What hard skills are a must have for a PM?

I have a consulting background and would like to make the switch to tech, since I’m deeply passionate about it. I’m trying to build my “own masters degree” in product management, learning all the things that I wasn’t exposed to in my work experience.

These are some things I’m going to learn, either from books or online courses:

  • Agile and scrum methodologies + Jira
  • SQL
  • Networking / server infrastructure basics
  • Coding
  • User experience/ User interface wireframing

I found these skills on APM job listings. Am I on the right track? Are here other skills that I need?

I don’t think there are any hard skills that are ‘must have’ for a PM.

Agile and scrum methodologies + Jira

Definitely important, but I don’t consider this a hard skill. Every company does Agile a little bit different. This is something you can learn on the job anyways


I am (or at least was) pretty good at SQL, but I haven’t used it once since becoming a PM

Networking / server infrastructure basics

I know very little about server infrastructure. I understand concepts around how we pay for usage, and how our technical design impacts those cost, but I wouldn’t even say I know the basics; I just know Azure’s pricing model.

Coding (i already know how to tinker with code, I was thinking of starting some pet projects so I can show it)

I haven’t coded since my middle school HTML course 20 years ago. You need to know how code works, not how to code.

UX wireframing

IMO the most overrated PM skill out there; I don’t think UX wireframing is that important - I need to know what actions the user should take on each screen, but I shouldn’t be the one who makes decisions on where those buttons go. Personally, I prefer to put together a mindmap, then hand it off to UX. They can build a lo-fi prototype better and faster than I can.

IMO, the most important PM skills are:

  • Business Knowledge, which includes:
    • Industry Knowledge
    • Market Knowledge
    • Competitor Knowledge
    • Understanding how your employer makes and spends money
  • Communication, which includes:
    • Explaining complex ideas clearly and concisely
    • Storytelling
    • Relationship building
    • Selling, getting buy in, negotiating
  • Prioritization, which includes:
    • Assign value (and costs) to things that don’t always have a clear price tag
    • Scoping - knowing when to add features and when to cut features
  • Project Management,
    • Being able to shift tasks when priorities change (as they often do)
    • Being able to manage your schedule efficiently
    • Tracking progress, capacity planning, etc (may not apply if you have a scrum master/agile coach)
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I agree with most of this, but I’ll note that the SQL and UX Wireframing skills are company-dependent. I’ve been a PM at three companies; knowing SQL was a major help in making data-driven decisions at two of those (one big one small), and the third company just had a bad unintelligible data structure. I can’t imagine being a PM without SQL. Smaller companies may not have designers either, making UX Wireframing a valuable skill to have.

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