Do product managers need technical skills?

Product managers (in tech) do not typically need to be technicians, although having technical knowledge related to the implementation of the product they manage is helpful. There are many very successful product managers who are not highly technical. In practice, having no technical ability can make being an effective PM more difficult as:


  • You may lose credibility with some engineers

  • It will be difficult to assess implementation trade-offs for engineering work

  • It will be difficult to understand and push back on engineering estimates


To get some insight into the value of technical skills for PMs, think about hiring a plumber. Do you need to know a lot about plumbing to hire a plumber? You don't but that knowledge can help you make better decisions (and avoid being taken advantage of!).


It is important to note that the technical skills you need as a PM are highly dependent on your work context. Working on a data-intensive app? Some SQL knowledge could be helpful. Doing Machine Learning? Knowing a bit about the Python language could come in handy.


Comment

Many product managers in tech ask if they should learn how to code. We believe that there are other technical aspects of product development that are more valuable, e.g., architecture, development methodologies.