Product Management: 5 Lessons Learned While Working with Engineers

Seda Sahradyan
Apr 9 · 6 min read

There is probably no more important relationship for a successful product manager than the one with your engineers. — Marty Cagan

It went by so quickly, but it’s already been 10 years since I started working with software engineers (the last 3 years as a Product Manager), and it’s hard to disagree with what Marty Cagan says above. Let’s say you have a million-dollar idea, but your idea will remain just that, an idea, unless of course it reaches the market. This is why figuring out how to effectively work with engineers is a skill worth not only knowing, but mastering if you’re a product manager (PM) in the tech industry or want to become one.

Image for post
Image for post
My first team in Pipedrive (when we accidentally wore the same shirt)

1. Apply a personal approach

As maybe you’ve heard, the stereotypical opinion of software developers, is that they are introverts by nature, rather quiet and not overtly seeking for social interaction. Does this stereotype actually hold water or is it just a myth? To find out, I sought out research (1,2) on the subject and discovered that the studies that have been conducted found no real correlation between software developers and introversion. In fact, the majority of the developers that participated in the studies were found to rather be extroverts.

2. Gain trust

Simply carrying the Product Manager title isn’t going to make engineers trust you. In my experience, most Engineers are sharp, rather skeptical, and more than capable of sensing bullshit. They usually dislike talk that is vague and prefer data over statements like “I think customers will love it”.

3. Share vision and customer insights

We need teams of missionaries, not teams of mercenaries. — John Doerr

This quote above really got me thinking. I realized that a big portion of my motivation comes from understanding the problems our users experience and the way our product helps to overcome them. How can I expect engineers to be committed to a project when they may lack the knowledge behind why we’re doing it? I doubt I’d feel passionate about something if I was told to do it without fully understanding why it’s being done.

4. Value engineers’ time

Just like PMs prefer to work on tasks related to product management, engineers also prefer to focus on their own expertise. Make sure your team doesn’t need to waste extra time working on the side tasks if they can be avoided.

  • Report bugs rather than asking for them to be fixed. Why add more things for engineers to remember and thus risk perhaps more important things getting forgotten? Just document that damn bug and let engineers focus on what’s important at the moment.
  • Eliminate blockers. Organize work in a way so that missing designs, copy or anything else doesn’t prevent product development.
  • Investigate edge cases. While creating requirements, take time to discover edge cases and leave fewer surprises (some are bound to happen) for later.

5. Invest in team spirit

There’s ONE thing that all of the engineers I have worked with during the past decade have had in common. Despite different personalities, ages, genders, and even music preferences, every single engineer I worked with truly appreciated a great team vibe, including inside jokes and a sense of “all being in this together”.

Pipedrive Engineering

Stories from the developers at Pipedrive and developers who…

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch

Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore

Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store