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Should You Stay Up to Date with Technical Skills As a Product Manager?

Alignment
Innovation / Experiment
Different Skillsets
Personal Growth
Ownership
Coaching / Training / Mentorship
New PM
New Manager

19 January, 2022

Nani Nitinavakorn

Nani Nitinavakorn

Sr Product Owner at Revolut

Nani Nitinavakorn, the Sr Product Owner at Revolut, describes how she keeps learning hard skills to increase motivation and respect her team.

Importance of Technical Skills as a Manager

In my experience, many individuals who attain a leadership position forget about the essential principles that make up their roles. Many develop their soft skills, including people management and communication, all of which are important to the overall success of a leader but won’t have as much of an impact. I’ve found that keeping technical skills up to date is a vital way to stay in touch with the ones I manage and be able to be connected to their day-to-day work.

I experienced this at a previous company I worked at, where I was forced to learn a new coding language for the first time. At first, I didn’t understand how learning a coding language would benefit me, as this coding was for data analysts. In the end, however, it became very crucial that I learned the coding language because these data analysts had a very low bandwidth as they were working for many product owners at once.

How to Keep Learning Technically

Learn Data Visualizers:

From my previous experience, I knew that technical skills could be useful for a product owner to have. When I transitioned companies, I discovered a similar problem where our data visualizer had a backlog due to a lack of data analysts and an overload of products. The other product owners were forced to wait for their data, but I took the initiative and learned the system myself. By doing so, I lessened the turnaround time for my products and could develop much faster.

Learn New Programming Languages:

In my current position, I manage data scientists who have incredible technical abilities. To stay on their level and understand their day-to-day tasks, I took a Python course to learn a high-level coding language. After gaining these new skills, I found that I could converse with my analysts about specific methods and challenges they faced. I no longer felt like an outsider when it came to my team’s technical skills, which increased my connection with my team. Learning the hard skills increased the motivation of my team and increased my confidence as a manager.

Innovate Further:

While developing technical skills increases a team’s motivation and understanding, it also allows you to innovate further. In my career, I’ve used machine learning capabilities to spark change and discover new techniques for previously used methods.

Secondly, when you increase your hard skills, you are optimizing for yourself and the company. I think of my career as a discounted cash flow; the model used to evaluate a company. I think not about the amount I am currently being compensated but how much I can make in the future. If I stop learning, I will not only halt my potential revenue, but I will also bring less value to our company in the future, meaning my progression throughout the company may be slowed.

Learn to Invest in Yourself

  • Investing in learning will bring value to yourself currently and in the future. When thinking about creating value, think towards the future as well as in the current moment.
  • Management is about thinking ahead and providing a vision to follow. To win the heart of your team, you need to show them that you can get your hands dirty and work with them. These actions will bring your team together, provide you with their respect, and increase their motivation.
  • As a product manager, your team will become more motivated because you can paint the vision much clearer with your technical abilities. Without these skills, I lose touch with my team, and the knowledge gap broadens, decreasing the team’s motivation and connectivity.

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