Essential Technical Product Manager Skills

Updated on January 19th, 2022
Essential Technical Product Manager Skills

Landing a job as a technical product manager is as rewarding as it is taxing.

As of January 2022, Zippia reports that technical product managers earn within the $119,000 - $120,000 range on average. According to data shared by Country Economy, this is more than 15 times the minimum wage amount in the United States. 

High earnings imply a need for a unique skill set. As product professionals, technical product managers need to dominate a diverse range of skills.

This guide will break down those major skills that technical product managers need to have under their belt in order to succeed at their job.

1. Business Management Skills

Hard skills are those abilities that technical product managers can demonstrate and measure over the course of time. Soft skills are those that affect how you work. These types of skills are more difficult to measure in an objective way.

Let’s kick things off with the hard skills that technical product managers need to dominate.

As a technical product manager, you can benefit from sharpening your skills in business management. While most associate this type of job with a need to handle complex technology, technical product managers, there is more to this role.

Broad competencies in business strategy will boost your chances for success.

McKinsey Strategic 3 Horizon Model

Despite their technical background and knowledge, a technical PM still requires a business-focused mindset. Just like a traditional product manager, they keep product vision and business impact in view. 

The key difference is that they do so with a deeper understanding of what is and isn’t possible, thanks to their technical background.

Courses like the Product Manager Certification Program from Product Manager HQ will help to shape your understanding of product development from a business point of view. 

Product Manager Certification

2. IT Skills

A TPM requires a sound foundation in information technology infrastructure. 

It’s the job of a technical product manager to work with cross-functional teams. These include analysts, developers, engineers, programmers, and more. 

Given that these teams are integral in the software development process, technical product managers need to be fluent in the language and jargon used in these processes.

If not, technical product managers will have a difficult time communicating with the team and understanding their requirements. It will also make it challenging for the team to operate since the leader lacks the technological background to manage them in an effective way.

Our PMHQ Technical Product Manager Certificate Program will help to ground you in the fundamentals of technology from a product development perspective.

3. Project Management Skills

Technical product managers benefit from having sound knowledge of project management practices. 

Granted, product management is a different discipline from project management.

However, there are more similarities between the two than there are differences. By focusing on the practices related to time management, team motivation, organization, and work distribution, technical product managers gain a strong understanding of how to manage teams.

This will go a long way in helping you to succeed when you have to liaise with your product team.

4. Data Analysis Skills

Analytics are integral to understanding customer behavior and current market trends. This type of information helps technical PMs make decisions and strategize when it comes to future product development.

Data Analytics Model

Some of the most popular data analytics tools available are:

  • Apache Spark
  • Apache Store
  • Excel
  • Google Data Studio
  • PIG and HIVE
  • Python
  • R

5. SQL Skills

In order to analyze data, for marketing purposes or otherwise, technical product managers need to know how to find and extract stored data.

Structured Query Language (SQL) is the standard programming language used to communicate with databases.

One of the best ways of doing this is by creating and running your own SQL queries. Once the team has extracted the data, the technical product manager has to analyze it. 

For that reason, the SQL learning curve should involve learning the language itself and also how to manipulate the data it provides. 

6. A/B Testing Skills

Technical project managers need to understand and identify best-performing options. Often, the best way to do this is by utilizing A/B testing. This is when two variations of the same product are tested against each other.

The purpose of this test is to understand which version will perform better in the marketplace. Analytics software such as Google Analytics is often used, but in other situations, in-person testing may be the better option. Either way, analytical skills are a large part of A/B Testing.

7. Agile Development Skills

Any software development team that wants to expedite the best possible value to their customers while keeping an eye on quality should be following agile methodology.

The goal of agile project management is to develop better software. The old-school waterfall methodology involved mountains of documentation before any coding even began and everything was sequential. The agile strategy is more cyclic—faster and more flexible.

Agile development creates an environment that allows for better communication between managers, developers, testers, and customers.

8. Communication Skills

We’ve already discussed some of the hard skills that technical product managers need to have under their belt. 

Leading a technical project management team will require a variety of soft skills as well. You’ll need to bring more than technical skills to the company since your responsibilities will vary.

Bearing in mind that you’re a manager, your soft skill competencies should include some emphasis on communication.

Without communication, it’s impossible to get through the development process. Product strategy, research, marketing, team building, and much more are included in this role.

Framework for Communication Strategy

  • TPMs will need to know how to communicate effectively with those on their team and with any stakeholder involved in the product development. They’ll also need to know what to communicate. These communications can either be written or stated verbally. They include:

    Business strategies
  • Responsibilities
  • Goals
  • Tasks and activities
  • Progress updates

9. Leadership Skills

To be a good leader means more than the ability to communicate with your team. You also need to listen to them, motivate them, coach and mentor them, problem-solve, earn their trust, reward their achievements, and much more.

Without the above, technical product managers won’t lead their team from product vision to end-user.

10. Organizational Skills

Imagine a disorganized manager attempting to navigate a product vision roadmap. One who’s juggling his own team and all the cross-functional teams that are part of the process.

In order to coordinate people and processes, technical product managers must have strong organizational effectiveness skills.

11. Time Management Skills

The goal for technical product managers should be showing efficiency in their distribution of time.

This can be difficult to do when all aspects of your job are important. However, try to find areas where you can cut back. One of the biggest time wasters can be meetings.

Meetings are necessary, but meetings that aren’t well planned or led can be nothing but a giant time suck. Meeting management is critical. Each should be scheduled with a clear outcome in view. Stick to your roadmap and stay on time.

Even if you’re managing multiple projects at once with varying deadlines, with strong time management skills you’ll be able to prioritize any task and complete your projects by their deadlines.

The Role of a Technical Product Manager

The focus of a technical product manager should be around working with the engineering team on product functionality and core specifications. And since products can be for consumer or corporate needs, Technical Product Managers (TPMs) need to know how to serve the needs of both. 

It’s the technical product manager’s job to ensure customers end up with a product that will fulfill their goals, both short and long-term.

Technical product managers are responsible for the success of any product the company designs. They achieved this by working cross-functionally with all teams involved in the development, marketing, sales, and product support.

Based on the above, it should be easy to understand why a technical product manager job requires an engineering and design background.

For further clarity, it should be understood that a technical product manager isn’t just a product manager with some additional technical know-how. 

In many cases, often depending on the size of a company, a team may include both a product manager and a technical product manager. This ensures the team has one person whose focus is on coordinating the business aspects of the product, and another whose focus is on the technical side of product development.

How To Be an Effective Technical Product Manager

You’ve got the education, you’ve got the experience, and you have the necessary technical background, but what steps can you take to be a successful TPM? 

To be at the top of your game, work on the following. 

Complete A Certification Program

Never stop learning. 

Even if you have the degrees in schooling mentioned above, consider going a step further and take a certification program that can help you develop and strengthen your industry knowledge.

Pay Attention to Your Communication Skills

Without good communication, you’ll never be effective in your role as a product manager. Continue to develop necessary skills, perhaps even improving your public speaking and presentation skills.

Hone Your Leadership Skills

There are a variety of ways to better your leadership skills, perhaps by volunteering in your community or taking classes. 

Be Adaptable

Change is inevitable. Be ready to adapt and be flexible when faced with the unexpected—shifting priorities, or problems.

Conclusion

Whether your goal in wanting to better understand the role of a technical product manager is in hopes of becoming one yourself or hiring one for your team, the above information should have provided you with all the groundwork you need.

While the role is similar to that of a product manager in many ways, TPMs bring additional core skills to the table with their backgrounds in computer sciences, software development, and more. 

The focus of product managers is the 'why' of a product, while technical PMs are focused on the how. Taking that a step further, PMs look to the needs of the customer or end-user, but TMPs keep their eye on the product from vision to final development.