Does becoming a product manager allow tech people to maintain their technical skills?

The role of a product manager calls for multiple product management skills, especially in the tech industries. While having a technical background would be beneficial, your skills will probably not undergo a drastic change as a product manager.

Shyvee Shi Product Manager

Many industries consider technical background to be one of the most important product management skills. Though this is not a mandatory criterion for most companies offering product manager roles, it could easily be a competitive advantage for the candidate.

Most experts agree that technical skills find use as product management skills in two ways- first is in terms of technical design, and second is in terms of user application. Technical design mostly comprises of programming or coding skills, setting up a persistent architecture, writing a syntax, looking up codes in the library and so on. On the other hand, user application deals with how the technical design can be applied to a business. Working in product management roles wouldn't particularly enhance your craftsmanship in engineering. The main reason behind this is the fact that you will not be as close to the nitty gritties of the technical discussions as other specifically technical roles. That is not to say you couldn't join in those discussions, but sometimes you might simply lack the bandwidth to handle both, overall design of the product and the technical design that the engineers are working on. More often than not you will have to trust your team members and colleagues.

You will also most likely not have complete control over the technical design. You might be able to influence the decisions of the engineers in this regard, but you won't have the authority to mandate it.

You might have a better understanding of how the product should support the business needs from a technical standpoint, which makes your technical background useful among other product management skills. While each technical skill required to build a product can be considered an individual tree, a product manager's role can be considered similar to that of nurturing a forest. As a product manager, it is your duty to see the bigger picture. Technical skills will be helpful in the journey, but you can't rely on it solely as you will have many other responsibilities to handle.