The race for technology talent has traditionally focused on software engineers, sales executives and subject matter experts. But as technology changes, so too do priorities.
In a new age of consumer-driven development, tech firms across the United States are looking to attract and hire more product managers — those who embody the best of both operational knowledge and customer service.
Product managers among the top 5 fastest growing jobs in technology
According to LinkedIn’s 2017 Global Recruiting Trends Report, the top roles in demand by recruiters include engineering, operations and sales talent. By cross-referencing the number of jobs by the concentration of talent around the U.S., LinkedIn has been able to pinpoint some of the best regions for recruiting as well as where the competition is the hottest. For example, Houston, Texas and Greenville, South Carolina rank as the most dense regions for locating operations talent.
In February of this year, LinkedIn found in their Most Promising Jobs of 2017 report that Product Managers ranked No. 5. Product managers earn an average salary of $97,500, with over 11% job growth since 2006 (3,000 new jobs added). Product managers are expected to have knowledge of full-cycle product development, SWOT analysis and cross-functional team leadership in addition to a deep understanding of marketing to customer needs.
Fast-track programs, apprenticeships seek to fill the gap
According to Iulia Stefan, Sr. Program Manager at LinkedIn, the company founded the Reach apprenticeship program in order to develop workers from non-traditional backgrounds (or lacking actual degrees in computer science) to be trained and eventually hired by LinkedIn. Though this group represents only about 5% of the total talent in Silicon Valley, LinkedIn and other organizations hope to see it grow.
“As you can imagine, engineering talent continues to be high density in places like Silicon Valley and Seattle," Stefan told HR Dive, "while sales talent tends to flock to Chicago and Ohio, and operational talent centers around the Midwest.”
Another institute leading the development of product managers includes is Carnegie Mellon University, which recently began offering a MSPM degree program, that can be completed in just 12 months. Jason Hong, Associate Professor at CMU’s School of Computer Science and co-director of the MSPM degree program, said the move was prompted by a strong need for product managers at Google, and later other companies — many of whom have internal training programs, but not enough supply of talent.
“Supply of potential product managers is low and finding good candidates very tough," Hong said. "They require a solid understanding of technical and business skills, as well as end user needs. This combination is actually very rare because those with customer service skills most often go into sales roles, not product management.”
Candidates for MSPM degrees are given real-world tasks to juggle. For example, on project has students take an actual idea that a company has, then develop and present a prototype. of that idea. Hong says this allows the company to directly interact with and accurately evaluate a product manager's work style.
Both programs follow a growing trend of universities and independent certification program providers that offer similar career path programs. In order to offset shortages in the tech industry, programs that connect non-traditional students and those with non-tech backgrounds will be essential to talent pipeline construction and maintenance.