Product Managers working on technical products often need to address terms such as APIs or have some basic understanding of HTML to convey design changes. In such scenarios, having a bit of a coding background goes a long way in delivering what you actually want.
Girish, a coding evangelist and product consultant, addresses why coding skills are important for a Product Manager, and presents ways in which coding knowledge has helped him in the past. He also recommends a set of courses that Product Managers can take to stay up to date in the technical world.
The Coding Evangelist – Girish Kumar
Girish Kumar is a Product Consultant at Tivix, Inc where he consults on the product and engineering aspects of the business. He is also a mentor at a startup called Cyber Smart Security, where he leads the tech team. He also works at Uptree, an Education based company striving to bridge the gap between high school students/graduates and the existing job opportunities.
Why Coding is a Useful Skill for Product Managers
Product Managers play a key role in feasibility, estimation and managing expectations. Trying to explain to business executives with minimal technical experience on why something takes three months instead of three weeks, is difficult. For example, every feature needs a solid backend implementation and making this understandable to the business executives in terms of money is quite hard. You must be able to convey to them that feature “x” will bring in “y” dollars of revenue. And in order to do this, minimal coding skills are required.
Fitbits for Dogs and Morning Milkshakes
Girish narrates an example from his professional career where he was required to build technical products for pets – a Fitbit for a dog, for example. The most challenging part for him was to understand why his customers wanted such a device for their pets. Was it to track them? Or keep a check on their daily activities? Eventually, he realized that all his customers wanted was to stay more connected with their pets. And his strong technical background helped him answer these questions and find a more apt solution.
Girish highlights an important case study of McDonald’s where the answer to why milkshakes were sold in huge numbers in the mornings, was found. He tells that most people driving to work at 8:00 AM preferred milkshakes over burgers because they were easier to manage, and the thin straw would help them slowly suck the liquid till they reached work – thereby keeping them full. This is a classic example of the Jobs to be Done framework which aims at solving a customer’s problem empathetically.
A Product Manager is often required to not take away the time of his developers or designers and get in their way of work. Learning coding is actually useful when you are trying to make a point to your team or are working on a technical product. This way, you can cut down on the consulting costs offered to developers and designers. Having basic coding skills will help you communicate with your teammates in the technical language that they speak and take some load off of them when you implement their basic work.