What hard skills are absolutely a must have for a PM?

I have a marketing background and I worked as PM for a non-tech company. I would like to make the switch to tech, since I’m deeply passionate about it. I’m trying to build my “own master’s degree” in product management, learning all the things that I wasn’t exposed to in my work experience.

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

  • Agile and scrum methodologies + Jira
  • SQL
  • Networking / server infrastructure basics
  • Coding (i already know how to tinker with code, I was thinking of starting some pet projects so I can show it)
  • UX wireframing

This list is based on the requirements I saw on APM and PM job listings. Am I missing something?


I don’t think there are any hard skills that are ‘must have’ for a(ny) 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)

@NathanEndicott, 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 (two of ~40 employees, one of ~500+ employees); 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 shitty 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.


@DonovanOkang, Yeah, I guess I’d agree with this.

Regarding SQL, if you have a general idea of how databases are structured, it’s pretty easy to teach yourself (that’s what I did at my previous job).

As far as UX wireframing goes, I just don’t think it’s much of a skill worth developing. It’s like whiteboarding; it’s just another tool to convey your ideas.


This is a very apt and great input. Thanks for Sharing @NathanEndicott.


This is great input and transferable to a number of upper-level roles


I would absolutely hands-down say people skills and interpersonal skills.

All of the skills you’ve listed can be learnt through books, YouTube, online courses, etc, but people skills can’t be learnt in the same way. Every person is different, every team is different, every company is different. This makes it very hard (or basically impossible) to read a single book, or do a course about people skills and be able to learn all about it. The only way to really become an expert in it is through experience.

After a 2-3 years you will have mastered all of those hard-skills in your list, and then for the rest of your career (decades) you’ll be working towards mastering the soft-skills. The interpersonal skills, communicating, leading the conversation, articulating your product vision, defusing conflicts, Active Listening, stakeholder management, negotiation, facilitating workshops, creating high-performing teams. In my opinion these are the really hard skills to learn as a PM.


@KaranTrivedi, Thanks for your input and I agree with you.

I think that people and interpersonal skills are crucial and luckily is something that I was able to acquire in my previous experience leading a team. The problem I’m currently facing is that those skills are almost non-existent on a CV and can only be shown during an interview. Unfortunately, I can’t even reach an interview because compared to any other candidate that have relevant hard skills and industry experience, I have nothing to show. I need to build that baseline that puts me at the same level of other candidates, so that I have a fair shot of showing how my PM experience in non-tech and interpersonal skills can be valuable to the company.


In my opinion, I would suggest get an fundamental understanding of UX terminology, data literacy, as well as technical terms related to your industry; but then look to leverage the experts in your team to advise you on the specifics.

Know when a wireframe is needed vs. a interactive mockup. Learn how to make dashboards yourself in Google Data Studio (but not necessarily how to make complex data models). Understand pros and cons of common tech stacks.

Become good at facilitating meetings and getting the experts around you to advise you and guide your decision-making process. I personally don’t think you have to go deep on any of the disciplines, more “T shaped”:


I would be careful not to underestimate people/interpersonal skills required to be a good PM for tech products. IMO, working with engineers, designers, eng/design/pm leadership for tech products is materially different than other roles (even if those roles are in tech products).

In addition to the above skillset, I would add building products with machine learning. Every project in FAANG or similar involves working with data and using ML to build differentiating products.


100% this.

I’ll also add managing and influencing without authority, and running a tight Scrum ship is also quite difficult to master (i.e. making the most out of your engineering talent and keeping them accountable).


Very well put! All those skills such as Jira and SQL are just groundwork to know the ins of what is happening with the software, but product managing is about speaking, listening, understanding, knowing when to ask questions, how to engage with different level of stakeholders and ultimately how to translate the vision and the product to the stakeholders in a language they can understand articulately.


I agree soft skills are very important, IMO it might be more applicable for big companies, but definitely not as impactful (in relative to other skills) for small to mid-sized companies and startups.

For people who are working on “creating”, there’s only so much what interpersonal skills and people skills will get you. Soft skills are great, but they’re empty promises without actual product management knowledgebase.

Yes, you can watch videos and learn, learn by doing… but that’s true for almost everything, including soft skills.

IMO we need to break this tendency of glamorizing Product Management as “oh it’s mostly soft skills” because that’s relevant to most other careers too, PM is not an outlier.

Here are some hard skills that are required for a good product manager:

finding product-market fit (this is a whole couple of books at least)

persona development, interviewing skills (with bias checks)

design thinking, and applying it to almost all aspects for “new” creation

building stories efficiently based on X metrics. ( I’ve had clients tell me, we want to build a habit of them checking the app every morning… so let’s put some metrics on this, workflows)

ability to build fast iterations on wireframes, visuals (visuals if you’re doing that product): pen+paper, balsamic, invision and many other tools

understanding metrics, optimization,

problem-solving skills, especially for metric optimization or finding root cause

setup experiments, benchmarks for all product or product-related

running fast and good ad campaigns: google, facebook linkedin

Quantifiable MVP prioritization: it’s extremely harder than it sounds.

Data expertise, don’t depend on another person to get you data from GA/ Firebase/ mixpanel/ MySQL, you should be able to do this yourself

an understanding of technical base, what is the underlying tech stack, how it works, and what it needs. The way you write and disclose a story can mean it’s a 2-day story or 20-day story. Very basic example, if we get nitpicky and write a story that we only want this UI, then it’s 20 days, but if we state that any relevant UI that does this feature is acceptable, then it’s a 2-day story as they can use a kit.

Plus a lot more, the product is a knowledge base that actively involves all others.


I would say:

  • Scrum and Agile

  • Design thinking first and some wireframing ability to communicate a concept

  • Understanding of design patterns, system architecture and distributed systems (not coding)

  • Testing and test automation concepts

  • Understand CICD

  • Requirements gathering and documentation

  • Integration concepts REST, APIs, event driven architecture

  • Product thinking

  • Process documentation i.e., ability to create flow charts

  • Quantitative analysis


@AhmadBashir, Sounds more like a PO than a PM.


I’ve hired a few PMs and I can say that there is no “CV” template you can fit into. Most PMs I know fell into it. I wouldn’t obsess over having too many hard skills, instead maybe ask yourself how you can highlight the soft skills at the CV stage:

  • How can the employer know that you have a good sense of how to cut to the heart of an issue and figure out what’s truly important? (This is very very hard - having a well-honed CV is a good tell of this. A fluffy CV can indicate a lack of cohesion)

  • How can you demonstrate passion for products and product development? Do you have any writing out there? Have you created any products or prototypes?

  • Focus on making your CV striking. The biggest problem is that too many CVs are lists of hard skills. If you can make yours stand out for some other reason you’ll have a better shot at getting to an interview, which you mentioned in another comment is where you think you’ll excel (this is good!)

Just my two cents and of course the biggest principle is to do what you feel represents you best, don’t take too much stock in anonymous internet strangers. Good luck!


Thanks, a great write-up.


I’ll throw a curveball in here that there are actually 4 types of PMs and often hiring managers may not be aware of the type they are looking for. You’ve got Founder types, growth types, optimizers and integrators. Even if you’ve created 2 startups, that may not necessarily mean you are cut out to find ways to integrate Tableau’s recently acquired BI features into the new Salesforce dashboard, for a hypothetical.

This lays out a few more specializations: The Many Types of Product Managers - Proto.io Blog. I would argue in today’s day and age, generalists in just about any field are dead. Find your strengths, grab your niche.


My contribution to this conversation is going to be critical thinking, with people and interpersonal and influencing without authority coming in closely thereafter. The ability to approach a problem, think about it from different perspectives, hear what isn’t being said, reading between the lines are things I haven’t figured out how to effectively teach my team but are absolutely critical to the job.

Not really a hard skill, but I would wrap the whole package with a big dose of humility and approaching your job without an ego.


I modeled a lot of my work after this framework by Ravi Mehta, who was Tinder’s CPO, and also worked on product at Xbox, Facebook, and Tripadvisor. If you’re looking for your Master’s degree in product management, that is pretty close.