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What does a technical product manager do?

Last updated

6 April 2023

Reviewed by

Sophia Emifoniye

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Technical product managers are part of the business team that works with the engineering side more than the sales and marketing teams. While they aren't that different from regular product managers, there are some key differences.

What is a technical product manager?

A product manager with a more technical background is called the technical product manager. They focus on the tech aspects more than the sales and marketing of the product. Most companies will only have this type of product manager if they are large enough to have a specialized section. 

Technical product managers are those with backgrounds in computer science or engineering. They assess whether the engineering estimates are right and review the tech specifications and plans to network, along with security and infrastructure.

How does being a technical product manager compare to being a non-technical product manager?

There are a few differences in the roles, such as salary, background, core skills, big picture focus, and the teams they work with. Most product managers, or PMs, hold a business or marketing degree, while a technical product manager, or TPM, will more likely have a computer science or engineering degree.

They also differ in the following ways:

  • A PM is concerned about customer satisfaction and general product strategy, while a TPM is concerned about the product's mechanics and how they are built.

  • The PM is more likely to work with sales, customer support, and marketing, while a TPM will likely work with those in product engineering and technical teams.

  • TPMs generally make a little more than PMs due to the specialization of the role.

  • PMs will have the skills for dealing with communication, research, interpersonal relations, delegation, marketing, and prioritization. TPMs have the skills for dealing with UX and UI, systems design, data structures, algorithms, and software development.

What is the job description of a technical product manager?

While the job description isn't that far off from a product manager role, some of the functions normally seen in a posting will include:

  • Working with developers, QA, operations, and engineers to ensure that requirements are understood and implemented

  • Research and understand the technical trends of the industry and assess products and companies of their value

  • Create and maintain correct product documentation

  • Beta test coordination along with usage of database queries to indicate performance

  • Allow for customer training on product usage along with answering product questions about its capabilities

  • Analyze competitors

  • Analyze technical risks, algorithms, system automation, and data pipelines

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Duties in technical product management

TPMs have some daily duties that are part of their jobs. Here’s a brief overview of those duties.

Manage the product vision

You’ll need to address any product vision concerns and look for anything that may be confusing. You should then clarify those areas and communicate that vision to the team.

Create the product roadmap

You’ll need to set tasks for the team and the workers so that they can complete the timeline for the project with the product vision in mind. This involves creating a roadmap to follow and sharing it with the team that is on development or the scrum master if you are on that team.

Conduct market research

A large part of the job task is to conduct market research. While you don't spend as much time as a PM, you still interview and then take those interviews to the design and engineering teams. You’ll be taking that value to find a middle ground between the customers and the product development team to make both sides happy.

Collaborate with the product owner and scrum master

You need to communicate frequently with the owner of the product and the scrum master all through the product's development. You’ll be in charge of creating clear, precise communication between these teams to ensure the product comes to fruition in the vein of the product vision.

Assess risk

While there is always a risk to be found on any project, you’ll be there to assess that risk and turn the project away from roadblocks, delayed timelines, and over-budgeting. You’ll need to anticipate any potential delays or risks, mitigate those risks, and work diligently to come up with ways to circumvent those risks or find relevant solutions. Keeping to the timeline and budget is a critical part of a TCM's product management.

Act as a team lead

Lastly, as a technical product manager, you’ll want to have a successful ability to get different teams coordinated and networked. There’s a single goal that everyone will need to work together on, and it’s your job to keep them on that path. No matter what their job function is on the team, they’re going to have to work together. 

A TPM will be a meeting leader, a spreadsheet organizer, a troop leader, and at times, a conflict resolution specialist. Good people skills and a great organizational background go a long way in the role of a technical product manager.

What is the average salary of a technical product manager?

According to Glassdoor, a product manager averages around $113,000, while a technical product manager averages around $122,000. This doesn't take into account years of experience, location, or things of that nature. It does show that technical product managers make slightly more due to the specialization.

How to become a technical product manager

Looking to become a TPM? Here's what you'll want to know about pursuing a career as a technical product manager.

Take online courses

If you don't have a solid coding background, you may want to go online and find some courses in Javascript, HTML, SQL, systems design, etc. Your job may not require it, but having a background in these applications will come in handy and prepare you. Taking a class or two in speaking or management will also be a good idea if you don't already have some background in that.

Attend hackathons, conferences, and meetups

Attending these events will help you meet professionals that are helpful in your search for a TPM position. They work great for expanding your network of professionals and let you apply what you're learning for experience.

Small projects

If you already have some product management experience and want to transition into a TPM role, doing some projects in your free time can help boost your resume. Work with the technical team and concentrate on what a TPM would focus on and get some work experience that you can put on your application—this will help you secure a transition into the TPM role.

Join a community

Getting some advice from those in the community can help you move ahead in a TPM role. Those who have been, or currently are, in that role can help you understand what to do and what companies are looking for. They may also help guide you to where you can get education or experience in that position.

Look for a mentor

In that same aspect, finding someone who is a TPM to guide you can be a wonderful help to becoming one yourself. Having a mentor to help you through a company is an internal way, or you can network at conferences and meetups to have an external mentor. Either will help you understand what’s expected of you.

Take advantage of free resources

There are plenty of resources online through YouTube and some free courses that can help you refine your technical skills and gain valuable insight. By using your own research, you can find items to help boost your education in the field and give you something extra to put on your resume.

FAQs

Is a technical product manager better than a product manager?

One is not "better" than the other—they are both a vital process in a company. While a TPM is paid slightly more, they are also tasked with the more technical side of the products, while a PM takes on the more personal side.

Do technical product managers code?

While a technical product manager does competitive analysis, they’re still product managers and are not code writers or creators of any network diagrams. However, many hiring managers seek technical product managers with some coding experience or background. Having a few courses or certifications in the field can boost your resume and job application at the hiring stage.

Is a technical product manager the same as a product manager?

In companies that are large enough to have both, they have slight differences. A product manager will be more customer focused on the "why" of the product, while a technical manager is more product focused on the "how" of the product. While some companies will only have one product manager, duties will often overlap no matter what their background is.

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