Should A Product Manager Learn to Code?

What if I wanted to add a new functionality that should only be accessible to one type of user but not the rest?The product manager’s knowledge of the code becomes a utility once a PM can understand how certain structures impacts user-facing system entities.

In an ideal environment, a product manager could simply write up technical specifications, hand it off, and the engineering team would give back a timeline that they can commit to.

In most environments, this lack of little communication leads to disaster.

Knowing the context of the technology stacks saves everyone in the process time — if a product manager finds out from discovery that a user wants something that is either not possible based on the way the system is built or would involve something the code has not yet done, they can have that knowledge going into planning and delivery of a feature as opposed to just telling the team that they need to complete something because a user has deemed it worthy.

They can balloon the timelines or create the right caveats.

Similarly, if a PM decides halfway through the build that they want to add in a new functionality but they know nothing about the code, it could not only set a deadline back weeks but could also sow mistrust amongst the engineering team.

The bottom line is that a PM’s ideal role is to make the right promises.

Over promising and under delivering creates a breach of trust.

Under promising and over delivering is great once in a while but could create a new expectation for your team that can be harder to unravel and potentially even lead to burn out.

Know the code enough to know whether the promise you’re making makes sense.

If you want to learn more than that, just understand that you will still have to defer to the engineers at every corner.

You can have an opinion as a PM who appreciates code but you will likely never have the final opinion.

It is your job as a product manager to know who to lean on and knowing when a decision has enough information to move forward.

If you love code and can’t stop thinking about coding decisions?.Consider that maybe the product manager role is simply a stepping stone.

I’m a Product Manager based out of San Francisco with interests rooted in product management, growth marketing and the intersection of technology with social impact.

I share insights around Product and career frequently on Medium or on Twitter at @kushaanshah.

All opinions are my own and not the views of my employer.

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