How to prepare myself for the technical side of product management?
May 3, 2014 2:59 PM   Subscribe

How do I best prepare myself for mid-level product management positions as someone with a few years of prior product manager experience, but a non-technical background? Are there particular skills I should learn, things I should learn, or experiences I should get? I'd like to prepare myself for interviews / jobs with a smaller company or startup. Additional details inside.

I'm looking to return to the field after 4 years away to earn an MBA and work in management consulting. While I was a product manager before grad school, I lack a Computer Science degree or significant programming experience. In the past, this wasn't a problem for doing the job (and I have good level of foundational knowledge), but I'm worried that potential employers (particularly smaller ones) will worry about this. What can I do both to prepare myself to do the job, and to make myself more attractive to employers?
posted by There's No I In Meme to Work & Money (1 answer total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I just celebrated my one-year mark as a product manager, and like you, I came into the role with almost no technical experience (certainly none that was relevant for the products/services I was now running). To get the position (hired in as a Senior Product Manager), I simply presented myself as being very strong in a specific area where the business was weak, and argued that the benefit that would result from bringing in that strength would outweigh the lack of technical knowledge that I would have to overcome. They agreed.

Once into the job, I just had to dive into the technology and learn it as fast as I could. My senior technical guy was a saint, and spent countless hours with me helping me get up to speed. You have to be comfortable asking stupid questions, and admitting your weakness and ignorance (both rare traits that will be valued, trust me!).

All in all, I'd say it's probably easier for someone to come in who is strong on the commercial aspects of the job but who needs to learn the technology, than vice versa.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 7:13 PM on May 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

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