Strategies to Enhance Technical Skills in Product Management

Welcome to our Product Newsletter, a biweekly email highlighting top discussions, and learning resources for product managers.

What We Will Cover In This Edition:-

Top Discussions: 

1) AI/ML project manager with three to four years of experience (non-technical background)

2) What is the extent to which non-technical PMs truly are non-technical?

3) How can I increase my technical proficiency as a product manager?

Top Learning Resources:

1. REST API

2. What is DevOps?

3. What are Web Hooks?

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Top Discussions

Question 1AI/ML project manager with three to four years of experience (non-technical background)

Throughout my career of six to seven years, I have specialized on artificial intelligence and machine learning product management. I joined an established company as an AI/ML PM after breaking into the field at a big professional services firm and working at an F50.

– Terry Anthony

Discussion

A] As an AI PM, I believe it is absolutely necessary to have a strong understanding of programming languages such as Python and R, as they are commonly used in AI development. Additionally, knowledge of machine learning frameworks like TensorFlow and PyTorch is crucial for implementing AI algorithms effectively. These technical tools enable me to effectively communicate with developers and make informed decisions regarding the integration of AI into our product. Furthermore, familiarizing myself with natural language processing (NLP) libraries, such as NLTK and SpaCy, has been extremely beneficial in understanding and working with textual data. Having a grasp on cloud computing platforms like AWS or Google Cloud is also essential in efficiently managing AI infrastructure and deploying models at scale. In summary, possessing proficiency in these technical tools not only facilitates collaboration with developers but also empowers me to steer our AI projects in the right direction.

– Dhiraj Mehta

B] Let’s speak about how many companies, my own included, use the phrases artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) as if they were magic bullets when interacting with clients. In order to become knowledgeable enough to reject as ridiculous the request to “integrate AI into our product,” I need to enroll in several programs, read a lot of literature, and attend innumerable interviews.

– Mario Romero

C] What industry are you in?
What were the types of products? recommender systems? Classification systems, etc.?
How big was your tech team + composition?
Did you do 0-1, or did you build on an established product?
Did you work on the infrastructure layer, the HCI components in the front end? Both?

– Kane Morgan

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Question 2) What is the extent to which non-technical PMs truly are non-technical?

It has occurred to me that engineers and account executives both transition from SDE to PM positions.

Product managers at tech companies, do you ever discover that your deficiency in fundamental technical skills restricts the effectiveness of your position?

– Damian Marshall

Discussion

A] I understand what an API is, I have attempted to accomplish nothing after logging into Postman twice and fiddling around.

My coding expertise is confined to the HTML I developed for my MySpace page more than fifteen years ago.

Although I am well-versed in SQL, I have not utilized it in over five years.
About five years ago, I constructed an ML algorithm in Excel for an MBA introductory data analytics course (following step-by-step instructions). I am familiar with how ML operates. This skill has not been utilized since.

I’ve introduced two AI products—one of which was an entirely new product that utilized NLP, and the other of which was a platform-wide function. I have a limited understanding of the operation of both of these technologies. I am able to define a knowledge graph and comprehend its advantageous nature for artificial intelligence.

To provide context, I worked for series C+ startups as an implementations consultant, MBA, and PM. Throughout my three years as a PM:

  • Two brand new products were introduced by me from zero to launch.
  • I assisted in the evaluation of three acquisitions, one of which we ultimately decided against acquiring.
  • I oversaw initiatives to radically redefine the user experience for two distinct platforms.
    have introduced an abundance of additional features.
  • During my tenure at two B2B SaaS companies, I was responsible for developing one AI product, two platform products, and one PLG product.
    commenced employment as an IC, was elevated to group PM with responsibility for a three-product portfolio, was laid off, and is now returning to the role of IC.

I am convinced that technical expertise is grossly undervalued for the vast majority of PMs, with the clear exception of clients who are technically savvy.

– Kane Morgan

B] In my opinion, it is more crucial to comprehend the architecture and systems of your organization than to engage in informal discussions with the developers. When faced with the necessity to formulate a product roadmap or arrive at a swift decision, that knowledge will prove to be considerably more advantageous. Having a deep understanding of the technical aspects of your organization allows you to make informed decisions and prioritize tasks effectively. It enables you to anticipate potential challenges and identify opportunities for innovation. Additionally, possessing technical expertise can also enhance your credibility and ability to communicate effectively with cross-functional teams, ultimately leading to successful product development and delivery.

– Jesus Rojas

C] One can easily feel ignorant and non-technical when surrounded by specialists and experts throughout the day. However, the ability to collaborate with one’s team and effectively communicate requirements and roadmaps is far more satisfactory.

Then, after consulting with ordinary (non-technical) end users and business stakeholders, you realize that anything even remotely technical must be simplified further or simply glossed over.

How specialized is a PM? Without prior experience as a developer, individuals possessing only rudimentary knowledge lack genuine expertise. And that is entirely acceptable.

Simply possess the necessary technical knowledge to comprehend your product and to communicate with your team in terms of feature planning and refinement. Acquire knowledge of APIs and microservices, comprehend the advantages and disadvantages of particular technological options, identify significant events to document, and know how to access analytical data (or who to consult for assistance in obtaining it).

Be the intermediary, the translator, the master of nothing and a jack-of-all-trades. Facilitate alignment between the business and technical experts by tying everything together. Engage in communication. Help to facilitate.

– Dhiraj Mehta

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Question 3) How can I increase my technical proficiency as a product manager?

At a large public company, I am a young PM with a non-technical background who presently owns a platform product.

I hold a business degree and gained one year of technical sales experience at a smaller startup in the same industry (SaaS ERP) prior to beginning this position two years ago.

I am willing to develop my inadequate technical expertise.

Any advice is highly appreciated.

– Natalie Smith

Discussion

A] I shall describe what I did.

  • Learn SQL. Begin by enrolling in a course and examining some of the tables of features that you frequently utilise. Perform some rudimentary queries to obtain the desired results from the first table, then study joins with two or more tables, and so forth.
  • Install Sourcetree and local code on your computer. Obtain it in an Ideation as well, or utilise Notepad++ or Sublime. Examine any flaws. Constantly reproduce them, become an authority on certain features, and ensure that you are personally present to inspect for defects. Determining which line of code (or section) a problem fails on will teach you a great deal; you may even be required to request access to the logging. You will eventually deduce that a portion of them are null/nill errors. Understand fundamental data types such as string, integer, and decimal.
  • Become proficient at calling an API endpoint. Commence with a leisure period. Following GET data, offset, and pagination, you post/put. Gain an understanding of how xml and Json function. Determine how to resolve problems there as well.

Request that developers demonstrate how they think and do. Particularly when half of what they say is beyond your comprehension. Minor components of the puzzle gradually gain coherence.
Greetings from a PM who will begin working as an integration specialist next month. Stakeholders and hippos, farewell.

– Pankaj Jain

B] In which areas do you perceive the most significant deficiencies reside? Does your lack of comprehension pertain to the architecture of your product? Do you encounter difficulties in comprehending the technical obstacles or compromises that the development team is deliberating? Are your consumers primarily technical in nature? If so, do you encounter challenges in comprehending their requirements or practical applications?

An exceptionally vast array of technical knowledge is accessible to any PM. However, it is possible that a more limited range of factors will have the greatest influence on you, contingent upon the requirements of your position.

– Shiyao Liu

C] This type of subject fascinates me because it is contingent upon the definition of “technical” and your own expectations. Typically, the reason you feel insufficiently technical is because of the following:
You observe that other individuals in your role are more “technical” in nature than you are.
You are engaging in discussions that you do not completely comprehend (or only partially comprehend). If your issue is with

  1. I would seek out that individual and make an effort to comprehend how they arrived at that point in order to determine whether or not it makes logic to follow in their footsteps. if not! Should the issue lie with
  2. Feel free to raise your hand and inquire about the meaning or operation of the given term, for example. I “learned” technical information through inquisitiveness, attending a QA session on a backend feature, and posing a thousand questions. Additionally, reading engineering journals is extremely beneficial. Individuals who elucidate the process of construction. Observing tech lectures (pydata, media.ccc.de, and the NDCC conference are all highly recommended): I used to have a bi-weekly meeting with a developer from the team at a previous employer, during which we would each bring a product or development-related topic for discussion. He defined what an API is; I attempted to summarize and comprehend it thoroughly, among other things.

However, keep in mind that your primary responsibility and expectation is to identify the issues rather than to find solutions. You may actively communicate and interact with the engineering team when you encounter or discover a problem, but that is ultimately beyond their purview.

– Pankaj Jain

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Top Learning Resources

APIs are tools that enable software systems to communicate and share data. They simplify complex functions and are accessible through easy-to-use interfaces. There are different types of APIs, including internal, public, and vendor APIs. Major implementations include SOAP, REST, and gRPC. Developers need to understand endpoints, methods, request bodies, and headers to make API requests. API usage includes authentication, error handling, and caching. Advanced topics include Basic and Bearer authentication for secure access and status codes for error handling.

What Is DevOps

DevOps is a process that ensures software works effectively at scale by combining key practices. It involves pre-release building, continuous integration and delivery (CI/CD), infrastructure management, and monitoring. The rise of cloud technologies and internet-based consumption has transformed software delivery, making it more complex to manage. Understanding DevOps is essential for successful software deployment and maintenance, with companies like JFrog and Datadog deeply embedded in the DevOps workflow.

What Are Web Hooks?

Webhooks are active APIs that automatically send data to other applications when specific events occur. They eliminate the need for constant polling for updates, making them an efficient solution for event-driven data communication. Examples include Stripe notifying newsletter systems about new customers, and not all applications support webhooks. They are suitable for quick and straightforward integrations, making them suitable for tasks involving basic data transmission between applications.

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