Management

LEARNING TO CODE, A REAL ASSET FOR PRODUCT MANAGERS

Change your life, learn to code ” – Le Wagon

The purpose of this article is to underline why technical skills are essential for a product manager. I will focus on the web development field and explain why Le Wagon coding bootcamp is the best place to become acquainted with coding and acquire the technical skills a product manager needs.

 

The necessary synergy between engineering and product management.

According to Julia Austin, a senior lecturer at the prestigious Harvard Business School, a product manager is a leader who has to deal with a large and diverse panel of stakeholders. The product manager (PM) has first to be business oriented and create a strong and durable relationship with the daily user of the product. The product manager has also to be in line with the management and the product “philosophy”. He/she has to collaborate with the management about the product evolution.

The PM is often a salesman but the most important role for the Product Manager – in order to align the product requirements with the market demands – is to insure the link between the development team and the product marketing team. Moreover, the PM is responsible for securing a good relationship between the engineering and the design team. For this reason, technical skills are a great asset which complements his or her business and marketing skills.

 

The success of the PM-engineers partnership philosophy:

Julia Austin defines three possible company philosophies about the PM’s function. In the first case, the PM drives engineering. In the second option, engineering drives product. Finally, the PM-engineering partnership constitutes a third possibility. The two first ones have to face major issues. When the PM drives engineering, the engineer doesn’t have a good overview of the product. And when the engineering drives the product, the needs of the customers are not often well prioritized.

Those drawbacks lead Austin to give more consideration to the third philosophy, the PM-engineering partnership which has many advantages. On the one hand, the engineers are involved together with the PM in the customers interviews so they get empathy for the customers’ needs. On the other hand, it is easier for the PM to define and explain to the engineering the prioritization and the project planning. In the last configuration, it is essential that the PM possesses strong technical understanding of what is being coded.

 

The best asset of a PM: mastering technical issues.

It would be wrong to think that the PM needs technical understanding in order to tell engineers how to code. I believe that the main concern of the PM must be to insure the quality of his or her relationship with the stakeholders. The ability of the PM to understand the work and the needs of the engineers will increase the mutual trust and respect between the two parties. A good understanding of the technical requirements and limits of a product or a new feature gives the PM the capacity to set up the priorities and create an efficient planning.

His or her ability to translate business into technical requirements, and vice-versa, allows to establish a good communication between the clients, the management, the marketing, commercial and engineering teams. The PM has a central role to play in the company organisation.

 

Change your life, learn to code.

They are many ways to learn how to code. I first started as an autodidact and then decided to do a coding Bootcamp. After some screening, I decided to join Le Wagon. The program of this coding school is made for engineers, marketers, bankers, students or even bakers or florists. There is no need to be an expert in computer science. The strength of Le Wagon is its capacity to adjust the teaching to each student’s needs. Even someone who has worked for 10 years in the web industry may still learn a lot thanks to their fresh approach to coding and the team spirit which characterizes the pedagogy

Some students attend Le Wagon training in order to become web developer, others plan to launch their own project (they are likely to find some co-founder at Le Wagon!). Others with a business and marketing background, like myself, wish to improve their technical skills in order to become product manager or to be the initiative-owner of a scrum team.

I first thought that Le Wagon slogan, “Change your life, learn to code” was just a very good marketing slogan. I wasn’t expecting to be able to hack the NASA or become a billionaire. Well, I still can’t do it and Bill Gates didn’t call me yet. However, I learned how to code and it changed my future plans and expectations.

Thanks to Le Wagon and Mandarine Gestion, a portfolio management company where I co-manage and code IT projects, I am able to understand the limits and the strength of coding and better work together with the engineers.

 

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References:

What It Takes To Become a Great Product Manager, by Julia Austin. Harvard Business Review – December 13, 2017

Adopter les méthodes agiles, by Darrel K. Rigby, Jeff Sutherland and Hirotaka Takeuchi. Article published on a special edition of the Harvard Business Review France – Winter 2017

 

About the author

Baptiste Horn