Job descriptions for product managers often ask for someone "technical enough", but what does this mean?
Establish a baseline of technical understanding & invest more over time
Being "technical enough" involves the following:
1. Trace a user issue back to the underlying problem.
2. Estimate how long it will take to build A vs. B.
3. Anticipate implementation challenges.
4. Brainstorm potential solutions to technical problems.
5. Identify opportunities that arise from new technologies.
Relative importance will vary depending on the product.
Some next steps roughly in order of importance:
Start from a place of curiosity.
Appreciate the creativity in engineering.
Set aside time to pick an engineer's brain.
Synthesize what you've learned into a shareable format.
Use feedback & bug reports to pattern match different issues.
Familiarize yourself with bits of the code base.
Focus on core concepts.
Develop a thick skin.
Build credibility by figuring out how you can add immediate value
Learning new skills take time. Identify how you can make an immediate impact. Here are some possibilities to consider:
1. Dig into the data.
2. Do the blocking & tackling work that keeps trains moving.
3. Lean into your experiences & strengths.
4. Provide a shared framework for decision-making.
5. Take the time to give your team broader context.
Software development is full of defects and evolving infrastructure. Framework to solve quality issues:
Correctness: solve intended problem
Performance: latency and speed matter
Reliability: avoid crashes and upload failures
Craft: create a find-tuned, polished experience
Have a framework to determine how quickly the bug should be addressed:
- P0: Bug to be solved now, including services going down or major security defects
- P1: Within 24 hours
- P2: Within a week
- P3: Within two to four weeks
- P4: Catchall priority into the next sprint
Control the number of bugs while continuing to do feature development
Set a target of how many SLA violations you allow
Ensure that leadership and peer functions are involved
The substance in product management (PM) is the hard skills needed to learn and excel at building great products (i.e. customer discovery).
Style is the soft skills needed to get things done (i.e. influence without authority).
Most product managers tend to undermine the importance of style.
How can managers learn to improve?
Most of the soft skills associated with PM involve making a compelling argument to the stakeholders.
Present a particular perspective to steer the audience to the desired conclusion.
Leverage the shared opinion of others to convince key stakeholders.
Redefine your initiative in terms of a decision maker's own goals.
Make another believe the idea was their own.
Summarize first-party research succinctly. Surfacing too much data will dilute the argument.