Product Managers: Should You Learn to Code?

The Product Speak By Dec 27, 2022 No Comments


As a product manager, you’re tasked with helping to define and deliver products that solve the needs of your customers. In this role, you need to be able to think about what users want and how you can use technology to deliver it. But do you have to know how to program? The answer is “no,” but also “maybe.” While not every PM needs to code (and there are plenty who don’t), learning some programming skills can help you be more strategic and effective at your job—especially if you work in an industry where coding is important (like healthcare or finance). In this post, I’ll explain why learning how to code might benefit you as a product manager and then cover some specific situations where it may not make sense for your particular situation or role.

What is a product manager?

A product manager is the person who owns a product. They make sure it’s built and shipped, they’re responsible for its success, and they are the bridge between the business side (i.e., sales) and the engineering side (i.e., development team). They take user feedback into account while also managing timelines, costs, resource allocation—you name it!

If you’re considering a career in product management but don’t feel like you have enough experience yet to manage a full-fledged project as a PM yourself—or if you’re already working in another role at your company but want to know how to improve yourself as a PM candidate—this article will address both scenarios by helping you see why learning code may be useful for your career path

Do you need to be technical?

As a product manager, you don’t need to be technical. In fact, it is helpful to understand the technical side of your business. However, if you want to go above and beyond your job description as a product manager, learning programming languages like JavaScript or Ruby on Rails can help you build products that are more innovative and better suited for the needs of your customers.

However—and this is important—you don’t have to be technical to still be successful at your job as a product manager. What’s most important is understanding the business you’re in and who its customers are; this will allow you to identify opportunities within your organization that can lead toward new technologies or products that serve those underserved markets best.

How much do you need to know?

As a product manager, there will be many opportunities to work with developers and designers on your team. You may even have one or two on your team already. If this is the case and you don’t know how to code, you should learn as much as possible about how developers think and communicate so that when you do need help from them, you can communicate effectively and efficiently.

The more comfortable you are with what it’s like to be a developer, the better equipped you will be to lead them towards creating something great for your user base—whether that means understanding their terminology or learning about code management tools like GitHub or JIRA (the two most popular ones).

When NOT to learn to code.

If you’re not interested in coding, then don’t. Even if you do find yourself with some extra time on your hands, having a general understanding of how websites are built can be beneficial—but it’s not necessary to become an expert.

Don’t learn to code if you don’t have time for it. Learning how to develop software will take time away from other important aspects of product management that could help your career, such as learning about your users or understanding the business side of what you do. Plus, when it comes down to it there are many other ways for product managers to get better at their jobs without needing any technical skills at all (see our article on becoming an awesome PM).

Lastly, don’t learn to code because it seems like something cool that other people do. You might think that because everyone else is using technology in their jobs that there must be something special about being able to build software yourself too—but this isn’t true! Not only does PMing without technical knowledge give others confidence in your ability but also allows them opportunities where they can leverage those strengths themselves (see our article on leading without authority).

Coding is just one tool in your toolbox.

The answer is: it depends! You don’t need to learn how to code in order to be a successful product manager, but there are some situations where it can be a game changer.

A lot of people I know who don’t code often feel like they’re missing out on something by not being able to build their own products from scratch. However, when it comes down to it, coding is just one tool in your toolbox. It doesn’t replace other skills that are equally important and sometimes more so (like sales or marketing). So if you’re wondering if learning how to code is worth your time and money, here’s my advice: only do so if there is an immediate benefit for your company or clients—not because you want bragging rights about what you know how do with words versus ones and zeros.

Programming will empower you as a product manager.

Learning to code shouldn’t be an end goal. Instead, it’s a tool—a key that can unlock many doors for you. You’ll understand the technical side of your job better and be able to ask more informed questions about how things work. This can lead to more effective meetings with developers and designers, which will help you build better products in the long run. In addition, knowing how your product works under the hood will also help you market it better: instead of just pitching features or benefits, you’ll have deeper insight into what makes people want to buy/use something in the first place (and why they would do so).

Coding isn’t going away anytime soon either… programmers are still needed! But as technology evolves at an astounding rate, software engineers are increasingly being replaced by AI assistants like Siri or Alexa who can complete more complex tasks without needing human intervention first.”

Learning to code can help you be more strategic and effective at your job.

Learning to code is not only a smart career move for product managers, it can also help you be more strategic and effective at your job. Here’s why:

  • As a product manager, you are responsible for the success of your company’s products. You manage the development process and work with developers to ensure that they produce great products on time and within budget.
  • Becoming fluent in one or more programming languages will help you better understand how your team builds software so that you can manage the development process more strategically. For example, if there are bugs in the system, learning coding will allow you to better understand how those bugs got there so that you can get them fixed faster and avoid them in future versions of the software (which saves money!).


Ultimately, the decision to learn to code is up to you. You should consider it if you want to be a more strategic and effective product manager. But even if you don’t, there are still plenty of ways for you to grow as an individual. It’s all about knowing what your strengths and weaknesses are so that can make informed decisions about how best spend your time in order get ahead at work without doing everything yourself!

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