Mobile product managers have become more technical out of necessity, and the higher their technical skill level, the easier it is to work with engineering teams on delivering new products, fixes, and additions. Although mobile product managers bring a variety of skills to their work depending on the job, the one skill that unifies all roles, regardless of their differences, is level of technicality. The more technically advanced you are as a mobile product manager, the more coveted your skills will be.
We recently ran a survey of over 200 mobile product managers and asked a series of questions around their current technical skill levels. Our survey respondents considered themselves to be slightly more technical than respondents to the same questions in 2015, especially when it comes to handling basic troubleshooting.
It’s important to remember technical skills aren’t learned overnight, and it’s not always easy if you don’t come from an engineering background. So how does a mobile product manager expand their skill set and become more comfortable in handling technical projects?
In short, you must look to the best in the business for advice, and put in time and effort to expand your personal knowledge. To help you boost your own technical skills, here are 4 tips, along with suggested resources from our survey respondents.
1. Build Your Customer Empathy Skills
When it comes to building a product, empathy is everything. Understanding the “why” behind customer feelings and actions is what sets great product managers apart from good ones, and is what truly elevates products to the next level.
However, in most cases, empathy is a learned skill that needs to be grown and exercised over time; there is always room for improvement. To practice building empathy for your customers, try the following:
- Ask to sit in on sales calls to understand how people view your product before they even become customers. This will help give you a general sense of how they experience your product by understanding the baseline knowledge they bring to the table when they start the onboarding process.
- Sit in on usability tests with your user experience or design team. The best way to understand what a customer thinks about the product is to actually watch them use it. To get the most out of the test, ask your team members for a list of questions they typically use to run their usability tests ahead of time, and come up with a secondary set of questions you can ask the customer once they finish going through the controlled tasks.
- Understand your customers’ journey by working with your marketing team. A big part of marketing is mapping out the customer journey by lifecycle stage and actions, and we bet your marketing department has already spent a fair amount of time and resources putting this information together. Grab time with them to understand how people approach the product, convert into customers, and become loyal over time.
2. Surround Yourself with Mobile
The best way to understand what makes a good experience good, and a bad experience bad, is to surround yourself with the device your product will operate on. By immersing yourself in mobile, you’ll begin to intuitively recognize product experiences that are worth emulating, and will have an easier time brushing up on the basics.
We recommend learning as much as you can about your company’s current mobile presence, but not limiting yourself to just their view of the world. Take time looking at competitive and complementary mobile experiences to understand their similarities and differences. Ask yourself what resonates, what is intuitive, what is frustrating, and what is missing from each to give yourself a more holistic view of the experiences. The more you can gather ideas and form personal opinions about what others are doing on mobile through truly experiencing them as a user, the more knowledge you can store away and apply to your own mobile product.
3. Continued Education Through Reading, Conferences, and Courses
Taking in knowledge and news in your industry will help you pick up on tech trends and forecast changes in your industry to help shape your product roadmap. There are a ton of mobile product-focused blogs, conferences, and courses you can attend to help you brush up your skills and network with peers. Check them out and find the continued education strategy that works best for you!
- Mind the Product
- Product Tank
- Product Management and Innovation Summit
- Delight UX/Product Conference
- General Assembly 10-Week Product Management Course
- Khan Academy
- Udemy Product Management Certification
4. Learn How to Build an App (yes, from scratch)
Sound crazy? You’ve got this! Not only will this exercise help broaden your coding skills, it will also help you understand your development team and process at a deeper level.
The more confident you are in your technical skills, the more trust your development team can put in your hands when it comes to assessing scope of work, solving challenges, ordering bug lists, etc. Plus, building an app from scratch can be tons of fun.
Check out these tutorials to help you start:
- Start Developing iOS Apps (Apple)
- Building Your First Android App (Google)
- A Step-By-Step Guide to Building Your First Mobile App (Entrepreneur)
- The 2-Day Weekend Project Plan: Make Your Ideas Thrive (LearnAppMaking.com)
Mobile product management is a complex job, no matter the industry you’re working in. Boosting your technical skills can give you a competitive advantage that will help bring your mobile product and team to the next level.
By leveraging a combination of the tactics outlined above, you should be well on your way to continuing your product management education and growing your confidence level across many areas of technical experience. Good luck!