Product Managers understand Product Management, there are plenty in business who are yet to be exposed to Product Management thinking, according to Amelia Crook, Product Principal at Cogent.

“I think we’re just at the start of the wave of understanding of what product manager is. I think engineers sort of led the way in what was really important for them. Designs had a big wave of design thinking, and understanding, and the training. I think product management is the next wave,” she said.

And along with understanding, will come a greater focus on building the Product Management craft and toolset.

“If we compare ourselves to service designers and UX practitioners, they are very well read. They practise. They’ve got lots of tools and techniques in their toolbox. I think that product managers are getting to that point,” said Adrienne Tan, Founder and Principal Consultant at Brainmates.


Thanks to the panel:

Paul Greenwell, Head of Product, Partners at MYOB

Amelia Crook, Product Principal at Cogent

Jarod Pickering, Digital Program Manager at Cricket Australia

Nicole Brolan, Product Director at Seek

Adam Fry, Head of Product Management, Melbourne IT Group

Erica Wass, Director of Product at Zendesk

Adrienne Tan, Founder and Principal Consultant at Brainmates

Nick Coster, Founder and Head of Training at Brainmates

Sarah Mitchell, Product Manager for Leading the Product at Brainmates

The session was facilitated by Jen Marshall, CEO at Brainmates


For more insights from Australian Product Leaders, check out these blogs:
What makes a good Product Manager?
The Future of Product Management in Australia
Stop failing fast, start experimenting fast
Product Management Terms – misused and abused

Adrienne Tan

Adrienne Tan | Author

Adrienne is Co-Founder and CEO of Brainmates and Co-Founder of Leading the Product. She has been championing Product Management since 2000, earning international recognition for raising the profile of the Product Management profession. In this capacity she regularly consults to the Asia-Pacific's top businesses and speaks at business and Product events around the world.

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