Under The Hoodie is a weekly series where we talk to people about their journey into tech. It focuses on the intersection between life and career. UTH Week 18.
In this edition of Under The Hoodie, Damilola talks to us about his transition from being a front-end developer to a Technical Product Manager.
Your role—Technical Product Manager is not one we come across often. How’s it different from a regular product manager?
It’s quite similar to a regular product manager role in that it’s my responsibility to grow the product, suggest new features that improve the experience, and try to optimise the business end. However, the technical side requires that I know how things work behind the scenes. As a technical product manager, I have to know exactly what the developers need to do end-to-end—mobile app, frontend, APIs, or deployment.
Thing is, TeamApt is a heavily engineering-dependent company, so a lot of the services we leverage are built internally. That means that we need people with a lot of technical depth. All the product managers that handle teams are heavily tech-savvy. Of course, still other kinds of product managers like that handle stuff like growth, but the core team managers typically have engineering experience.
Sounds like a very specialised role. How did you get in?
Before I became a technical product manager, I worked as a frontend developer with TeamApt. I also had some backend experience here and there. That gave me the technical know-how that I use in my work today.
What made you transition from engineering to product management?
I had always wanted to pivot into the management side of things. Despite my having an engineering background, I was always more passionate about the management and business side of things.
I initially joined TeamApt as a frontend engineer, but after a while, there was an opening for the role of Technical Product Manager. The role fit into my long-term desires, so I expressed interest in it and got it.
What was the transition like? Did you have any challenges?
I knew from the off that it was going to be a challenging role, but whenever I put my mind to stuff, I make sure to achieve it. It has been challenging, but I’ve made sure to make steady progress.
In another environment, it might have been frustrating but the TeamApt team has been very supportive of me. From the moment, I signified interest in the role, the company was ready to provide an enabling environment. People were willing to train me and help me get better at it.
So, What’s your day-to-day like as a Technical Product Manager?
The summary is meetings, more meetings, and “how far?” [laughs]
On a more serious note, it typically starts with standup sessions. If it’s a Monday, that’s when we plan sprints and map out what we intend to achieve that week. After which I create tickets on Jira and assign them to the right people.
Then I check in with everyone to make sure they’re doing okay. Part of my job as the product manager is to look after my teammates, so I’m often checking on their mental and physical health.
Once that is done, I check in at intervals with all the services I manage to ensure that they’re working as they’re supposed to. I provide support for all the services I manage, I also take in complaints from parallel services, so we can jump in and fix stuff.
Then the rest of it is one-on-one meetings and following up on projects. If someone is slacking, I have a meeting with them to understand why and get the issues resolved. Interestingly, that is one of the reasons TeamApt uses technical product managers—it is more difficult for a developer to game someone who has technical knowledge and can estimate how long a project should take.
You mentioned that technical product management was your way to transition into management. What advice do you have for other people looking to take the same path?
First of all, I’d like to start by saying it’s not the only way to get into management. You can also be an Engineering Manager—which is more engineering than business. There are also a couple of other roles that people can easily pivot into if they want to go into management.
For anyone looking to transition into technical product management, asides from the technical skills, communication is paramount. Then you need to have great people management skills. You need to be able to manage peoples’ times and understand the peculiarities of your team members. People don’t perform at the same level, so you have to keep that in mind too.