Software Engineer Turned Product Manager: Here’s How!

software engineer to product manager

There are many reasons why a software engineer may decide to switch to a product manager’s role. 

Maybe they are curious about the whole management process and like to interact with customers and stakeholders to get their views on the product, or they are just a person who likes to delve deeper into a problem and solve it. 

You aren’t alone, no matter what your motivation is to become a product manager from an engineer. Many engineers want to take that leap of faith too. In addition to that, there are many ways to achieve this dream as well. 

This article will explain why engineers make for good product managers, how to transition smoothly from these two roles, and know if you are a good fit. 

We will also cover the responsibilities of both roles for you to distinguish between the two essential functions in a company. 

Reasons Why Software Engineers Make for Great Product Managers

Speaking the Language of the  Software Engineers

A product manager needs to understand the technicalities of a product as well as the business aspect of it. As an engineer transitioning to the role of a PM, you can take the technical knowledge and mold it as per the business requirements and build a feature accordingly.

Smart Work, Not Hard Work

You can have the edge over the other candidates trying to get the role of a PM if you are familiar with the concept of lean software development.

Shifting your thinking toward lean management will be a much smoother ride because you have experience in lean software development.

In product management, lean thinking refers to:

  • Making decisions with the help of data
  • Using roadmaps to base customer value and not solely on features and so on

Growth Hacking

An organization that hires you as a PM expects that you drive growth for the products you will be managing. 

Know that growth hacking is different from manipulation. However, engineers know what people want to click on and how to get their undivided attention. This hacking tool can come in handy as a product manager.

Transitioning From Software Engineer to a PM

To ensure where you are heading in this transitioning journey, you must do the following. 

Get Started With the Basics

If you aren’t sure whether you want to make this change in your career, then you must begin by looking for courses. This way, you aren’t making a significant investment but, at the same time, are learning and understanding whether what you plan on doing is the right thing for you or not.

You can choose either an onsite course on product management or an online one. Visit your nearest institutions and get to know if they offer any such courses. If not, you have the option of doing the course online too. 

Coursera has a software product management course which is a specialized program. You don’t need any previous experience to enroll in the course. 

The other medium of studying is LinkedIn learning. You can access many product management-related videos and courses if you are a LinkedIn subscriber.  


Once you have your basics in place, start by getting hands-on experience in product management.

The easiest way to do that is by understanding how product management works in your current company.

Pro Tip: If you understand your company’s product well, transitioning there as a PM is much easier and better than starting from scratch at another organization.

Get regular feedback about your product manager’s daily tasks. 

Another way to gather some PM experience before applying for the role is to build a side project that you will manage independently. This way, you can show your creativity, share your experiences and stand ahead of everyone else in the selection process.

Ask Yourself These Questions

Get a cup of coffee and sit with yourself to ponder over the following three most important questions:

  • What are you most naturally inclined toward, problems or solutions to those problems?

Connect with your PM friends or colleagues and discuss the answers to these questions. 


  • Look for the opportunity to work as a sales or an applications engineer.
  • Start writing blogs and white papers primarily focusing on customers.
  • Hang out with product managers and sales colleagues.
  • Don’t just get certifications, but also conduct research on product management. In addition, read books on marketing, sales, business, leadership, and so on.

Set Aside a Schedule for Marketing Your Skills

Make a roadmap and jot down all the possible routes you will have to take to reach your destination of product manager. Write down the timing by when you want to get there. 

However, there is no fixed timeline to transition from these roles. 

Applying for the Job

Once you think you are ready to take the next step in this transition, you must apply for product management jobs. You can also inquire about the openings with the HR team in your current company. You can go to networking events too. 

The interview process can be long and tiring with all your busy schedules. Therefore prepare in advance by researching the questions you can expect. 

Pro Tip: Don’t doubt yourself if you don’t succeed at one go. This is a shift in your career and will take some time. Research, have patience, and do your best!

Got the Job, Now What?

Once you have the offer letter, you can often question your abilities. Do I deserve this? Am I putting in enough effort in doing justice to this role? 

All sorts of questions will pop up in your head right from when you say yes to joining until about a few months. 

You might put a lot of pressure on yourself to learn and understand everything at a go right from the beginning. 

However, remember what Victor Kosonen, a product owner who transitioned from engineering into a product management role, says, “ there is nothing you can achieve in a short period, and becoming the product expert requires time and patience. I stopped pretending I knew everything and started to be more transparent and share all my doubts with my product-manager colleagues and the team”.

Juggling Between Time and Information

As a product manager, you will have back-to-back meetings in the week and a truckload of information to handle. 

Since you are interacting with the other product managers, engineers, designers, technical writers, and so on, staying organized is the key to handling it well.

You can use various time management tools available online such as one-note, to-do, and so on, to manage your time well.

Using a product management tool like Chisel can do wonders to manage your development team well and craft amazing products. 

Make the smooth transition from engineer to PM by signing up on Chisel for free today. Get a workspace to prepare roadmaps for your products too.

Here is a sneak peek into what Chisel has to offer :

Treeview is a tool that can help you break down your product into smaller parts and features. With driving variables like customer reach, customer value projected revenue, and anticipated work, you can rank feature requests in order of importance. You can categorize features by goals, releases, and more.

Treeview tool by Chisel
Treeview tool by Chisel

Software Engineer vs. Product Manager Responsibilities

Software Engineer

An engineer focuses on the depth of a product component, which means that they are the masters of the product. 

Additionally, they are aware of tunnel vision, know how to build the product, and are familiar with features, codes, and so on. 

However, what is missing is they aren’t aware of what is happening around them. An engineer’s sole responsibility is to take a requirement and convert and craft it into a design. 

Product Manager

PMs can see the bigger picture and focus on the breadth of the entire product. They find out the right problem (can be customer, business, or technical)  that they can solve with the team. 

Product managers must also consider why solving that problem is worth it and how business outcomes can flow. 

Engineers, on the other hand, deliver the solution to these problems. As a PM, you are responsible for ensuring your team is working on solving the issue, having an impact on business, and teams like sales, marketing, and others are aware of the product roadmap

Pro Tip: Remember that an organization is successful only when everyone works as a team. Therefore expect to be on your toes and do things beyond your responsibilities, such as designing, providing team feedback, and so on. 

The main difference between the engineer and PM is as a product manager; you will be wearing multiple hats

Fluency in multiple languages of conversing with customers and technical knowledge-sharing conversations with developers will put you on top. 

As a product manager, watch out for these things:

  • Do not think of yourself as a customer. Know in-depth who your target customer is and what will make them happy and satisfied, and build that.
  • Build your product roadmap with data and not just gut feeling. You may think that having this feature will be good. However, backing this with data will result in a product that satisfies your customer and increases your sale.
  • Be a humble leader and take input from the developers. Your main task is supporting your team, removing obstacles, and leaving space for engineers to create something out of the idea. 

Ask them what they think of a feature and in what other way they can build it. Be ready to work with people more intelligent than you. This way getting everyone on board and influencing the stakeholders is easier.

  • Be clear and concise, and don’t use fancy tech jargon while explaining the why part of building the product.
  • Be okay with saying ‘No.’ It is impossible to finish a product if you make changes with every feature everyone suggests. 

Few Pointers To Keep In Mind Before Making the Transition From Developer to PM

  • You may think that you are a skilled technical master as a developer. However, technical knowledge is secondary in the product manager’s role. Focus primarily on understanding and finding solutions to the customer’s problems.
  • Even though you are in a senior position in your engineering team, to transition to the PM’s role, you must start from the very beginning. For instance, you will begin as a junior product manager.
  • That brings us to the next and most crucial point: salary cuts. Moving companies can mean you will have to settle for salary cuts. However, if it’s the same company you are switching roles to, it won’t affect your salary much.

Note: Don’t make the career change solely for money. Best engineers in higher roles sometimes make more money than the PMs. 


By now, you will have a brief understanding of what transitioning from a developer to a PM is like. However, you will still have the question “Should I become a product manager?”

Are you ready to start your product management journey but aren’t sure about handling everything? Take assistance from Chisel- a primary app for product managers

Craft products, create roadmaps, build team alignment, and collect customer feedback. 

Sign up for free today!

If you are thinking of transitioning, we suggest giving it a try. Both these roles require skill sets that are complementary to each other. Therefore, if you are well-versed in one role, it sure helps. 

There are two outcomes of trying out. You will know that you love your job as a PM and are happy with it, and will continue.

In another case, you may realize that PM isn’t for you, and working as a developer is something that makes you happy. So you can go back to it. In either case, the result is going to be great. 

However, don’t turn a blind eye to the fact that there are fewer seats for a PM’s role because, for every product manager in a company, there are about 20-50 engineers. 

Good luck with a smooth career move!

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