Is coding strictly necessary for aspiring PMs? No. Is coding important for Product Managers? Yes! In the right hands, it can take your skills to next level. Learn why!
People who work in tech tend to forget about how they are seen by most of the public.
Family and friends who know that you work at a startup or at a digital solutions company are likely to believe that you spend hours looking at number-filled computer screens. The imagery of 90s films and more recent hits like The Social Network makes them think that you are one of those people. From this assumption, it follows that you must be really good at coding, even math!
But if you work in product, you know the truth. You do not need to be a programming genius to lead a team in tech. Actually, many other skills are way more important. The famous PM triad of user design, business acumen and development skills can work in many different ways.
In fact, here in Product School, we have observed some of the most amazing transitions. Product Managers come in all shapes and sizes. At the same time, one key part of working in product is being open to acquiring new skills. Find out below how, even if it is not essential to your activities, having coding knowledge can help your product career a lot.
What is Coding all about?
In short, coding implies the ability to use a programming language, a piece of hardware and some sort of platform to create a digital product: a website, a program, a mobile app… all the way to a currency, like Bitcoins!
At the beginning of the Internet era personal computers were not even a general trend among the population; only certain institutions, such as universities, large companies or government bodies had access to the relevant hardware.
Fast forward to today, and now everyone carries a tiny computer twenty-four hours a day. Even in the developing world, the smartphone revolution has allowed previously isolated groups to become empowered. This is the strength of technology. There are countless governments and charities involved in teaching code as a standard skill for everyone being born across the world today. Coding schools, coding bootcamps, and coding academies are all the rage!
Of course, those working at the heart of the most successful organizations take this knowledge beyond its elementary stage.
What are the benefits of being a coder? Let’s check them out!
Coding gives you ultra-vision
Well, you (most likely) will not be able to see through “the matrix” we all live in. However, in your daily life, this awareness of programming helps you notice little details. How a certain website is built, why is it that this form was picked… Whether you are purchasing your holidays, applying for a job or ordering a gift, you will become much more of a “critical” user of a lot of services.
You might think this is meaningless but think back on all those times where a malfunctioning website or app let you down. Coders usually understand why things are down and are therefore much more patient or even proactive in solving certain problems. All in all, programmers are benefited with special “reading glasses” that become very helpful now that we basically spend 50% of our time in the digital world.
Coding teaches you humility
In the old days, it was the case that those involved in certain professions were definitely more appreciative of the efforts involved. Mechanics tended to be car lovers; carpenters noticed how a certain table or chair was made. Being aware of the process makes you much more respectful of other people’s work: this includes software, of course.
As a user, the easiness of providing feedback online has seemingly increased the number of angry mobs. Every time there is a problem with a relevant social media platform, for instance, thousands of people will set themselves on fire with rage and frustration. When you are a coder, rather, you become more interested in what happened and how they could solve the problem. You know that coding is neither useless nor a superhuman ability: it is just a professional skill, that can make brilliant products but also fail miserably. This makes you a better human being in the times of online fury.
Coding makes you practical
There is nothing worse than embarking on a project for which you have no limits. What do we mean by this? Well, as an external participant in virtual communities, you tend to forget how much work and planning goes into these non-physical universes. Most of all, you forget the “physicality” of these tasks: the actual hours they take, the number of people involved, the necessary hardware, the budget for software tools…
A coder or programmer can devise a mental map, because they know more or less how tough an action can be: it is not the same to write an email than to design a website. Rather, they are able to predict levels of effort with exactitude and add limits to these apparently “non-physical” labor.
Coding is the future
Forget the cliché. Just think of the past decade and the oncoming one.
We live in a time of transition. While ten years ago it was possible that large sections of society still ignored most of the possibilities offered by Internet technologies; today most people live, work and even love via these networks.
But, in the next ten years, the exponential deployment of the Internet of Things (IoT) is going to make even the most normal appliances (from your refrigerator to your shower) a point of contact with this huge, virtual world. Just like people at the turn of the last century had to get used to electricity and its never-ending applications; the planet today will have to normalize digital everyday objects.
And coders will be at an advantage to understand and use them.
Should we just leave Coding to the engineers?
What do you think? A resounding no! This is what all the people joining coding bootcamps, coding schools and coding academies are thinking.
Actually, if knowing about all the advantages that coders already have has not convinced you yet, look at it from the perspective of a Product Manager. There are many reasons why coding can help you be a better product leader.
- Save time and money. This one is simple. Whether your operation is big or small, resorting to other teams is always bound to take some time. And even if you design the perfect product roadmap, you will encounter certain bottlenecks that will benefit from the intervention of a technical-minded person. That can be you!
- Know your limits… and horizons! As stated above, programmers and coders bring the physical elements into virtual work. Product Management involves a lot improvising, but also requires precise planning. If you know from the start how far can you push, you are likely to avoid pitfalls. Knowing what is feasible is one of the best abilities out there; you might even be more capable than you thought!
- Gain independence. Let’s face it: being a Product Manager but depending on “translators” to complete your tasks kind of sucks. It’s already tough to be more of an “influencer” and less of an actual “manager“; but having to rely on engineering teams for every little thing can be extremely tiring (and hurt your self-respect!).
- Better communication with engineers. On the flip side, actually speaking their language will make you improve your communications. Software Engineers often have to deal with teams who ignore or even do not respect their work. Show them they have an ally in the Product Management team!
- Improved public speaking. As a Product Manager, you need to know what you are talking about. Sure, can sit down with your team and prepare a really good speech. But if you want to reach your audience, you should not have to act. Having a technical background helps you with expressing confidence to any public, regardless of whether they are internal stakeholders or external segments that have to be convinced of your greatness.
- Stay active. Product Management encourages you to remain open to new knowledge. It is not enough with achieving your dream position: you need to keep training, keep learning. In tech, the industry can change in a matter of months. If you want to stay a shaper and not a taker, you must absorb as much new information as possible. Coding is one of the best avenues forward.
- Build your own products. For both aspiring and established PMs, the magic of product can drown when you are working for somebody else. Easy solution! Learn some programming and work on your stuff. Actually, if you are out of the game, having a side project can be a fantastic catalyst towards your next objective. Coding is fundamental in this case.
Coding is Important for Product Managers!
When we first started offering Product Management courses, we knew that all backgrounds were open to making the jump. Here, we have shown you how coders hold some advantages over the rest of us, common mortals. What is more, Product Management professionals with coding abilities basically gain superpowers. They can save time and money, develop better relationships and fully benefit from the exciting chance of working in tech.
In fact, tech companies are increasingly demanding PMs with technical backgrounds. This is something we noticed when working with corporate partners to train their teams. Thankfully, there are now plenty of options: coding schools, coding bootcamps and coding academies are opening all over the place.
In our case, we took our time to understand the needs of the market. We thought carefully and developed our own curriculum, specifically designed so managers can start exploiting their tech skills from day zero after graduating. The coding course is led and taught by experts in the field. At the moment, we have coding schools in Boston, Austin, Orange County and many more locations. You can even sign up online!
Feel free to check out more details on our courses: there are plenty of ways to learn to code today.
What do you think? Is Coding THAT important?