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To be a product manager, do you have to know some basic CS skills?

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Eric’s Answer

Part of being a Product Manager is being an expert on the product that you're managing. If the product that you're managing is a software product, then having a basic understanding of how software works—which is the same thing as basic CS skills, I bet—can be helpful.

But even for software products, the MOST IMPORTANT skills have nothing to do with computer science. A product manager's job is to determine which problems your company should solve, and so you need to understand your target customers' problems better than anyone. It also requires strong analytical skills, because you get feedback from many sources as a PM and you are responsible for prioritizing all of the feedback and requests.

A product manager then works with a team of engineers to figure out HOW to develop a solution to solve these problems. Those engineers certainly should have CS skills if the product is a software solution, but it's really optional for a Product Manager. In fact, Product Managers with CS background can too easily get sucked into the HOW, which can constrain their thinking about which problem to solve. PMs without CS background actually have an advantage in this regard.

In short, I don't think CS skills are a requirement for being a good PM, but many software companies ask that PMs have a CS background because it's shows familiarity—and interest in—software development, which is how software products are built. You may encounter CS background as a "required skill" on job descriptions for PMs at software companies, but I don't think it's a requirement to do the job well. If you encounter this, you may want to apply anyway and include a cover letter explaining why you believe you can overcome your lack of CS experience/skills with your strong analytical skills.

This article is a bit old, but often-cited in the Bay Area as a seminal article on the role of a PM: https://a16z.com/2012/06/15/good-product-managerbad-product-manager/
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Tadeusz’s Answer

I like it this quote:

“You are kind of the mini-CEO – with all of the responsibility…but without any of the authority.”

-JOSH ELMAN – PARTNER AT GREYLOCK, FORMER PRODUCT MANAGER AT TWITTER, FACEBOOK, AND LINKEDIN


Pls visit below website and you will learn about five, basic technical skill necessary for each PM.

http://community.uservoice.com/blog/technical-skills-every-product-manager-should-know/

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Beth’s Answer

As a product manager, the most important tool in your kit will be communication and more specifically your ability to present a problem and convince others to come along with your vision of how the product can solve for it. Being able to understand what the engineering team is telling you and being able to respond in kind will be helpful but you won't need to have a deep understanding. From my personal experience, I was an English major but my first job out of college was doing web development. I learned a ton on the job for the next 10 years and then transitioned to business analyst and then product management. I haven't written code in many, many years but I do find that the basics are still the same and serve me well.

Beth recommends the following next steps:

Take a free class in codecademy or such to see how much you like doing developemnt, suggesting Python or javascript
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Daniel’s Answer

Depends *heavily* on the company. Some companies basically require a CS or similar degree (math, other engineering) and some basic understanding of relevant bits of CS. Other companies, you can get a PM job with essentially zero background.


So no, you don't *need* to have some basic CS skills, but it would be very helpful, and for some companies it'd be required.


I think it's important to add that some companies offer CS training on campus to those that want to learn. This can be a resource as well if you lack the experience. Jeremiah Froehling

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PJ’s Answer

It is and can be helpful but it should not be a limiting factor if you aspire to be a product manager! The most important skills in a PMs tool kit are communication, relationship building and understanding the user. If you can harness these skill you can be a great product manager without technical expertise.
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Jerin’s Answer

Dear Reva,


Being a product manager may or may not require CS Skills depending on the company and the team . But to be really successful in what you are doing there has to be some amount of CS Skills, most good Product Managers I have met were previously Software Developers. The job also becomes interesting and you know what the developers or architect is talking about when you have CS skills and experience , otherwise you will be blank when they talk about technical difficulties to achieve something.

Hope this helps.


Thanks and Regards

Jerin

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Raj’s Answer

Short answer is no you don't have to have CS skills to be a product manager. I think it does help but but not required. The way I think of being a PM is that I am a small business owner. I am responsible for all areas of my product, from the technology to assisting sales and service. I think the main areas to focus on is your customer and the market. All the other skills you can pick up as needed.
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Belinda’s Answer

The best product managers are finding the best solutions for a specific group of people with some set of problems which those users are willing to pay money to solve. Thus if the best solution is software based, then having software and basic CS skills would be very helpful. Similarly, if the problem being solve needs a physical solution (i.e. a better mouse trap), then having skills in how to work with wood or some other building materials would be very helpful.

As someone who started her career in a physical engineering field (civil engineering) with lots of book learning on physics and chemistry and then transferring into the software engineering, I found that the most transferrable skill and mindset for product management is curiosity with a practicing behavior to ask a lot of clarifying questions like: Why do you do that? Tell me more ...
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Kris’s Answer

You don't need to be able to write code, but you do need to have enough fluency in what code can do so that you can reason through (and sometimes explain) technical concepts on behalf of the business and effectively engage and problem solve while partnering with engineers who code and build products. I like how this article (https://medium.com/swlh/the-product-managers-guide-to-coding-66046ddf9867) states that "the ability to code gives you superpowers." Bootcamps and courses on sites like https://www.codecademy.com are great resources to build up some cursory skills and knowledge in the concepts...but ultimately, you need to possess some interest and empathy in the software development process in order to be an effective product manager.
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Quy’s Answer

I think CS Skills are not necessary but definitely helpful. As others have said, it really depends on the product that you are working on and the company's industry but in this evolving world, there seems to always be some type of technical/software element to any product, even if it's physical. I would refer to these 2 articles that I found useful on how technical a PM should be and how to acquire technical skills if you're non-technical:

https://medium.com/flowcap/technical-knowledge-a-pm-should-have-8a3983431d54
https://medium.com/flowcap/why-you-need-to-learn-how-to-code-as-a-product-manager-54815aea031b
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Tanvir’s Answer

It depends on how the product interacts with end users. Do you have to manage the software/drivers too to ensure the product is functioning as it should and being targeted to the right audience? Then CS skills may be required. Most of the time I find having general ideas on IT hardware and working with a mentor/colleague is the best way to transition to a PM role. Industry experience and knowledge of CS skills are added bonus.

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Varun’s Answer

It depends on the type of products/technology you are interested in managing as a Product Manager. If your focus is to manage Software related products then a background in CS or some basic level understanding of CS concepts would be helpful as the Product Manager role would require you to interact with Engineers, Architects etc. You would be able to better understand user requirements, gaps and work with Engineering to design a product that would help solve a customer problem.
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Lucie’s Answer

In my opinion, being a Product Manager is heavily relying on your skillsets to do the job rather than the industry knowledge.

I identified three skills that - I think - are important as a Product Manager:
- Cross-functional Teamwork: Leading without managing is something you will hear a lot as a Product Manager, you work with a Product team that does not report to you and you have to be able to: make the connections, understand everyone's way of working & pace, as well as motivations & needs, etc. Adapting is key here.
- Strategizing and Prioritizing: You have a sometimes lengthy product roadmaps and backlog items. You need to be able to: weight opportunities, understand priorities, see the bigger picture, etc. Organization here is the key.
- Data Analytics and Market Knowledge: Understanding markets and trends, gathering data and input, looking into numbers and health of your industry & product portfolio, implementing success metrics, measuring ROI and other ratios. Analytics here is the key.

There are as many types of Product Managers as there are Product Managers, and this is a non-exhaustive list of skills. Industry and product knowledge is definitely a plus but know that the skills to drive a team and leading through influencing is critical to be successful in this role.

Hope this helps,
Cheers
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Elisa’s Answer

This is a tricky question - I agree with what Eric Karlinsky already answered.

To build on that, you should know enough to be able to ask the right questions to your development team - but not to define the how yourself.

Building a great relationship with the engineering team will be key to your success. Without them, you won't be able to ship a product in time or shipping the product you had in mind. What has helped me throughout my career to build a trusted relationship with the engineering team was:
- making sure they understand the customer's problem they will be solving - this will help both of you when you will need to find tradeoffs
- make them feel proud of their mission. Keep them constantly posted on your customer's relationships
- be respectful of their time - be crystal clear on the product requirements, do not leave anything to interpretation
- ruthlessly prioritize your requirements and carve out a minimum viable product to ship first
- trust their judgment about resource estimation - but always ask questions about they got to that conclusion

I hope this helps!
Elisa


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Siobhán’s Answer

I don't believe that you need c# skills to be a good product manager. You could end up in a company which doesn't use c#. I would recommend understanding the different agile methodologies.

Having a high level understanding of lots of technologies that your company uses and a deep understanding of the processes behind making changes should be your main focus.
As the above comments say, having good relationships with the engineers who can fill you in on the technical side and why a task may take longer than expected, you don't necessarily need to know or understand the technical side but have connections with people who do know.
It does help if you have a technical background but I have worked with a lot of great product managers who don't have a technical background.
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