If you are hoping to begin a career in product management, especially in a technical industry, you may be wondering whether it requires having a technical background. Truth be told, it helps to have a technical background or at least an understanding of the engineering side of things. But do you really need to be technical to thrive as a PM? Let’s find out.
In this post, we will be discussing this age-old question and disclose our viewpoints on the same.
Let’s jump right into it.
There are two viewpoints to this question
#1 You need a technical background to be a product manager
People believe that product managers having a strong technical background can form strong working relationships with the engineers. There is mutual respect and understanding that are easier to transfer if the product manager speaks the same language as the engineers.
Also, product managers with a technical background are better equipped to understand the limitations and capabilities of the engineering team, and can better plan requirements without over-utilizing or under-utilizing the team. Most importantly, if the product serves a technical purpose, then the product manager must boast technical knowledge. If you give it a thorough look, it seems plausible since if the product manager isn’t aware of the requirement, it could jeopardize the quality of the product.
#2 You don’t need a technical background to be a product manager
On the contrary, many people believe that product managers don’t need an engineering or technical background because their role is to come up with the best possible, high-quality product for the users. They don’t have to worry about how the tasks are implemented to get the desired end product.
While technical products may need product managers with a technical background, not all companies or products come with the same requirements.
However, you need to understand business fundamentals. That is, if you are able to understand the investment required to get the product off the ground, including the influence the product will have on the company, then you can guide your team in the right direction.
If we take examples from real life, there are many product managers with no technical background but are successfully handling their product manager role. Pooja Chaturvedi, Sr. Product Manager at Adobe, Abhishek Rathore, Product Manager at Daffodils, and Rohan Sharma, Sr. Product Manager at Amazon, are all from non-technical backgrounds. They are proving the world that you don’t need to specifically have the technical knowledge to thrive in this field.
Rohan says that in order to succeed at this role, you need to have a better understanding of the best solutions to solve a problem. He says that it comes with experience. The more time you spend with the technical team, the better you will understand their approach. You need to show a strong interest in technology and understand their basic functionalities. Last but not least, you need to possess good communication skills so that you can communicate with your team members accordingly.
Both the arguments seem plausible, but you don’t have to stress around if you are not from an engineering background. There are several things you can take up to form a relationship with your teams and get technical.
Work out areas of the product that would be influenced by the proposed technical solutions
Try to understand the logic behind the solutions for the technical problems that may arise
Map out the product flows for understanding the basic user issues
Have enough technical knowledge so that you can take part in a meaningful conversation with the technical team and the stakeholder
It doesn’t matter if you don’t come from a technical background. If you are able to develop technical curiosity, you will be able to develop a basic technical foundation from which you can slowly elevate your expertise as a product manager. Unless you have a very technical product specific to the technical customers, you don’t need to exert technical knowledge to thrive as a product manager.