For the sake of long-term career growth, does a given industry matter if it comes down to how much the individual enjoys their area?

Based on Zippia, (using a database of 30 million product managers (PM) within the US) 26% of all product managers work in a Fortune 500 (F500) company. Here some samples of the rest outside of the F500:

  • Technology, 21%
  • Manufacturing, 10%
  • Finance, 7%
  • Retail, 6%
  • Telecommunications, 4%
  • Pharmaceutical, 3%
  • Automotive, 2%

In a booming economy, it matters less for sure if someone’s in the right industry or not. For example, if AR/VR was your passion, being a PM in that space would feel pretty special, wouldn’t it? If the future was uncertain or less lucrative than something more traditional, some people would be okay with that. After all, their industry (in their eyes) is “cool.”

Or to illustrate further — wouldn’t getting to work on self-driving vehicles be cooler than your typical B2B SaaS platform?

Or what if your beloved entertainment space offered you a PM role to represent content creators?

Hopefully you get the gist of why this conversation sometimes arises.

Your job fulfillment and satisfaction is built on numerous factors, but being part of your dream industry can definitely count as one. If not, then it’s a beautiful cherry on top. However…

There’s a small issue here with this line of thinking: short-sightedness.

Career goals, especially that of a PMs, are expected to be long-term and sustainable. What if the economy runs into a wall and companies begin their waves of layoffs? Or if one industry outperforms another drastically?

Well, it probably won’t stop many of us, including myself, from pursuing that industry of passion which we feel more emotionally attached to. And that’s usually okay — each role is complicated and too many nuances slip through the cracks: the team, the company’s health, the culture, the product — many variables can take priority over industry.

There may actually be an “objective” answer for the best industry for a PM, taking long-term growth and versatility into account. Here are some questions which can help:

  1. Which industry is the most versatile & applicable for pivoting?
  2. Which industry generates the most revenue, even during tough economics downturns?
  3. Which industry provides the most growth potential, both short-term and long-term?

There are many reasonable answers, and it’d be dumb to try to name them all. However, there is one pattern, which represents the major takeaway from this article and the reason why I wrote it:

Any industry which is dabbling with AI and machine learning to a very deep level is a strong industry for a PM to thrive in. In general, the more, the better.

This sounds like common sense; in truth, it’s stupidly simple. AI and ML aren’t going anywhere but up, even in times of economic ruin. Additionally, the two terms aren’t mutually exclusive, and are broad in nature.

I believe a PM should try to get as close as possible to the innovations of new “AI technology,” including the technicalities and applications of machine learning. It’s all about being part of the edge of cutting tech, searching for the next lucrative improvement.

But here’s the thing — the more closer you are to the core of AI, the better your position. According to Yahoo!, the machine learning market by itself will garner a projected $106 billion USD by 2030. And that’s just a subset of the broader AI term.

With the help of ProductPlan and the Enterprise World, Here is a sample list where I feel AI can have the largest impact within the coming decades:

  • Work productivity
  • IoT
  • CleanTech & Environment
  • Entertainment
  • FinTech
  • Healthcare Tech
  • Cybersecurity

Based on this article by ProductPlan, PMs should always be searching for the industry that has the best and safest long-term upside. Meaning, revenue may not explode tomorrow, but it’ll be safe to bet it will within the coming decade or so.

This is just a small pool; AI and ML are here to stay and resonate among hundreds of industries, albeit some more than others.

  • Has high potential for applications of AI or ML that would revolutionize the space.
  • Is at least ONE of the industries you take interest in — even better if it’s the dream space you’ve been passionate about.
  • Has a projected long-term positive growth rate.
  • Pays well for your living standards, and will continue to in the future.
  • Allows you to strengthen your general skills as a PM without hindering your ability to jump ship within and across industries.
  • Makes it relatively easy to find work — immediately if the economy is good, near-the-future if the economy is bad, and, should you ever part ways from your PM role for any reason.

My name is Kasey, AKA J.X. Fu (pen name). I’m passionate about writing, and thus I’ve found myself deep in the abyss on weeknights creating novels. I’ve written two so far: a fantasy/action/mystery, and a romance-comedy. I do this while working a full-time tech PM job during the day.

Follow me on Medium for more writing, product, gaming, productivity, and job-hunting tips! Check out my website and my Linktree, and add me on LinkedIn or Twitter, telling me you saw my articles!


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