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Academy Xi Blog

The enormous growth of Product Management

By Academy Xi

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We sat down with Ainsley Johnstone, Founder & CEO at Think Talent, to discuss the state of the Product market as well as why big picture thinking, natural storytelling and relentless curiosity are the trademarks of a modern Product Manager.

What picture do the statistics paint around recruitment of Product Managers in Australia right now?

I think it’s clear that digitisation is driving demand. Businesses are counting on digital to lead the COVID recovery and the demand for digital products – and the professionals who can help build and manage them – simply outstrips supply. There is undoubtedly a lot of quality, emerging talent in Product Management, but it’s still a relatively nascent profession here in Australia when you compare it to the US or the UK. The re-opening of international borders may help to address the talent crunch to some extent, but the focus really needs to be on upskilling the local market so we have a more sustainable, more experienced talent pool to draw from.

Product Management is clearly becoming increasingly popular. What factors play into this?

First and foremost, COVID has undoubtedly accelerated digital and that’s why we are seeing such a boom for Product Managers in sector areas like the banking and telecommunications sector; online retail; and platforms that enable remote working. The distance from company to end-customer has also been shortened by COVID; rather than buying from a middleman at a bricks and mortar store, customers are buying and engaging directly via eCommerce.  Product Managers provide vital conduit back to the business about what customers are thinking and wanting

And finally, I think bright young talent can see that Product Management is an enormous growth area both in terms of future career opportunities and earning potential. Organisations like Academy Xi are also making it accessible for them to upskill relatively quickly and create the network introductions that will lead to job opportunities.

“Product Management is an enormous growth area both in terms of future career opportunities and earning potential.”Ainsley Johnstone (Think Talent)

Australia is in the middle of a digital skills crisis. What practices are businesses putting in place to reinforce their talent funnel?

The shift to remote teams has opened the talent pool right up. We’re seeing clients more than willing to engage off-shore talent as roles become entirely remote. Another shift we’re seeing is that businesses are open to recruiting more junior talent and then being prepared to invest in their development. Tenure for Product Managers, like many in the digital fields, has typically been less than 2.5 years, but more and more, we’re seeing businesses re-evaluate their Employee Value Proposition (EVP) as a means of engaging talent longer.

On the issue of EVP, it’s evident that people’s priorities have shifted over the past 18 months. These days candidates aren’t simply avoiding the so-called black industries, they actively want to understand how a company is giving back or adding value to the customer. Not-for-profits, health tech and science driven organisations have a clear advantage here.

And finally, the importance of succession planning is highlighted as businesses face up to the likelihood of high turnover in the post-pandemic phase. This again reinforces the sense in a strategy that invests in developing a pool of emerging talent that can mature into leadership roles.

“The importance of succession planning is highlighted as businesses face up to the likelihood of high turnover in the post-pandemic phase. This reinforces the sense in a strategy that invests in developing a pool of emerging talent that can mature into leadership roles.”
Ainsley Johnstone (Think Talent)

What skills are key differentiators for Product Managers in the current market?

It’s well known that Product Managers need to be exceptional communicators, but three other or complementary skills that really set the best apart from the rest are: Big Picture Thinker, Natural Storyteller and Relentless Curiosity.

By hiring for these characteristics, you’ll attract a strategic, human-first Product Manager who can act as a conduit between customers and business stakeholders, and see your product as part of an ecosystem of solutions.

If you could list three trends that shaped Product Management this year, what would they be?

COVID has obviously had a fundamental effect on Product Management, and digital careers more broadly: the near overnight shift to remote-working, and likelihood of ongoing hybrid work models, has been a boom for collaboration platforms, workflow tools and a host of tools designed to improve the quality of online interactions. All of these will need product support.

We’re also seeing a trend towards specialisation within Product Management. This might seem odd given the pressure already on the market right now, but as businesses get to grips with their product offering, they want talent who are specialised in platform components, mobile, personalisation or operations. I think we’re going to see a lot more Product Operations Management roles in the future.

And third, it’s been very exciting to see more diverse Product Management teams starting to form. Businesses that integrate diversity and inclusion into their Teams will promote better problem solving for a much larger segment of their customer base and propel innovation. In Australia, 63% of Product Managers are male but I suspect we’ll be looking at a very different figure within 1 – 2 years’ time.

Read more about the compacted digital skills labour market in ‘Help! I can’t find good digital talent’.

Looking for solutions? We can help. Check out our Talent Services programs designed to give businesses the opportunities they need to reskill and upskill their people