Product Management found alive and well in Australia, despite report it’s missing

Adrienne Tan

CEO of TechSydneyDean McEvoy has a conundrum, according to Liz Burke in… he can’t find Product Managers in Australia who have the required skills to work in startup businesses.

I know there are thousands of Product Managers in Australia who would find that assertion questionable. I am one of them and there are plenty of comments on the article that show I’m not alone.

McEvoy goes on to say the skills he needs can’t be taught and can only be gained by experience, and the people he wants to hire are overseas.

This mindset is problematic in many ways.

Product Managers can be trained.

Product Management is not black magic. Like many other occupations, Product Managers have a set of foundational concepts, processes and tools they use to get results in their businesses. These are not secret.

There are numerous coursesbookspodcasts and blogs that teach the craft of Product Management. And while book-learning alone does not make a great Product Manager, someone with the right background and mindset will use these resources to kickstart their career. With experience, they quickly gain traction.

There are businesses in Australia that have accepted they won’t find the perfect Product Manager when they have a role to fill. These companies have instead learned to recognise the traits that are pre-cursors to Product Management success in their business. When they hire they know they’ll need to train and coach, but they do it and get the result they need.

Product Managers in Australia - where are you?!
Product Managers in Australia – where are you?!

They’re in Australia.

There are more than 9,000 Product Managers in Australia according to LinkedIn.

Product Managers aren’t all alike. They have specialisations, so I won’t claim all those 9,000 are well-suited to tech startups.

But I don’t concede the number of suitable candidates is zero. Just look to companies like Domain, Campaign Monitor, Seek, Xero, REA and Envato, where good Product Management practice is alive and well.

These are the breeding grounds for Product Managers who have those special skills, but not the only pools of Product Manager talent for tech startups.

What might surprise you even more is that American firms are coming to Australia to recruit Product Managers. In some cases, the people who get offered jobs in the US have never held the Product Manager title before.

Hiring is evolving.

Many Australians are conservative when they hire. There, I’ve said it…

When it comes to recruiting new talent, bosses nearly always look for someone who has previously done most of the job that’s up for grabs. It’s a good tactic for minimising risk, but it doesn’t always serve us well. I suggest Dean McEvoy’s conundrum is a case in point.

In Silicon Valley and more broadly in the US, there’s a move to hire for adaptability, cultural fit and potential. There’s a new wave of thinking (that’s not all that new) that says the jobs of today won’t exist tomorrow.

So how do you hire for uncertainty? The trend is to look for talent with the adaptability, brain-power, and motivation to re-invent and change into the future. These characteristics are much harder to assess in a resume or an interview, but it is possible.

And don’t even get me started on the potential for bias and the tendency to hire in one’s own image. These are very real challenges that impact us all.

Forget ultimatums.

The last quote from Dean McEvoy in the article goes like this:

“I think the key message is not just for the industry but for the country. Other cities and countries are investing super heavily in this industry. If we don’t work this out, we fall behind,” he said. “We either have a choice as a country, or we wonder in 10 years time why we have no jobs at all.”

It’s pretty tough language. At worst a threat.

But in reality, there’s rarely just one option to solve a problem. A statement like this indicates a lack of imagination and a fixed mindset.

Ironically, imagination and open mindsets are traits Product Managers have in spades. You should ask one. Product Managers in Australia… they’re not so hard to find!



Jen Marshall is the CEO of Brainmates, the home of Product Management in Australia. We train and consult in Product Management and we’ve been building the Product Management community in Australia since 2007.

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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