It’s been seven years since Marc Andreessen coined “software is eating the world,” and guess what? They’ve been seven good years, especially for software developers. The ascendance of software has made writing code extremely lucrative, and increasingly, some knowledge of coding has become a prerequisite for many jobs. This is true in product management, in particular, because many PMs (still) come from an engineering background, and because they have to work closely with developers.
But should PMs write code?
In our poll, 87% of you felt that coding is not a product manager’s job. And our debaters seem to echo the sentiment. In fact, it seems that PMs’ real advantage is their ability to be skillful at many other things, and that coding is a discreet job that can remain in the hands of those who are excellent at it.
PMs should experience their product. If they develop a product for coders, they should definitely write code. In other cases, there is no need for them to write code (unless their role is by definition part-PM and part-developer). Should PMs know how to write code? They should have a technical understanding for effective communications with dev; coding knowledge is an advantage, but it's not a necessity. I know amazing PMs who don't know how to code but have a good technical understanding and are able to communicate very effectively with dev.
VP Product, Wix
Not a priority
Code is pretty low on the list of things PMs should write. I'd rather hire someone who writes these: user stories, design briefs, problem statements, release notes, product roadmaps, survey questions, competitive briefs, product tear-downs, win-loss analyses, SQL queries.
VP Product Strategy, Zendesk
I agree with David that PMs ideally have a first-person sense of using their product, so it makes sense to have experience coding only if the product is a developer-focused product. Otherwise, being able to code is not a prerequisite to being a product manager for other classes of software applications.