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During last 13 years of my professional life, I came across many who call themselves pure technology product managers who have very little understanding of how the underlying technology works. While I have nothing against them, here is why I think knowing how to code really really helps especially in startup settings.
I know the users
As a product manager, you have talked to lot of users and have a grasp about problems users are facing and how your product can solve them. If you know how to code, it’s easier for you to translate this understanding in a language programmer understands.It’s especially important to know which layer of software stack the problem needs to be solved in. This helps reduce lot of ping pong developers love to play among themselves.Also you can control the User experience much better.
I know it’s possible
As developers we have our own minds. If we do not share the passion of the product manager to implement a certain feature, we come up with 3 primary excuses
i. It’s not possible to implement this in this technology or platform
ii. It will take too long to implement this
iii. If I implement this, the system will be unstable.
As a product manager if you know how to get what you need, you can handle these questions better in terms of addressing the real problem. I sometimes just ‘demonstrate’ how I can implement this. ..:-)
I know the priorities
As a developer one of the toughest challenge we face is which task to take up first out of the 50 that are assigned to our name. So as a product manager, I can help them organise their tasks better if I know which technical task is going to have impact on which part of my business.
I know which feature/bugfix helps me sell more
It’s actually related to point 3. I know which fix/ feature I need to acquire my next bunch of customers. So knowing how to implement it helps you make sure your team is staffed with right people with right skills.
If it’s urgent then I can do it myself
This is really the best part. During last 5 years of startup journey, I can’t remember number of times I have just coded the features I needed for a customer demo just night before. Trust me it’s liberating, especially since I love coding!