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PMs and designers should code

By Jason Yavorska on December 10, 2023

I'm not saying every designer and product manager needs to become a coding expert, but getting to a point where you can contribute as a capable junior to mid-level coder can make a huge difference.

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When it comes to startups, the hustle is real. Predictability often takes a back seat to adaptability. It's a world where what matters most is delivering results when it counts. And here's an idea: in this fast-paced environment, product managers and designers should roll up their sleeves and code. I've seen it firsthand, and I'm here to tell you that it's not just a good idea — it's a game-changer. And the good news is, it's more accessible than ever, thanks to tools like Copilot. So why should you, as a product manager or designer, get your hands dirty with code? Let me break it down:

Deliver, don't just plan

Planning is important, but delivering is what sets you apart. There are moments when over-planning can be your worst enemy. It piles up work that might not align with the future you envision. Sometimes, what you need is to roll up your sleeves and get things done. When every member of your team, including product managers and designers, can code, you become a powerhouse of execution. It's about seizing opportunities as they arise, not just endlessly preparing for them.

True teamwork

Ever been part of a team where product requirements are thrown over the wall to engineers? It's a recipe for misalignment, misunderstandings, and frustration. But when product managers and designers code, magic happens. You gain a profound understanding of your product from an engineering perspective. This fosters real teamwork, where everyone speaks the same language. It's not just about documents; it's about shared goals and better communication, resulting in more successful outcomes.

Limit over-designing

Picture this: an exciting idea that includes a mix of easy, moderately difficult, and "climb-Mount-Everest" level features. Non-technical product managers and designers often fall into the trap of underestimating the complexity of coding these ideas. The result? You embark on a colossal, complex feature that leaves your team stuck in a never-ending maze. But when product managers and designers have coding chops, they can break down ideas into manageable pieces from the get-go. It's about assessing feasibility, prioritizing smartly, and avoiding the monolithic features that derail teams.

Impact from day one

Coding skills aren't just for the development phase; they matter right from the start. Imagine being in those early discussions with customers or business stakeholders. With coding knowledge, you can provide insights grounded in technical reality. You ensure that your product roadmap is not a pipe dream but a realistic journey. It's about avoiding last-minute pivots and costly course corrections.

It's time to defy the conventional wisdom that separates product managers and designers from the world of code. Whether you're in a startup or a larger company, coding skills can be your secret weapon. It's not about becoming a code guru, but about being able to roll up your sleeves and make things happen when it counts. So, get ready to code your way to success and watch your product management and design efforts soar.