Taking the leap to change jobs and pivoting from a familiar role can be an exciting, yet daunting experience. It can be especially challenging if you take on a position as the ‘first’ of that role in a company or team. I previously worked as an infrastructure developer, but when I joined Wise at the end of 2019, I was one of the first Technical Product Managers (TPM) in our Platform tribe.
In this post I hope to provide some insight into the role of Technical Product Managers and what we do here at Wise.
What exactly is a Technical Product Manager?
To understand the role of a Technical Product Manager, let’s start with the definition of a Product Manager before distilling the differences.
Product manager (PM): A Product Manager is responsible for the strategy and execution of products for an organisation. They conduct market and user research to ensure teams are building features that customers want and need.
Product Managers vary depending on the company and industry but I think the core competencies for a successful PM would be high emotional intelligence, understanding customer needs, the ability to prioritise, make tradeoffs and define and measure success.
Technical Product Manager (TPM): A Technical Product Manager is focused on shaping the technical aspects of a product and product strategy.
A great Technical Product Manager has the core competencies of a Product Manager, while coming from a technical background, often transitioned from software engineering.
Why has our Platform team decided to hire Technical Product Managers?
We have amazing Product Managers working at Wise, focused on building products that move us closer to accomplishing our mission and growing our reach globally. They come from various backgrounds, have deep domain knowledge and are focused on bringing the best product to our end users.
Product Managers should have an understanding of the market and area they’re going to grow. This is also a factor when looking for Technical Product Managers for platform teams, where the offerings are technical services: libraries, APIs and more. In order to establish priorities and construct roadmaps, a TPM must have the technical fundamentals and understand the tech stack they’re working with, what the limitations of different technical solutions are and be more heavily engineering focused.
We expect our Technical Product Managers in the platform tribe to have a tight working relationship with the product engineering, infrastructure and security teams as they’re usually the key stakeholders and consumers of the products that our platform teams are building.
The role can be a lot to take in but there’s heaps of support for our TPMs so we can all grow and develop!
A look into the role of Technical Product Managers at Wise
A combination of lots of moving parts and variables
As a Technical Product Manager you can find yourself wearing multiple hats and it’s a balancing act between projects. At times you’ll need to step in and project manage to get things on track, whereas other projects might require time dedicated to gathering non-functional and functional requirements for the products in development.
You also have to set aside time to spend on things like:
- quarterly planning
- setting OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) and KPIs with the teams
- building longer term roadmaps
- identifying and mitigating risks
A Technical Product Manager definitely has to be adaptable and be able to dive into unknown territories. During my time at Wise, I’ve had to embrace projects like conducting a Disaster Recovery (DR) drill involving platform and product teams and ended up writing an audit report submitted to regulators — not something I’d imagined doing during my first few months. Although public speaking doesn’t come naturally to me, I’ve had many opportunities to push myself and present to the engineering community and platform teams.
A new role and still shaping up — it’s a challenge, but a really rewarding one
Working as part of a platform team was familiar to me but being a Technical Product Manager was new, not only for myself but for our platform tribe as well. In the beginning, a clearer role definition would’ve been helpful, as at times I struggled with balancing my priorities (team vs tribe wide) and questioned whether I was making an impact. But, after being in the role for over a year now, I feel like I am getting into my stride and taking on more responsibility at a squad level. I’ve had rewarding moments, especially when the products the team has built receive positive feedback from the wider engineering community.
The freedom to shape your role at Wise is something I’ve learned to appreciate. I enjoy being able to move between projects and teams within the product platform squad — it allows me to work with engineers from different teams and exposes me to different parts of the platform tech stack. But this also means context switching challenges, you can jump from discussing rolling out SLO/SLIs with the SRE team to CI/CD security requirements with Automation and Tooling and Security teams.
One thing I do miss since transitioning from an engineer in a team to a TPM, has been the close collaboration between engineers on projects — the pairing, the code reviews and so on. As a TPM, you can find yourself working in the gaps, focusing on areas that don’t necessarily overlap with your teams and sometimes it can be hard finding parties to rubber duck ideas with. What has helped is working tightly with the product platform squad engineering leads and improving communication on what my focus areas are within the teams.
I’m excited to see our Technical Product Manager community growing. This will provide a forum for collaboration, sharing learnings and we can kick-start defining a career map also for TPMs at Wise. Going forward, I hope to see the TPMs within platform work together to strengthen and mature our platform’s product offerings.
P.S. Interested to join us? We’re hiring. Check out our open Engineering roles.