How to transition from Software Developer to Product Manager

How to transition from Software Developer to Product Manager

In their 2019 trends survey, the Product Management Festival found the range of different roles that product managers were in BEFORE they started in product management, and the list is quite long (see image below)

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Product Management Festival Trends & Benchmark Report 2019

In their study, the transition from Software Engineer to Product Manager represented 10% of all transitions into product, the third highest career path.

What skills do software engineers bring to product management?

There are two main reasons that there are considerable numbers of software engineers who make the transition into product management:

  • Proximity to product roles
  • Shared skills

When it comes to shared skills across roles, the following are perhaps most relevant:

  • Confidence with system interactions
  • Being task driven
  • Determining solutions to problems
  • Learning and adapting
  • Paying attention to detail

What skills gaps might a software engineer have?

Of course, being in a different type of role doesn’t expose you to the full range of skills that are required when you’re in an alternative position, and the following are the most typical skills gaps for software engineers:

  • Managing stakeholders and getting them on board
  • Developing usability as well as a user flow
  • Understanding user and business needs
  • Workload prioritization
  • Thinking strategically rather than operationally, not devising the solution.

How to fill a skills gap

When it comes to findings ways to fill skills gaps, there are a few areas in which software engineers can work to gather the necessary expertise, including:

  • Taking on the role of scrum master — which will assist with managing stakeholders and prioritization
  • Taking on a support role — which will allow a closer proximity to the user and the needs of the business
  • Begin writing user stories for technical features — which will allow thought on the user and business needs, as well as prioritizing sub-features within a feature

For many of these steps, the important thing is to speak to others in the business and find opportunities to help them and gain the experience needed to fill the gap.

Talk to the existing product management team and, of course, your line manager, to find the moments to pick up new skills that will count towards your future product role.

Supportive content to fill a skills gap