Q&A: What technical skills do I need to be a product manager?

Q&A: What technical skills do I need to be a product manager?

I’m asked questions about product management from time to time. Here’s one I’ve answered recently:

Hi Jock,

I saw you speak recently and I read about your work. I was looking for inspiration and guidance as I am searching for a career change and Product Management/ Project Management are my areas of interest.

I was looking to understand, based on your experience, if in such roles technical skills are required. My profile is more on the business side, I have experience in managing transformation protects, consultative engagements and client relationships in business process management.

I love solving business problems, lead discovery workshops to understand client needs and design/envision a digital solution. I would very much appreciate your feedback on my CV whether I would be a good fit for a Product manager or a Project manager role or if you see a big gap, I would be happy to work on that and up skill myself.

Thanks again for your message, all the best and hope to meet you when you speak next!

Regards,

A

Read on for my reply!

Hi A,

Thanks for your message. It’s great that you’re interested in getting into product management.

The first thing to note is that product management and project management are very different disciplines, so it’s a good idea to decide which you’re interested in pursuing.

The short answer to your question is that product managers are generalists with some experience in lots of different areas, who then work with specialists in design, research, project management etc. You need to know enough about each discipline to have a decent conversation with each specialist on a product team.

It’s okay and perfectly normal not to have skills or experience in all these areas to begin with, everyone has to start somewhere. You would probably need to focus on building up areas such as user research and design, and on technology (what is typically used by teams and for what reasons).

So if you have gaps in your CV, you need to find ways to fill them by either working in different areas for a while, or by collaborating with someone who is a specialist in a discipline you’re not familiar with.

The longer answer is in my book :-)

Also, these blog articles may be helpful:

All the best,

Jock

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Read more from Jock

The Practitioner's Guide to Product Management book cover

The Practitioner’s Guide to Product Management
by Jock Busuttil

“This is a great book for Product Managers or those considering a career in Product Management.”

— Lyndsay Denton

Jock is a freelance head of product, author and conference speaker. He has spent nearly two decades working with technology companies to improve their product management practices, from startups to multinationals. His clients include the BBC, University of Cambridge, and the UK's Ministry of Justice and Government Digital Service (GDS). In 2012 Jock founded Product People Limited, a product management consultancy and training company. He is also the author of the popular book The Practitioner's Guide to Product Management and the blog I Manage Products.

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