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Becoming a Product Engineer (in the software industry)

harikayedidi profile image Harika Yedidi ・3 min read

Are you a software engineer who cares about the product you are building? Do you always ask why? before you think how? Are you empathetic about the user you are building features for? If your answer is yes to all or some of these questions, then you’re likely a Product Engineer or aspiring to be one like me.

A little bit about myself, I’m a software engineer with over 6 years of experience building websites, web & mobile applications. In all the years of building software, the one thing that I have been consistent in asking why we are building a certain feature and how it makes an impact on the customer. I frequently follow up with product managers regarding how customers are interacting with new features after a release, and how much value it’s providing to them. I’m also active in learning about customer pain points and proposing solutions to make the UX better. Having experience working across the “full-stack”, thinking about what kind of engineer I want to be… I came across an article by Gergely Orosz about the product-minded software engineer. That's when I learned about product engineers and I wanted to become one.

While there are some excellent posts and tips on how to become a product engineer, I’m highlighting a few points that helped me get started on my journey to becoming a PE.

  1. Work closely with the Product Manager(PM) and help them determine whether a certain feature is feasible and is useful for the business & the stakeholders.
  2. Give feedback on the feature proposals, think about solutions that don’t require engineering time.
  3. Before jumping into code, understand why the feature is being built. While working on it, if you think there’s a better way of solving the problem, discuss it with your PM immediately. In my experience, PMs will always value an engineer's input and it may also help you save some time without putting much effort into the project.
  4. Build an MVP and gather early feedback from UX if possible. Make sure to build solutions for the particular problem without affecting the usability.
  5. Prepare a document with a list of suggestions for improvement that you may see while working on the product and be sure to bring it up as an open discussion. Something that also worked great for me is to just send the document to the product manager along with a ballpark estimate for each of those.
  6. Collaborate with the CX team in learning about the customer feedback and map it back to the product discussions when appropriate.
  7. Encourage A/B testing for new features and get engaged in product analytics.
  8. Last but not least, be pragmatic, not dogmatic!

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Image Courtesy: Ben Kolde on Unsplash

Closing thoughts:

Becoming a product engineer doesn’t make one less technical; in fact, every software engineer can be categorized as a product engineer. But because there are many specializations in software engineering and it’s hard to focus on all the things at the same time, I think that if you are interested in any of the things I mentioned above, I believe product engineering could be something worth exploring. The ultimate goal of a product engineer is to deliver products that customers will love!

Thanks for reading! I hope to write more posts about product engineering as I go, consider this post as a prologue. I would love to hear your thoughts below.

P.S. Huge shoutout to my manager Oliver Solano for encouraging and inspiring me to get started with writing.

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