There is an undeniable rise in the number of big companies going through a Digital Transformation. And this has resulted in giving rise to a strong bias towards assessing a Product Manager’s success potential based on his/her ability to spit out technical jargon rather than real-world market and user understanding. For me, that is entirely a backward way of approaching the problem. What many people fail to realize is that the goal of having a Product Manager for any Digital Product is not to provide more tech resource for finding How to solve the problem. Product Managers are the ones who can accurately articulate Why a problem is worth solving and What problems the tech team should be trying to solve next. This means that someone who comes with a lot of check the box technical skills but lacks the holistic market vision, customer understanding and business priorities – will never make a good product manager.

So, if you are someone who does not have a technical background – do not worry, in this article I am going to give you 5 actionable hacks to ace the product management game in the digital world!

1. Know Exactly What You Bring to the Table

1. Know Exactly What You Bring to the Table

This is perhaps the biggest issue non-technical product mangers face. They lack the confidence and accuracy when describing what exact value they bring to the table. As I have seen from my experience- Engineering teams will always start off on a skeptic note if you are not coming from a technology background. That is why being able to clearly articulate – what value you bring to the role, how you plan to use that value, how it helps the technology team achieve their goal – becomes crucial! Of course you have to do this with a little bit of humor and a lot of humility. Most technical teams need someone with deep market insight and user knowledge in order to help them properly prioritize their effots. As much as they would hate admitting it, this is what a non-technical Product Manager brings to the table. Own It!

2. Don’t Fake It Until You Make It

2. Don’t Fake It Until You Make It

I’ve seen some non-technical people make the mistake of taking a fake it until you make it approach, trying to hide the fact that they aren’t strongly technical by doing some quick studies and searches online to come up with words, technologies, and approaches that they think sound good and are at least sounds like a cool buzzword related to the business.

Engineers see through this charade faster than you can say “MySQL”. 

Just don’t do it — there may be a time and a place to take a chance on looking like you know more than you do, but this is not certainly the place. Doing so will rather accentuate your lack of technical ability, and undercut your ability to establish trust.

3. Establish Trusted Relationships

3. Establish Trusted Relationships

Speaking of trust, it the cornerstone of any Product Manager’s success. The only way that any Product Manager can be successful is by building relationships with stake holders based on mutual respect and trust. You need to know that you can count on your technical team to fill in the gaps of your own knowledge. At the same time, they will also rely on your knowledge of the market and customers. As with every relationship, this relation is also based on give and take. As a non technical Product Manager you have to accept this and work within the limitations of technical knowledge and ability. You need to show enough deference to the technical team so that they don’t feel like they are being pushed by someone who does not know what they are doing. At the same time, you need to be very clear about where the market direction and user requirements are coming from. Open discussions are pivotal in such cases. You are bound to come across things you don’t understand technically.

Engage on it! Focus on getting shit done, not the technical details. Enable your teams to focus on the how while you focus on the what and why!

4. Be Curious and Willing to Learn

4. Be Curious and Willing to Learn

One of the easiest ways to build a relationship with your technical team as a non-technical Product Manager is to cultivate an honest curiosity. Talk to them about architecture and technology of the product. Some of it will go over your head. In fact a lot of it will. But showing the team that you actually care about them and the work they do will go a long way. Ask questions when and where appropriate, listen to what they’re telling you, and learn a little bit about that technology that you knew nothing about previously.

Technology is not scary and since you are trying to manage a product that has its foundation in technology, you should probably learn at least a little bit about it. Don’t you think so?

5. Stretch Yourself !Try Something Technical!

5. Stretch Yourself !Try Something Technical!

If you want to build your career in managing technology products, you will quite frankly have to learn some technical skills at some point of your career. Fortunately, the skills are less technical than you might think. With thousands of free resources available on the internet, having a working proficiency in HTML, CSS, JavaScript, MySQL, SEO, Digital Marketing is a lot less difficult than it was. It is more enjoyable as well.

Use your product management skills to identify a problem that needs to be solved and just do it. Make something, anything! It does not need to be fancy, it does not need to be pretty. Heck it barely needs work as well. But by showing that you have the personal drive to challenge the limits of your knowledge, leverage what you already know and the proactive action oriented mindset to actually do it, you will have taken yourself out of the non-technical box and moved into a different league of Product Managers, a league of extraordinary product managers!

What is your product management mantra? Let me know in the comment below.

Jamil Wahid
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