Do product managers need to know how to code? For the majority of jobs, it’s not a requirement. However, it can certainly make you more successful in the role.
Product management teams lead a product from idea to production, and when they understand the technical side, the process flows a lot more smoothly. While you may not need to code an app or write an algorithm yourself, there are many other benefits of learning to code for product managers. Read on to find out how learning to code can empower your Product Management team.
1. You'll be able to speak the same language as your engineers
Imagine traveling to France without knowing a lick of French. Sure, you could get by. But learning some conversational phrases opens you up to places off the well-worn tourist path and earns you respect from the locals.
Knowing how to code as a product manager is a similar experience.
When you’re able to use the same terminology as the development team, it’s easier to ensure that there’s no missing holes in the requirements. Plus, the ability to relate to your engineers — to understand what goes into building even a seemingly simple feature — positions you as an ally.
2. You can ship better products
When you understand how code works, you’re able to think through the technical requirements of building your product. This helps you to better gauge which features or enhancements are feasible given your budget, timeline, and development resources. Calli, a product manager at Paradox who learned how to code using Codecademy, puts it this way:
“By learning to code, you’re able to ship higher quality products. I’m able to think through problems in a different way than if I didn’t know how to pull data from SQL or know which language we’re using to make an animation display on a screen. You can think through requirements. If a client request comes in, I have a better understanding of whether or not we can do it. And if we can, how complicated is it?”
3. You’ll sharpen your problem solving skills
Through learning how to code, you also learn and practice problem-solving skills. The purpose of writing code is to communicate with machines, which requires breaking down a goal into smaller manageable steps so a computer can understand.
This practice is the basis of problem-solving: define a problem, break it down into smaller pieces, and explore possible solutions. It’s a process that’s helpful when you’re feeling overwhelmed by any kind of project, whether in product management or even in your personal life.
4. You’ll be trusted with more strategic projects
Understanding technical requirements puts you in a great position to not only guide the product plan, but to shape and define the product as well. Leadership will be more likely to trust your input on the vision and strategy when it shows you know the product inside and out.
As Calli and her teammates deepen their knowledge of code, the projects they’re tasked with are more big-picture. She says:
“We’re getting the opportunity to work on more strategic initiatives that involve looking at our database, looking at the data we have, and thinking about how we can potentially restructure it. I don’t know that leadership would give us that opportunity if we didn’t have a basic understanding of how the product works, what’s possible, and what’s not possible. We’re getting more opportunities, bigger opportunities as product people.”
5. You can make better-informed product decisions
A working knowledge of code can help you think through critical decisions about your product and get better at making the right ones.
For example, knowing how to use SQL, a programming language designed for managing and querying data held in databases, can help you understand how customers are engaging with your products so you can incorporate this data into your decision-making. (And, it feels pretty empowering to be able to access this information without relying on data engineers.)
Not only will you be more equipped to make better choices, you’ll be prepared to explain why you made them, making it easier to get everyone on board with your vision.
6. You’ll feel more confident
As a product manager, you’re always communicating — across teams, with customers, and up to leadership — about how a product works and why it works that way. It’s normal to experience a bout of imposter syndrome, but having a solid technical foundation can boost your confidence in these conversations.
This was the case for Calli. She started out having no idea how code actually worked, but once she started learning how to code, things changed.
“Working with other team members, clients’ technical specialists, and even leadership feels much more natural. I don’t feel like I’m faking it, I understand what they’re saying and what they’re asking.”
Supercharge your product management career
You don’t need a masters degree in computer science or a software engineering background to be a successful product manager. But knowing how to code can make the difference between a good product manager and a great product manager. And who knows, it may prove more than just useful—coding could be something you enjoy!
Learning to code can be fun (really!). Here at Codecademy, our online learning platform teaches coding skills in an interactive, flexible, and engaging way. What’s more, we recently launched Codecademy for Teams so you can provide your entire product management team with technical training and education. Fill out the form below to connect with a member of our team or request a free 14-day trial.