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5 Technical Skills Product Managers Should Have

If you’re just starting your career as a Product Manager, you’ve probably already heard of product management principles. But what about technical skills? Can you become a Product Manager without having a technical background?

The short answer is yes. A successful product team will have people from both technical and non-technical backgrounds. If you have a non-technical background, then you bring perspectives and thought processes that are valuable and rare in most software companies.

Still, it helps to have a least a few technical skills under your belt to round out your resume and help you succeed in the world of web and software development.

Below, we cover five technical skills a Product Manager should have.

1. Programming

While it’s true that Product Managers aren’t expected to be directly involved in software development, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t know how to read and write some code. In fact, there are plenty of reasons why a Product Manager should know how to code.

Even if you aren’t involved in product design, you’ll be expected to manage and improve software products. And the more you understand the technical parts of a design, the easier and more successful your job will be.

Knowing how to program is also a good way to build a relationship with the development team. Rather than relying on developers to “translate” every part of a product’s design, being able to read code will give you an insider’s perspective and make it easier to communicate your ideas to the team.

How to improve your programming skills

The best way to improve your programming skills is to take a beginner’s course. We recommend starting with the basics of web development: HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. From there, you may want to get familiar with one or more of the software development languages used the most in your company, whether it’s C++, Ruby, Swift, Python, or something else.

If you’re applying for a new job as a Product Manager, the job description should have some information on which programming languages would be the most helpful for you to know.

2. Data collection, querying, and analysis

Companies today have an enormous amount of data at their disposal — data that can help you, the Product Manager, make better decisions and back up your arguments with objective evidence. That’s why every Product Manager should understand how to extract the right data, analyze it, interpret the results, and present those results in a way that’s easy to understand.

Remember that part of your role as a Product Manager is to anticipate what will make your company more successful. There’s no better way to gain valuable business intelligence and insights than through external market and competitor data along with your company’s performance data.

How to improve your data collection skills

No matter how your company’s data is managed and stored, the best way to access it is likely through SQL. Learning SQL will help you understand, create, and run your own data queries without having to rely on a data science expert. In fact, more and more companies are requiring Product Managers to come into the job already knowing SQL.

How to improve your data analysis skills

There are numerous data analysis tools available that can help you analyze data — from popular programming languages like R and JavaScript to powerful programs like Excel. But, even though you have these tools at your fingertips, you’ll still need to be able to understand and identify trends, patterns, and facts about your data sets. And the best way to develop these skills is through practice.

Each time you have an opportunity to manipulate and break down a data set, you’ll learn something, and that new skill will make it easier the next time you need to analyze data. And don’t worry about making mistakes. We all do — it’s part of the learning process.

3. Agile methodologies

Agile is becoming the norm in software companies, particularly in ones that develop Software as a Service (SaaS) products. So, if you’re planning to be a Product Manager at one of these companies, knowing Agile development practices will be a huge benefit. Agile teams will also have specific expectations of you, the Product Manager, when it comes to how software is conceived, released, and marketed.

Keep in mind that adopting Agile means adopting a new company culture and values. Whether your company uses Scrum, Kanban, or another Agile methodology, it pays to understand the Agile values and principles as well as how your company specifically approaches Agile.

How to improve your Agile skills

You don’t need to be a certified Product Owner or Scrum Master, but it helps to read through the Agile values and principles as well as understand the basics of Agile, including Scrum and sprints.

4. Excel

Most everyone has used Microsoft Excel at some point. It’s the gold standard of spreadsheet programs, with entire suites of functions to suit anyone in any professional field. Product Managers turn to Excel for just about everything, including forecasting, scenario and cost-benefit analyses, and creating attractive charts.

And while competitors like Google Sheets and Pages are catching up, the truth is that Excel and .xlsx files are here to stay. No other spreadsheet software can do so much in terms of data visualization and analysis.

How to improve your Excel skills

We first recommend that you learn about PivotTables and macros. These are some of the most powerful Excel tools, and they’re useful to anyone working with complex data.

5. Technical writing

Product Managers excel at developing ideas for creating and marketing software and apps to the public. But, they must also communicate those ideas in a different language through technical writing. Without solid technical writing skills, Product Managers couldn't tell developers what a product should do or how it should be improved.

Many think technical writing involves a lot of jargon and complicated language, but that’s not true at all. The best technical writers create product specs, features, and detailed requirements that can be understood by any developer, whether or not English is their first language.

Product Managers with good technical writing skills find that they can speed up the product development process because there are fewer misunderstandings between them and the development team.

How to improve your technical writing skills

A good way to start improving your technical writing skills is by looking through existing specification sheets and product briefs in your company. Also, be proactive about getting feedback from the development team to find where your writing can improve in clarity.

Technical skills make you a better Product Manager

As a Product Manager, there’s no need to completely master all these skills. Your goal isn’t to compete with your software development and data science colleagues. But, having a good grasp of these skills will help you stand out as a strong candidate during the interview process and succeed in the workplace once you land the job.

If you’re ready to start learning a new technical skill or building on your existing knowledge, check out our courses for free today.


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Michael Shashoua

Michael Shashoua has covered data management and analysis operations issues as a journalist and now produces content about the field for leading financial services data companies.

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5 Technical Skills Product Managers Should Have
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