Mathew Cropper

March 4, 2021

You don't suck. You just think you do.

Originally published: March 9, 2018

Whether we care to admit it or not, imposter syndrome stalks us all. Sometimes we feel it more or less acutely than others, but it's there and a fact of life. Most commonly in my discussions with other Product Managers I find that we think obsessively about three key themes; we aren't developing ourselves, we aren't sharing enough with the community, and we lack hustle.

I decided to try to put some numbers around this thinking, to help us to understand how we really stack up against our peers. In an anonymous survey, 51 Product Managers shared their habits in several important areas.

In this post I share the results. There's a little commentary, but I've tried to let the numbers speak for themselves. I've also made the raw data available to you to use for your own work, with attribution, if you find it valuable.

On this page:

  • TL;DR
  • Our reading habits
  • Our publishing habits
  • Our speaking habits
  • Our support for one another
  • Our hustle
  • Our fears and worries
  • Accessing this data


First, one important thing to note. You are not alone. Nearly 60% of the respondents to my survey said that they feel that they read, write, or publicly speak less than other PMs. The truth is that this is clearly not the case. Imposter syndrome is alive and well! The data clearly shows that most of us are performing equally as well as other Product Managers in all of these areas.

Here are some other interesting takeaways:

  • 3 books  
    The average number of books about our jobs that we read in 2017. A third of us read one book or nothing at all.
  • 0 posts  
    The number of pieces of content that nearly half of us published in 2017.
  • 1 talk  
    The average number of talks we gave about Product Management in 2017.
  • 6 hustlers  
    The number of people (out of 51) who had a side hustle that they launched to the public in 2017.

Our reading habits

I don't know about you, but I find myself constantly paranoid that I'm not reading anywhere near enough literature about the craft of Product Management. I was particularly interested to see how much people are actually getting through.

It turns out that on average in 2017 we PMs read an average of three books in the whole year, with nearly 15% of us reading nothing at all. Most of us, nearly 60%, haven't finished anything in the last 30 days either.

So, we aren't big book readers. This survey didn't take in to account other job-relevant content that we may consume, like industry publications, blogs, podcasts etc.

Our publishing habits

More than half of us aren't big on publishing content about our jobs at all. The rest of us do so in smaller amounts, with most publishing something less than once a month on average.

I feel the need to give a mad shoutout to the outlier who published 190 pieces of content in 2017. Well done!

For those of us who did publish something, only a quarter of us shared something that garnered some kind of social acclaim, which I classified as getting 1,000 or more engagements across social media. 

Our speaking habits

If we aren't much for publishing content, we're even less fans of speaking up at conferences and meetup groups. Two thirds of us didn't do this at all in 2017, and only ~12% of us have spoken publicly in the last 30 days.

This doesn't account for speaking that we do in our day to day jobs. If you speak as part of your job, that isn't captured here.

Our support for one another

We're a caring bunch. More than half of us have a relationship with another PM outside of work that we consider to be a mentoring/coaching one. If there's something to be proud of in all of this data, I personally think it's this.

Our hustle

Our group is passionate about a good side project, and a large minority of us are doing something with that passion. Nearly 20% of us plan to launch a side project in 2018, and just over 10% of us did so in 2017.

Our fears and worries

~60% of us worry that we do less of what we believe are important competencies of our development and community involvement, namely reading, writing, or public speaking.

Based on the results of this survey, however, that's demonstrably not true. High performing outliers may skewing our perception of what 'normal' is, or perhaps our own imposter syndrome is getting the better of us. In any case, it's fair to say that we can give ourselves a bit of a break.

When asking Product Managers to share the things that preoccupy them, the answers were incredibly varied. Almost all relate to worries about either professional development or how we operate as Product Managers in our roles. Prioritisation came up a lot.

Accessing this data

There were 52 respondents to the survey, and 1 of these was excluded on account of declaring that they were not a Product Manager. This is obviously not a statistically relevant dataset, so take it with a pinch of salt.

If you'd like to download the data (questions and anonymous individual responses) from this survey and play around with it, you are free to do so. I ask that you credit me in any work derived from using the data, and link back to this post.