Are Product Managers Engineers? (Product Managers Vs. Engineers)

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Are Product Managers Engineers

Some Product Managers can be so involved with the development of a product that they may look similar to an engineer. But, are Product Managers engineers?

Product Managers are not always engineers. Product Managers and engineers have different responsibilities. Product Managers work closely with engineers to get their product from concept to reality. While an engineer takes the idea from the Product Manager and builds it into a functional product.

Let’s understand this in a bit more detail.

Product Manager Vs. Engineer

There are key differences between the two. Product Managers are like Architects, and Software Engineers are like Civil Engineers. The Architect designs the concept of a building with unique features. The engineer comes in to build the concept and will have to overcome obstacles that the Architect didn’t think of.

A Product Manager strives to develop products that the market wants and needs. They don’t know how to build it completely, but they know what the product should do. This is where they give the engineers specific instructions on what they need the product to do.

The Product Manager is like a hotel manager who instructs the head chef to make a meal with certain flavors. The hotel manager won’t spend any time in the kitchen making the food, but they know what the customer wants to eat.

Product ManagerSoftware Engineer
Conceptualizes product ideas.Turns the concept into a working product.
Overlooks the coding of the product.Writes 100% of the coding to make the product.
Instructs the engineers on what to do.Instructs the software on what to do.
Focuses on the entire product.Focuses only on the coding of the product.


Are Product Managers Paid More Than Engineers?

According to Glassdoor, the average base pay for a software engineer in the US is around $92,046/yr. And the average pay for a Product Manager is $108,992/yr.

There will be exceptions where engineers receive higher salaries than Product Managers. It depends on the level of expertise as well. A low-end engineer will usually earn less than an Associate Product Manager. On the other hand, a Senior Engineer will usually earn more than low to mid tear PMs.

On the higher end of the spectrum, Product Managers seem to get the higher income. A PM at the top ranks, like a Director of Product Management, earns between $110,000 and $200,000/yr. A Principal Software Engineer earns between $87,000 and $171,000/yr.

In the end, it all depends on the contract that you’re offered. But if you take all the Product Managers’ incomes versus all the engineers’ incomes, on average, the Product Managers earn more. We think this is attributed to the high demand for Product Managers in the last 10 years.

How Product Managers And Engineers Work Together?

Product managers go through intense research and analysis to determine the needs of the market and how to deliver on those needs with a product. They need to get this info to the engineers.

They pass the concept on to the engineers and tell them what the program needs to do to fulfill the customer’s needs. The Product Manager keeps a close eye on the construction of the product, which the engineer is busy with. The PM and engineer will consult each other on any adjustments that need to be made to the product.

The Product Manager is like the supervisor at a construction site, telling the workers what to do and making sure that the results are of a high standard.

It helps when the PM knows how the engineers put code together to create a product/program. This way, they can communicate effectively without too much flying over the engineers’ heads.

Can A Software Engineer Become A Product Manager?

Yes, A Software Engineer can become a Product Manager. In fact, software engineers are prime candidates for Product Management. This is because they have a big advantage in communicating with the engineering team in their own language.

A PM who was previously an engineer will be able to increase the productivity of the engineering team because he/she will be able to tell them exactly what to do in detail. They’ll know what sort of time frames to give the team and will be able to evaluate the performance of each engineer from an engineering standpoint.

Having said that, many engineers aren’t suited to becoming PMs because they usually don’t have the people skills required to do the job effectively.

To go from Software Engineering to Product Management, you must have certain skills.

Here’s a table to listing the skill sets of Product Managers vs. Engineers:

Product ManagersEngineers
Communication skills to connect with people.Programming skills to write good code.
A deep understanding of people.A deep understanding of coding languages.
Multitasking on the highest level.Focuses only on making the code perfect.
Delegation and leadership skills.Self-discipline.
Relies on everyone to pull their weight.Only has themselves to rely on.

Interesting Further Reading:

Things To Keep In Mind

Product Management and Software Engineering differ immensely. Your responsibilities as a PM are completely different from those of an engineer. Having the skills and knowledge required for both of these positions will make you better at the one you choose.

Product Managers that understand code can communicate with the engineers better.

Engineers who understand the demands of the customer will be able to produce work that requires fewer alterations.

Just don’t make the mistake of going for a position because it pays you the most. Most PMs are not well suited to be engineers and vice versa.

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