See you in 2023!
Welcome to my monthly newsletter. I'm an experienced software engineer, a tech mentor to product managers, and the founder of Skiplevel. Every month I share:
- technical skills and knowledge you should know
- tips for working with and collaborating with dev teams
- tips for non-engineers struggling with confidence in technology
- tips for managers looking to build a more technically literate team
Ask me anything (yep, anything) and I'll cover it in an upcoming newsletter issue!
2023 Event w/ Women In Product Bookclub
Webinar: Mastering Technical Literacy for PMs
I'm excited to announce that on Wednesday, January 11th @ 7pm EST I'll be hosting a webinar with Ellie Bennett from the Women In Product Bookclub on what it actually means to be technical, the 4 technical skills, what topics to focus on when becoming more technical, and action items to take to immediately become more technical!
*By signing up for the event, you'll automatically be added to the Women In Product Book Club listserv.
Q: I've been a PM for 6 years. Due to the recent layoffs I've been thinking about how to make myself more valuable for employers. I don't want to be a dev but I love working with devs and figuring out how things work so I'm hoping to transition into a Technical Product Manager role. What skills do I need to become a TPM?
Asked by Senior Product Manager at Series B startup
Dear Sr. Product Manager at Series B startup,
I definitely understand the desire to make your role more “sticky” given the current tech climate. Tech jobs are broadly seen as very safe so for the tech industry to be hit so hard is a big eye-opener for many. The silver lining is it gave that extra push you need to deepen your technical skills which opens up a whole new set of possibilities in your short and long-term career and that’s super exciting!
Understanding the PM vs. TPM role
The core difference between the product manager (PM) and a technical product manager (TPM) role is the focus of the role. At a very, very broad level, the software product build cycle can be divided into two parts: the product strategy part and the technical implementation part.
The product manager’s main focus is on the product strategy and the technical product managers focus is on technical implementation.
Therefore, in order to make the transition over from a product manager to a TPM, you need to start acquiring the skills necessary to work with engineering teams to execute the technical implementation portion of the product build cycle.
What are a TPM’s responsibilities?
Technical product managers support and work alongside engineers to build software according to the product specs without actually doing any of the building or coding (though the extent to how technically deep a TPM’s role is expected to go varies across teams and companies).
Here are a few functions you’ll be expected to perform as a TPM:
Working with engineering teams to define technical requirements and software architecture.
Once business and functional requirements are solidified, you’ll work with engineers on the technical design document to hash out the technical requirements and how the feature/product should be built, including architectural decisions.
Some examples of technical requirements include:
- API response time under 1 second
- The system will maintain availability of 99.99%
- Our codebase must have a test coverage of minimum 90%
Drive the development and delivery of technical features
As the TPM you’ll work closely with engineers to enable them to do their best work by removing roadblocks, clarifying requirements, and facilitating process.
- Process related. Being the scrum master and running backlog grooming and sprint planning every week.
- Cross-functional collaboration. Getting necessary materials from cross-functional teams on behalf of the engineering team. For example, UX mocks from designers or clarifying areas of confusion with product managers.
- Reducing workload. TPMs will often take on workload that doesn’t need to be done by a developer but is still important. For example, owning and writing documentation or responding to customer requests.
Ensure that the product meets the necessary technical standards and specifications
Bugs are often unintentionally built into software without a developer’s knowledge. As the TPM, you’ll want to ensure technical standards and specifications throughout the software development lifecycle by thoroughly testing each code release and then work with developers to correct any issues that come up.
Managing technical budgets and resources
Software services can get expensive and budgets are limited. Typically either the TPM or engineering manager will evaluate how much a service will cost and whether the budget allows for it. For example, when deciding on which cloud computing service to host your applications, as the TPM you may have to evaluate the features and benefits of each in addition to cost.
What skills do TPMs need?
Above all, technical product managers need a deep understanding of technology and is responsible for managing the technical aspects of a product.
Got a question? Ask me anything & I'll cover it in an upcoming issue!
This month's Tech Term You Should Know:
What's a RESTful API?
The term sounds fancy and very technical, but it's really just a set of rules for how to design an API and what it should look like. You can think of it like how in order for a poem to be labeled a Haiku, it has to follow a specific set of rules. Same concept, very different applications.
RESTful APIs are called RESTful b/c they follow the architectural style of Representational State Transfer (REST). REST is just a set of constraints for designing web services that focus on a system's resources.
One of the main benefits of using a RESTful API is that it allows for easy communication between different systems since it's based on the standard HTTP protocol (yes, the same http you see at the beginning of web addresses). There are other internet protocols out there that are a lot more complicated and hard to read (like SOAP) compared to the HTTP protocol.
Here are just a few of the rules an API must follow in order to be considered "RESTful":
- Requests contain an endpoint URL
- Includes an HTTP method (GET, POST, PUT, DELETE)
- Responses include a HTTP status code (200 OK, 400 Bad Request, 401 Unauthorized, etc..)
What do I need to know as a non-engineer?
Don't worry about not understanding every detail of what a RESTful API is, most devs couldn't tell you. Unless a developer specifically mentions SOAP for some reason, you would never know an API is a SOAP API, and even if you did, it's not relevant information to your job (unless the product you work on is an API product).
Just know that most modern APIs are RESTful APIs and have a general understanding of what it means when someone mentions RESTful APIs (set of rules for how to design an API and what it should look like). More importantly, you should just know what APIs and protocols are. If you had trouble following this section, you might want to enroll in the Skiplevel course where we cover it all, or do your own internet sleuthing.
Read more in-depth about RESTful APIs here.
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Missed the mid-month PM & Tech Jobs Newsletter?
Looking for a new PM role? My team and I decided to create a shorter newsletter issued twice a month with a list product role job listings from senior to entry-level roles.