Should I learn UX design or Software engineering?

Hello Prowess Community. Excited being here.

As an aspiring PM, I have read a ton (at least 5 books, over 50 articles) about product management and I have taken a couple of courses (3 courses), I find that I am a bit bored of reading about PM’ing and I strongly believe my next best opportunity to learn is on the Job.
While I am job hunting at the moment, I want to pick up a new skill that’ll help me when I eventually become a PM (note: I dream of being a technical PM one day). Should I learn UX design or Software engineering?

8 Likes

Hello @ArnieSilvers. Welcome to the world of PMs, the wonderful community by @HimanshuSingh. I’ve joined this community recently and am enjoying my visits here and love the discussions and tons of other product manager resources available here. I hope you’ll love it too.

Now coming to your question:

My take: don’t learn UX or software engineering. As a PM, if you are doing those things, that’s a red flag. Your time is better spent practicing the actual skills of product management exploring all the product manager resources at your disposal. Your instincts to learn via doing is good. PM is more of an apprenticeship model, not theoretical. You can’t be a blacksmith by reading books, you have to practice. Same with PM. And a blacksmith who has never built something would not become a better blacksmith by learning how to do accounting.

Instead, find a problem and go through the PM process. Pick a small problem, go through the discovery process (talk to potential users, explore the market, etc.), ideate solutions, use no-code tools (or even pen and paper!) to built and test out some ideas, evaluate how it went. And write about it at each step (even just a slide per stage).

Bonus - now you have something you can show in interviews!

8 Likes

Thank you so much @Eva for the welcome.

I see your point you made in your first statement about not learning UX or SWE. But then as I expressed my view that I am looking forward to become a Technical PM, how would it be possible that a Technical PM does not know the basics of the job he’s planning to take up. Since I haven’t yet started my full fledge career as a PM, I think I can spend some time (and if needed, money) to learn some basic technical skills of the field.

8 Likes

@ArnieSilvers, Well I see your concern and argument. And I respect your view and choice. You are very much free to choose your path, I had just given my opinion.

I have another option for you - do a product critique.

8 Likes

Thank you so much, will definitely take a look at it.

8 Likes

Welcome to Prowess Community @ArnieSilvers. If you’re aiming to PM in a certain industry, learn as much about that industry, its customers, and their pain points as possible. Do not leave any stone unturned of any and all the product manager resources. Layer in some general business strategy content, current events breakdowns (e.g. Stratechery type stuff), etc.
IMO, most current PMs would benefit immensely from spending less time reading about being a PM and more time on the above — myself included!

8 Likes

Welcome to prowess, @Arnie. Most of my advice for starting your career begins with “start with a job in sales”

7 Likes

Welcome to the community @Arnie. Hackathons are a good way to grab some experience on product work and are a healthy signal for recruiters. As @RichardsonEva said, find a problem and try to fix it.

7 Likes

First of all Welcome to the Prowess Community @arniesilvers.prowess.

All of the above is great advice.

If your question was intentionally targeted to help you decide between UX design or software engineering, learning to code can help you in all sorts of different ways. Explore all the online product manager resources related to these.

On a recent sabbatical, I decided to learn React and Django, and I taught myself by working on solving a real problem. Not only did doing so really scratch that problem-solving itch that I think most PMs have, but it also helped me to internalize a lot of engineering concepts and principles that I’ve picked up solely by osmosis during my years in Product roles.

Just one caveat: after you find yourself in a PM role, don’t lean too heavily on whatever technical know-how you gain if you decide to learn to code. Your professional software engineering peers will in most cases still be the technical experts on the team :slightly_smiling_face:

6 Likes

Thank you so much MichaelYoffe, PriyaVarma, NatalieSmith and DonovanOkang for making me so comfortable here. Also thank you for your valuable inputs and insights.

Donovan, There is no specific industry I am looking to get into. I just aim to be on the technical side of the platform. But you have a point there. I think I need to choose an industry to be specific and learn the ins and outs of it.

Natalie, Well I will surely give it a thought of getting into sales first, but may I know the logic behind it?

@PriyaVarma, Yes, you have a point there. I have been attending a few hackathons lately and I just loved it there. Most of the technical gurus gave away so many useful tips just free of cost which I might not have learnt spending huge amounts and time attending courses.

@MichaelYoffe, I think yours was the most valuable comment I have come across in this thread. Would you mind if I DM’d you for some advice and tips?

Edit: Sorry, could not tag all of you because the site would not allow to tag more than two users in a comment.

5 Likes

@RichardsonEva, saw the first comment you made. I am also an aspiring PM and I started my tech career learning ML before actually doing anything in product management. I put my ML skills (Python, Google autoML etc) on my resume. Is that a red flag?? Do you advise I take it out.

4 Likes

@JuanAllo, speaking only for myself as someone who hires PMs, it’s not a red flag for me not at all. I find PM candidates with technical backgrounds pretty compelling, honestly. I would also advise you too to explore other product manager resources online, here in this community and elsewhere on the internet.

4 Likes

@MichaelYoffe,
Thank you Derek for your POV.
Was about to start editing my resume. Would love to hear what others think.

3 Likes

@JuanAllo, having the skills is not a red flag at all! Keep it in the resume especially if you want to be a tech PM. The red flag as I said is if the PM is actually doing the design or development on the job. Once you get the job, you should only be using that experience to better work with the people who are using those skills.

2 Likes

Welcome to the group, @ArnieSilvers

Lots of great points here. I would also add that the best way to learn product is by doing it . The market is hungry for smart people to fill up junior PM/APM roles. Use a chunk of your time to work on your job search!

1 Like