2018 Market Update: Product Management

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Demand for product management professionals remained high in 2017, particularly from early stage startups. This was due in part to a decreasing patience among venture capital firms to continue to invest in later-stage startups that are continually undergoing pivots and reorgs.

With startups increasingly coming to recognize the important of effectively determining product market fit, experienced product managers have been sought after to reassure investors, as well as provide advice on the product roadmap and future feature development.

This trend will persist throughout 2018, particularly among startups where the founders do not come from product management backgrounds themselves.

Key hiring areas/skills in demand:

In the B2C market, product managers with a background in machine learning were highly sought after, particularly as their products are often related to personalization experiences, recommendation engines, and dynamic pricing. In addition, candidates with skillsets at the intersection between product, growth and marketing continue to be highly valued, as startups look to improve integration between product and marketing functions.

Among B2B startups, managing data at scale will continue to be an urgent need, and candidates with deep ETL (extract, transform, load) systems experience will command a premium. As the variety and volume of data soars, data infrastructure management will have to increase in scope and priority. Back-end product management specialists will also become an increasingly critical part of any organization looking to remain competitive.

Candidate market:

Professionals who were able to provide tangible evidence of proven technical ability—particularly API design and data architecture— were the most highly sought after.

As monetization has become more of a priority, as opposed to concentrating solely on growth, candidates coming from more of a strong business background (i.e. management consulting, investing banking, private equity, etc.) have experienced a resurgence in demand. However, many companies are seeking candidates who can combine this business acumen with a background in computer science as part of their requirements.

In 2018, employers will face particular challenges when looking to secure UX-focused product managers with a product design background. Growth product managers with a skill-set including paid-acquisition, messaging, branding, positioning and other elements of marketing will also be in high demand.


In 2017, base salaries stabilized for less experienced, individual contributors at B2C startups. However, their counterparts at B2B companies experienced slight increases. The most dramatic increases in salaries were seen at the leadership level, where there is particularly fierce competition for Director, “Head of”, and VP-level candidates. These levels have a very wide range in compensation, as companies tend to tailor their packages to reflect cash versus equity considerations.

For more information on how Robert Walters can assist you with your job search, please get in touch with a consultant.

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