Aligning Skills and Expectations

by Rebecca Kalogeris


Professionals across all industries are expected to do more with less. As such, strategy and high-level thinking often take a back seat to the tactical. It’s easy for days to turn into reactionary spirals rather than proactive, purposeful ones. A recent Pragmatic Marketing survey of product managers and marketers shed light on this very trend that is seen across all industries, and revealed the skills sets required to rise above the busy worker bee mentality.

What skill sets separate the high-wage-earning product managers from the average? Turns out there are a few superhero traits that help product managers ignite their career and drive them toward advancement — and these can be applied to nearly any industry.

According to Pragmatic Marketing’s 16th annual “Product Management and Marketing Survey” results, there are seven key characteristics that separate the superhero product managers from the rest. The survey, which polled more than 2,500 product managers and marketers from around the globe, revealed the following skills were in top demand among product managers:

  • Truth to power — being able to raise uncomfortable issues to leadership;
  • Synthesis — beyond gathering data, the ability to synthesize it down to a call to action;
  • Pitch artist — the ability to stand up to peers, managers and executives, and sell them on ideas and conclusions;
  • Executive debater — being a strong advocate for what is right in the market and challenging executive teams when necessary;
  • Consensus builder — aligning the organization to solve a problem together;
  • Empathetic — the ability to understand what others are going through, both inside and outside the company; and
  • Inspire others — the ability to inspire others to action.

Of these seven characteristics, there were three in particular that were most rewarded by companies. They are pitch artist, executive debater and inspired others. Expert-level skill in these three areas correlated to 25 percent higher wages, on average.

Incidentally, the skills most rewarded by companies didn’t necessarily match up with what product managers thought were most essential to their career growth. The skills product managers ranked as most important were the ability to inspire others, synthesis and being a consensus builder. Pitch artist and executive debater fell lower on the totem pole.

On a broader level, having technical expertise is also highly valued among product teams today. On average, 92 percent reported having a high degree of technical acumen in their role, an increase from previous years. When asked about the evolution of the role, product managers and marketers talked about the increasing role of big data in decision making, product cycle times accelerating, and a more customer-centric focus.

Despite the shift in skill type necessary for today’s technology-focused product teams, there was much that remained the same. Product managers still spend a majority of their time stuck in the tactical aspects of the job rather than the strategic, men still earn more than their female counterparts, and product managers on the Pacific West tend to earn higher wages than the rest of the U.S.

Time and Money

Key findings of the 2015-2016 ‘Product Management and Marketing Survey’

  • Of the types of companies represented (78 percent of which operate in the B2B space), 80 percent offer software solutions, and 54 percent offer a hosted or cloud product. This underscores the trend in companies moving toward SaaS, applications and cloud products.
  • While it’s improving, product teams reported 72 percent of their time is spent on tactical vs. 28 percent strategic activities.
  • The survey showed that the average product team member earns $100,000–$120,000 per year with an annual bonus of $9,850.
  • Switzerland product managers and marketers have the highest average salary, at $115,600.
  • Product managers and marketers in the Pacific region bring home higher average salaries ($121,800) than those in any other region. The East Coast trails at an average of $112,800. The average salary in Arizona is $88,000.
  • Females earn, on average, $10,000 less than their male counterparts.
  • While 26 and 24 percent reported having 3–5 years’ and 6–10 years’ experience, respectively, the number of years in their current role came in at 32 and 31 percent for 1–2 and 3–5 years, respectively.

Source: Pragmatic Marketing

Rebecca Kalogeris is vice president of marketing at Pragmatic Marketing, Inc., which was founded in 1993 and has become the authority on technology product management and marketing. The company has trained more than 100,000 product management and marketing professionals, with more than 25,000 becoming Pragmatic Marketing Certified. Pragmatic Marketing’s team of thought leaders produce blogs, webinars, podcasts and publications that product professionals around the world turn to for industry insights. 

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