Product managers with technical backgrounds have steadily increased over the years.  Are heavy product manager technical skills good or bad for the product management profession?

It begs a lot of questions in which a yes or a no answer is entirely appropriate. Here are a few that come to mind. The Playbook:

  1. Is the transition into product management longer and more challenging if you’re technical than if you come from a customer-facing role? The answer is yes if your definition of product management is the classic text book definition. The most basic responsibility of product management is to deliver products that make customers measurably better at something that’s critical to the success of their business. To do that, product management has to understand the customer as well or better than they understand the product. However, the answer could just as easily be no if the hiring manager is technical and values technical skills more than customer domain, market and business skills.
  2. Can a product management team with a technical personality wield the same level of influence on the organization as a product management team with a sales, marketing or customer centric personality? It depends on the culture of the organization. Most people find it easier to relate to those with similar backgrounds. Techie CEO’s tend to build cultures with more technical people and sales and marketing CEO’s surround themselves with stronger sales and marketing people. All that aside, the market-facing WHO, WHAT & WHY questions still need to be answered in layman’s terms so that non-technical people understand the value of what the organization is building, selling marketing and delivering.
  3. Can product managers with strong technical backgrounds be equally strong in their business, marketing, sales and customer interaction skills? Many have made the transition successfully. Those that struggle have a difficult time shifting their comfort zone from HOW (the product) to WHO, WHAT & WHY (the market).

Your thoughts? Is this good or bad for the product management profession?  Why?

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