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Are product managers an expensive luxury now?

Are product managers part of a Dionysian past?

As Meta begins the restructuring process for its "year of efficiency", it's becoming apparent that some jobs are valued more than others. 

In last week's message to staff, Mark Zuckerberg said Meta wants "a more optimal ratio of engineers to other roles" as it looks to "keep technology the main thing." Zuckerberg's phrasing was (deliberately opaque) but buried within it appeared to be the message that while product managers are important gatekeepers, the ideal team is "lean" and engineer-heavy rather than filled with product managers plotting new releases. Meta will presumably be hiring fewer product managers in the future.

Are product managers even necessary at all? Historically, engineers at Citadel, for example praised the firm for avoid pure product types and promoting direct engagement with end users. Engineers there were master-of-all-trades types serving as architecture, engineering, sales and product professionals, but we understand this may have changed and that Citadel also has a few product managers now.

Banks meanwhile have fully embraced product managers, as have fintechs. Goldman Sachs is hiring for a portfolio accounting product management lead in New York, who could earn a base salary of up to 235k. A JPMorgan Product manager listing in California (home to some of its top engineering talent) has a flat range; they will be paying a salary of $275k.

One area in which product is receiving a lot of love is fintech. We cited it as one of the big hiring spots for product talent in our 2023 predictions and indications are the market for fintech product people is still strong. At Stripe, product managers possibly earn more than engineers. A current job listing indicates that a staff engineer job their crypto division can earn a maximum salary of just ("just") $261.7k. For a product lead listing there, the maximum salary is $308.3k. When you can afford them, product managers are clearly worth it.

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AUTHORAlex McMurray Editor
  • To
    Tom London
    19 April 2023

    So-called "product managers" are a perversion of Agile. Instead of having a business person who is accountable for the product being fit for purpose, you get yester-year's business analyst who thinks he knows what needs to be built. That's a recipe for disaster.

  • Re
    23 March 2023

    I don't believe the post is saying product managers are a waste of space. They definitely are an integral part of the product development lifecycle. However I have experienced the situation where we had an army of product managers chiefs and not enough engineering soldiers to build anything.

  • He
    22 March 2023

    Very curious on the choice of photo for this article

  • Th
    21 March 2023

    First of all, I am a product manager myself and I find this post very insightful. At first, I wanted to reply to some of the very interesting comments individually but then it became a fun read overall.

    Before I put my 2 cents into this brilliant thread, I would like to point out, companies pay Product Managers/or any other job vertical professionals basis the value they can bring to the organization. This statement is true for engineers as well as for any other roles for that matter.

    Over my entire career, I have come across engineers who are pioneers of innovation. Who bring about really amazing ideas. Unfortunately, out of experience, the end product although is catering to various geographies, end up failing because sometimes the demographics adheres to a more comfortable way of work. The customers are perfectly comfortable with something outdates. That's where we product managers comes in.

    Our goal is not to take credit of someone else's work but to identify the value behind an innovation suggestion, measure it against what the customers really want, find the best user experience. The most difficult part of a product manager's role is to interact with all these cross functional teams and bargain a way forward to achieve what's best for the customers.

    Someone in the comments wrote that they would rather go for a good product manager than a medicore engineer. This statement is true vice versa, that one would rather prefer a good engineer than a mediocre product manager. The key here is not a product or engineering person, but it is the the word "good". A good someone is always preferred over a mediocre someone.

    No matter what we do, we should always remember and work towards the positive impact that we can bring with our contributions to any organization. Whether it is the customers, our team or ourselves.

  • co
    21 March 2023

    A good PM goes a long way. I'd vote to keep a good PM and fire a mediocre engineer. A good PM helps speed up the process. It is a luxury yes but it is a necessary luxury. No regulation requires to have a PM in place so it is not a necessity of course. I've worked with a few and they usually are very good at understanding concepts and connecting dots for both engineers and quants. And connecting dots is never really that easy , isnt it?

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