Technical knowledge requirement for a cloud PM w no technical background

I’ve been fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to work as a PM for a cloud provider. However, I have no experience working in the space, neither do I have the cloud-specific technical knowledge. I really want to do well at this new job and would love to hear your advice.

  1. What are the technical concepts, readings, or courses that you’d recommend? The goal is being able to understand the pain points of users. People used to tell me as a PM, one does not need to get too technical. But for cloud, I want to be able to empathize with the users, which means I have to understand the technical side of things.
  2. Is there a good bootcamp/series of online classes that will teach less about the weeds of coding but rather the big pictures of how things come together. I find system designs a little bit too macro while python courses online are too micro.
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I would personally not take a cloud role if you don’t have a technical background. It’s a fast moving space and the details matter a lot.

But to actually answer your question, I would start by going through Cloud Guru (pick a stack, probably AWS) and go through the basics of whatever product(s) most align with your area.

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Only getting a “big picture” view of things (technical or not) means you won’t have a good bullshit detector when doing product discovery work for a technical product. For example, how do you know if article/thought leader/etc. is pushing bullshit for engagement metrics vs. actually offering some insight? The answer is found in knowing what it’s like to actually be in the weeds writing code that solves a real problem. There’s ways around that, but there really is nothing like actually having rolled up your sleeves yourself to get shit done yourself.

More importantly though, knowing how to use your own product as a developer is one of the best ways to develop empathy and ground yourself in what people actually face. In fact, as someone with less experience who would likely be using your own product for the first time, you’re one of the most valuable sources of information about what it’s like to onboard onto your product! Many people develop a blindness to onboarding pains when they work on it long enough. Pick a problem you want to solve with your product, write the code for it using your product, and take notes at every step of the way. I have no doubt you’ll uncover all kinds of annoying things that will make people scratch their head. This can also be the basis of discovery for an onboarding-focused product push in the future, which just about every technical product will do at least once.

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Have you asked your manager and co-workers? Being more familiar with what you’re actually working on, it seems like they’d be better positioned to make good recommendations.

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I think it depends on what area/backlog you are going to manage. Are you going to be managing the cloud infrastructure backlog or a servicing layer backlog? By cloud provider I assume it is a tech company which provides cloud services to a client so you are in the right track to gain some tech fundamentals on cloud. There are a lot of resources and something like books, resources related to AWS cloud practitioner certification could be a good place to start.

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I recommend getting a certification on the cloud service company if available. Aws and Azure have foundational certs that get you the basics of the services. That gets you started on the tech at a very basic level.

I do understand why you want to get this background. You need to understand the product that you are selling.

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I’ll just say it’s not the worst thing in the world to know a bit of coding and network architecture. And I’m not a software dev either.

AWS Associate Solutions Architect course or a similar one for the infrastructure you’re working with. Don’t take the exam, just get an overview of the components, what they are for and how they interact. Helped me a lot.

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Very well said @angelablue. A product manager’s job needs to span across function and industry. You can’t just have the skills to do the job, one needs the knowledge about the problem statement area to have the right context and understanding to be an effective PM.

One can read a lot about the industry to acquire these skills. Follow newsletters or posts specific to your industry and start setting up time with senior leaders to learn from them.

The top 10% of the PM have a T-shaped skillset. They are broad in a lot of areas but go deep in one domain area to become the master. Cloud technology requires a lot of in-depth knowledge to become an effective PM. It will pay you well as this tech only going to get better with time but you would need to have the appetite for learning about hard tech.