Opening Pathways to Innovative Careers in Product ManagementAugust 30, 2023
Product management professionals have various career paths available to them in new and upcoming areas of industry. This includes aviation and space, construction and safety, cybersecurity and technology, artificial intelligence and machine learning, and many other innovative fields you may not expect.
The diverse duties of a product manager, along with the technical, leadership, and analytical skills that they possess, provide an open pathway to endless opportunities in the job marketplace where this dynamic expertise is needed, and allow for success in many different areas that are experiencing new growth and investment.
Roles in product management evolved in response to a growing industry need — the need for continuous lifecycle management. Managing a product or service throughout its lifecycle requires an individual who can skillfully contribute their body of knowledge to each step of a product’s ideation, development, manufacture, and deployment — all while considering the client, consumer, and user experience (UX). Since each of these steps involves different teams, tasks, and talent, a product manager must have strong skills in creativity, adaptability, and big picture thinking.
Product Management Innovation Skills
What does the consumer want? What does the client need? How can you deliver this? From packaging to marketing to product design, you need to anticipate the products and services that people will buy and creatively bring it to life. To quote James Dyson, inventor of the Dyson vacuum, “like everyone we get frustrated by products that don’t work properly. As design engineers we do something about it. We’re all about invention and improvement.” Dyson saw a need for bagless vacuums and developed cyclonic vacuum technology, launching his company from a staff of just one person to an international leader in business and an established household name.
Most industry markets change with the needs of the consumer, so adaptability is a key to success in product management. For example, if we look at the history of the artificial intelligence and machine learning industry, we see a growing need worldwide for more automation in task-based work to enhance safety and quality of life. SAS offers that “thanks to increased data volumes, advanced algorithms, and improvements in computing power and storage...this early work paved the way for the automation and formal reasoning that we see in computers today...designed to complement and augment human abilities.” Over time, artificial intelligence technology has been adapted by innovative thought leaders, technology specialists, and product managers to fit the needs of the user experience. Through tailored products and services, like ChatGPT, GPS, and Tesla to name just a few, AI is fast becoming an integrated part of everyday life and adaptability is a skill necessary to keep up with and pave new paths for its progress.
Big Picture Thinking
Being able to forecast the next big trends in the industry, to understand the full scope of a product or service, and anticipate issues are critical skills for a product manager. What resources will you need to move to the next step in production? When will your team complete the project? What type of guarantee will you offer the client? What is the scalability of your product and your overall company?
These are all the big questions that need to be considered within the larger scope of a product manager’s duties. For example, collaborations in production can enhance business exponentially, like that seen with the recent company buyout of the Subway food franchise, which sold for almost $10 billion. Consistency in products and services established Subway as a leader in the food industry, and revamped services and innovations under the new buyout, like fresh sliced deli meats instead of prepackaged, makes the company an even stronger leader at the forefront of the industry.
Emerging Industries Demand For Product Managers
Product management positions can be found across a wide range of companies — all of which seek professionals who can bring their past work experience to their current roles, diversify their talents throughout the organization, and keep the company competitive within the industry landscape. There is a need for more women especially in this field, as only 35% of women are filling these roles despite their high qualifications and many transferable skills.
Since the responsibilities of a product manager are so vital, these positions usually sit at the higher or executive levels within a company. Therefore, individuals working in this field, especially those with a degree in Product Management, may receive a higher salary than most other jobs in today’s market. There are several companies currently hiring for product management roles within the following emerging areas.
Aviation and space
This industry is seeing greater public interest and funding for new projects that are driving the resurgence of space exploration initiatives. Thus, an increased demand for product managers can be seen within NASA, SpaceX, the U.S. Space Command, Lockheed Martin and other leading organizations. Job titles include User Terminal Product Manager, Data Product Manager, and Software Product Acquisition Manager, to name a few.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning
AI and machine learning are experiencing exponential growth — and with no signs of slowing down anytime soon. This booming industry now has more open roles than filled, and the need for product managers will likely persist for many years to come. Positions where AI and ML can be used include online education, vehicle development and manufacturing, marketing, writing, healthcare and life science studies, R&D, finances and banking, and many more. Since AI and ML are becoming integral parts of everyday life, most employers are now looking for product managers across all industries.
Construction and safety
With its renewed focus on workplace safety, the integration of products like drones, 3D scanning and heat-mapping, security systems, and digital twins, as well as materials shortages, evolving safety guidelines, and other considerations, the construction industry is one of the best areas to explore product management positions.
Cybersecurity and technology
Our critical infrastructure industry needs innovative leaders who can stay one step ahead of cyber criminals to secure our nation’s most critical resources. Cybersecurity product managers can focus on anything from the integration of software and hardware to protect data systems, to customer support, to end-user protection, and everything in between. There are endless opportunities for those who want to explore product management in cyber technology.
Real Life Product Manager’s Experience
Some of the world’s most influential leaders, social media gurus, and strategic innovators are product management specialists, which demonstrates not only a critical need for professionals in this field, but also the overwhelming success tied to these positions. These innovators share some of their personal experiences, predictions, and advice below.
Emrah Aydin, product manager for Userguiding.com, states that he loves the freedom that this type of position encompasses, and his ability to take a product in a direction that suits the company directives and situates the clients for success. He adds that these positions offer higher paying salaries for 1-3 years of experience in the field, allow diversity in careers paths unlike any other industry, and maximize flexibility in workplace location. He predicts that the future of the industry will be focused on management of AI and machine learning as well as marketing strategies for products.
Julie Zhuo is the co-founder of Sundial, a data analysis and client success company and former VP of Design at Facebook, who has over 400K followers on social media and is one of the most influential leaders in product management. Zhuo recommends startup companies as a good career fit for new product managers or those looking to get into the field, as most of these companies grow quickly and need experienced personnel to train and manage evolving teams. Her advice to product managers seeking career advancement is “to demonstrate a commitment to design. Make yourself out to be someone who cares about design. Again, not because you just need to fill a box...but because you truly care about it, and that already puts you far ahead of the pack.”
Melissa Perri, world-renowned product management leader, CEO, and author, offers that in terms of the industry, “the science is about understanding the patterns to building products that people love from a strategy perspective.” From her personal experiences, Perri sees that “strategy and product management will become more connected and synonymous, especially in SAAS/ other software companies” and as the industry needs increase, there will be more product management positions with no one to fill them unless more professionals begin seeking these roles.
Product Management at Capitol Technology University
At Capitol Technology University, we can lead you on a path towards career success through our Product Management program. You will gain the expertise needed to lead innovation and create products that drive the future of business through a tailored curriculum, industry-expert faculty, and internship and job opportunities, both within the DMV’s technology hub and internationally. You will learn from professionals who have worked in the field and know what it takes to further one’s career in product management.