One of the most common frustrations we hear from anyone pursuing his/her first product management job is: “I don’t know what I don’t know!”

Rather than realizing that you need to learn a particular skill, a process or tool AFTER the interviewer or your boss asks you about it, here are 4 of the most common questions (and answers) that you might not have thought to ask:

Business Man on Phone

What is a product roadmap?

A plan put together by the product manager that prioritize and estimates release dates for the product’s features.

The roadmap becomes your bird eye view on how the product will evolve and when features will be released over a timeline of months and years.

What types of tools do product managers use?

These are the 3 most-used product management tools:

  • Feature and Bug Tracking (ex: JIRA, Pivotal Tracker, FogBugz)
  • Roadmap Planning (ex: ProductPlan, OmniPlan)
  • Wireframing (ex: Balsamiq, Mockingbird, Pencil, Axure)

How technical do you need to be?

The answer to this one is that it depends on the company.  The good news is that there’s really a healthy mix of job opportunities for highly technical non-technical product managers. 

While it doesn’t hurt to be a bit technical, it’s not a requirement.  In fact, a highly technical product manager can be less effective than a non-technical one (you’ll learn why next).

The #1 goal for a product manager should be to understand the customer/user and their needs, and that requires zero technical skills.

For an example, you can read about how one of our graduates got a PM job without a technical background.

How do I manage a team that is more technical than me?

One of the most important lessons for a PM that many learn early on, is that the job as a product manager is to know and explain “WHAT are we building” and it’s the job of the developers to come up with “HOW we will build it”.

As a product manager, you will get a lot of exposure to the actual users and customers of the product and you will know vastly more about their needs than the developers.  This will be your biggest and most valuable contribution.  There’s no one else in the company that will know more about WHAT to build than the product manager.

So rather than managing the team, help guide them to “WHAT we are building” and then let them decide how it’s built.