The best and worst traits of PMs I've worked with

The best and worst traits of PMs I've worked with

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!

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Q: I am curious to know about the traits of the best PM you ever worked with - what set them apart? On the flip side, what about the most difficult PM you ever worked with - what were the biggest challenges?

Asked by Product Manager @ SAP
Ask me anything and I'll cover it in an upcoming issue!

Dear PM @ SAP,

Great question! And luckily I have a lot of experience to share.

I’ve worked as a developer with a great number of product and project managers at various company stages and levels of project/technical difficulty, but I learned the most working with product managers at Amazon.

At Amazon I met some of the best product managers I’ve ever worked with… and ironically, also some of the worst.

The three things that set them apart really came down to three areas:

  • Willingness to improve your technical skills
  • Ability to bridge the pm<->engineering communication gap
  • Having a “enabling” vs. “telling” mindset

Willingness to learn technical skills

Engineers are notorious for being a little prickly and can be intimidating to work with, especially at the beginning. But as soon as you show even the slightest bit of being willing to understand them, and put some effort into trying things yourself before asking for their help, engineers will open up and this will go a long way towards building a rapport with them.

And here’s why…

Because as any real techie knows, building and maintaining software is really hard and an engineer’s backlog of tasks is never-ending.

So understandably, engineers are weary of product managers that want to add more onto their backlog. They’re much more willing to build a rapport with you if they feel you’re willing to understand them and help alleviate their work.

To sum it up:

  • The best product managers I’ve worked with are curious about what I’m working on, willing to understand my work and the technical aspects of their product, and willing to get their hands dirty figuring out problems themselves or as much as possible before asking me for their help.
  • The worst product managers I've worked with don’t care to learn technical skills, and/or feel they’re not “smart” enough to understand the technical side of things. Whenever there is a problem, they looked to me for all the solutions instead of trying to do some of the legwork themselves.

Got a question? Ask me anything & I'll cover it in an upcoming issue!

This month's Tech Term You Should Know:

Async and Synchronous processing
In software, when you execute something synchronously, you wait for the task to finish before moving on to another task (i.e. API finishes scheduling an online class before sending an email confirmation).

When you execute something asynchronously, you can move on to another task before it finishes (i.e. API request fetching a user's order history while another API request fetches the user's account information).

In software development, developers would execute tasks asynchronously as much as possible and where appropriate in order to improve latency. 

Hot Twitter Takes 👀

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Did someone say product management and technical feasibility? 😍

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