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Thursday, July 24, 2014

PM Around the World

I spent about half my career as a product manager in the US, my home country. In 2007, I moved to Germany and have lived here (happily) ever since. My perception that our discipline is a bit less mature on this side of the pond was to no small extent shaped by the fact that I came to help establish product management at a large software company. Since then, I’ve had this nagging feeling that product management isn’t as well established in Europe as it is in my homeland, although one has little trouble finding PMs here. 6 weeks ago or so, I started this blog. The Blogger stats on the location of visitors would seem to confirm my suspicions, although my findings are far from scientific (I was a point or two away from flunking statistics in college).

I expected a large percentage of traffic from the States but was a bit surprised at the massive proportion. I also expected Israel to be disproportionately represented (I have some experience with Israeli software firms and sensed that product management is well developed there {I also read Mr. Steinhardt of Blackblot’s stuff regularly}). I can tell from comments and forum activity on LinkedIn that India has plenty of (very thoughtful) PMs.

Although I’m not completely surprised at the geographic distribution, I’m also not sure exactly how to interpret the massive preponderance of hits from North America. Does it mean that product management simply hasn’t caught on in much of the rest of the world? Is it because I blog in English and promote my blog on LinkedIn (also in English)? Does it mean there’s less software development going on in other countries? Once, while poking around for PM jobs in Brazil (where I’ve also lived and worked), a recruiter told me that there simply wasn’t sufficient software product development there to sustain much of a PM community. I hope it's obvious that I'm not trying to draw scientific conclusions from anecdotal data, just curious if it conforms to other people's assumption about PM mind share around the globe.

Pondering the meaning of the numbers reminded me of conversations I’ve had with European headhunters and others regarding American- vs. European-style PMs. The perception seems to be that American PMs are more empowered and assertive. Conversely, European PMs are expected to do product definition work with more constraints and guidance from above. I realize these are generalizations, but they don’t seem to be way off the mark based on my experience.

What do you think?


  1. Being European product manager myself, I can say that our profession is yet to be fully established in the "old world". When I look on "product manager" job offers around Europe I see most companies still struggle to understand what those product guys really do. By writing "product manager" some mean they need a salesman with extended responsibility, some look for marketeer , some for account manager.

    This might come from the fact that in Europe we don't have any Product Management organization wide enough to educate market. Similarly to technological progress, product management moves to Europe in the following way: USA -> UK -> NL -> rest of Europe. Good news - it moves, it will arrive in some time.

    Regarding EU<->US style PMs, I tend to agree that in general EU PMs are less empowered and mostly asked to be "that bridge between technology and business". But that might come from the same problem of not full understatement of the profession.

  2. I've seen some odd job posting too Daniil. At first, I thought they were misleading. I soon realized that the term and/or concept simply isn't as widely accepted or understood on this side of the pond.