GUIDE 2022

Essential Technical Program Manager Skills

Are you looking for crucial technical program management skills to become a successful technical program manager? Well, you’re in the right place. This article provides you with various core skills beneficial to your search. 

Technical program manager (TPM) roles range from mid to senior-level positions that support organizations with their product goals. They work with leaders and their own teams across organizations. This occurs throughout the program’s life cycle. 

If defining project scopes, reviewing solutions, and generating reports interest you, this is the perfect career. 

If you want to know the top skills you need for this role, continue reading.  

 

Communication and Interpersonal Skills 

Communication is the foundation of the TPM role. TPMs must communicate strategies, roadmaps, and program issues with all key stakeholders. 

That said, communication skills are essential for all program managers but even more critical for technical program managers. TPMs are responsible for communicating complex technical ideas to both technical and non-technical team members. 

Strong communication skills help you explain the technical aspects of projects so that everyone is on the same page. Potential technical program managers must keep this unique communication challenge in mind. 

As a technical program manager, you communicate with product managers, leadership teams, and external vendors. So, you must have the skills to communicate in these instances. 

Stakeholder and Partner Management 

Stakeholder and partner management entails managing and maintaining relationships with vendors, suppliers, and contractors. This includes reviewing invoices, negotiating contracts, and ensuring that all parties are happy. 

Technical program managers demonstrate leadership and team building with key stakeholders to ensure successful project delivery. They also partner with business stakeholders to prioritize tasks and roadmaps while achieving organizational objectives. 

These partnerships enable the technical program manager to create training solutions that align with business requirements. 

It also allows the TPM to implement best practice approaches for communication, project management, and overall solution delivery. 

Leadership 

Program managers oversee the requirements, design, development, and deployment of new technology. In doing so, they often act as leaders across teams. Strong leadership is the ability to motivate and solve problems in an innovative way. 

You might create program road maps that detail tasks and milestones for people to complete while developing a product. This helps to ensure each person knows their role and goals so that everyone shares the same desire for product success. 

Furthermore, rigorous action-taking must follow your decisions, for which you require strong leadership skills. A TPMs ability to lead guides employees to achieve goals, even if they are self-determined. 

Project and Personnel Management 

The technical program manager coordinates several interrelated technical projects across the many teams. Thus, the TPM develops its program’s strategies and roadmaps while leading all the teams that execute them. 

To fulfill the technical program manager role, you need great people skills. You work with various teams, gain their trust, influence buy-ins in multiple situations, and make strategic decisions. 

Previous experience helps you delegate tasks and encourage your team members to work together in a productive manner. Strong personnel management also means providing teams with guidance and empowering them to take the initiative. 

 

Technical Skills 

The technical project manager uses their technical skills and experience to oversee the development of products for a business. This might involve technical details like coding and high-level knowledge of an organization’s technology capabilities. 

Organizations may not require you to perform hands-on coding. However, this knowledge does help you support your teams and create an accurate plan for new programs. 

Project Management 

Project management is the process of scheduling, planning, and overseeing projects. 

The program manager is responsible for managing multiple projects. Strong project management skills enable you to keep track of all the details involved in each project. It also ensures projects are running well. 

Depending on the organization, you may use project management frameworks to adapt to business needs or changes. 

This includes agile project management or the process of releasing features in shorter iterations. Project managers often use a subset of other skills, such as communication, schedule management, problem-solving and strategic thinking. 

A senior technical program manager uses project management on their resume in the following way: 

  • Generates managerial performance curves from the data teams. This supports project management decisions for cost, schedule and performance issues.
  • Leads best practice initiatives that result in improved project management, resource utilization, and revenue forecasting.
  • Spearheads the development of the program management office and defines project management processes.
  • Implements organizational changes and employee training to improve project management core competency.
  • Develops and manages the project management governance and guidelines for support projects. 

Strong Technical Aptitude 

Every technical program manager has a strong aptitude and understanding of their organization’s technical aspects and capabilities. Their technical knowledge is indispensable for developing and executing their programs. This becomes invaluable to their overall ability to lead their different teams. 

Having solid technical skills ensures that you become an effective and inspiring leader to the most technical members of your teams. This translates straight into a better execution of your technical programs. 

Depending on which organization you plan to be a part of, you must showcase a relevant technical background. This assists you in executing successful programs for the company. 

It also helps you qualify to handle different teams with various technical skills. At most, it puts you in an inspiring position to lead them forward. 

 

Delivery and Program Management 

Companies need program management for product delivery and effective communications with internal and external teams. 

Delivery and program management include creating new programs when the company requires them. It includes understanding the vision/objective and starting new programs. 

The technical program manager also manages and tracks programs through their various phases. In addition, they communicate progress and issues with all stakeholders on time. 

Getting familiar with agile methodologies helps to manage program development and understand what it’s like to supervise a scrum team. 

Technical program managers devise strategies for programs that meet a business’s big-picture goals. This involves making important decisions every step of the way. 

A technical program manager must demonstrate that they rely on solid data and empirical evidence for decision-making. This is an essential part of sustaining an organization in the long term. 

Requirements Gathering 

Requirements gathering is when the technical program manager collects any information the client requires. This includes budgets, project deadlines, and other constraints or considerations that affect your work. 

Requirements gathering helps you make adequate plans and ensures that you are working toward meeting the client’s goals. This allows you to identify potential risks early on in the project and implement steps to mitigate them. 

Functional Specifications 

Functional specifications provide you with detailed descriptions of what a product must do. Program managers use these specifications to track the progress of projects and create project goals. 

These are useful when negotiating with vendors and help to show how their products may benefit the company. Functional specifications help program managers convey defined project goals, allowing everyone involved to understand what tasks they are trying to accomplish. 

Systems Analysis 

A technical program manager performs a systems analysis to analyze a system. They also use it to determine its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities for improvement, and potential outcomes. 

As a program manager, you become responsible for analyzing existing systems and proposing improvements or changes. This skill helps you develop practical solutions that meet organizational goals. In addition, it enables you to evaluate new plans before they’re implemented to ensure success. 

 

Organization Skills

A technical program manager uses organizational skills to keep track of multiple tasks and responsibilities. As a program manager, you are in charge of overseeing several projects at once. Each has its own goals, objectives, resources, milestones, and deadlines. 

Strong organizational skills help you manage your workload and ensure that all aspects of the project progress as expected. 

Moreover, it allows you to delegate work to team members. Do this by assigning them specific tasks and providing them with clear instructions on completing those tasks. 

Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) 

The SDLC provides several steps for developers to follow to create new software. The technical program manager oversees the creation of software. For this reason, you need to understand how teams built it. 

Knowing a software development life cycle makes you more effective in managing projects. This also enables you to complete projects on time and within budget. 

Its well-defined framework allows software developers to pursue producing, designing and maintaining premium quality software. 

A senior technical program manager incorporates software development into their resume by:

  • Improving software design by identifying inconsistencies and recommending the software development team.
  • Evangelizing Agile methodologies and pioneers expansion of standard waterfall Software Development Life-cycle (SDLC) framework.
  • Delivering within budget against aggressive project schedules using waterfall and agile software development methodologies.
  • Steering factory diagnostic software development to increase factory throughput and defect detection.
  • Defining and developing ManTech software development procedures, policies, and infrastructure. 

Change Control 

Change control includes the ability to adapt to changing circumstances. In program management, you must change aspects of your project’s plan when new information arises, or unforeseen challenges occur. 

With strong change control skills, you find quick and effective ways to adjust. This allows you to continue to move forward with your project. 

Technical Writing 

Technical writing skills enable technical program managers to create and edit project proposals, reports, and documents that establish complex processes. 

Such documents include detailed information about the steps you must take to achieve an organizational goal or complete a task. Your ability to write with clarity and conciseness helps you communicate with your team members and clients. 

 

Planning and Strategic Thinking 

Program management positions are strategic. They focus on long-term, big-picture initiatives to meet an organization’s business goals. 

Technical program managers must know how to develop programs that accomplish some aspect of a business’s larger strategy. As such, the cornerstone of being a technical program manager is enthusiasm for high-level planning and strategic thinking. 

Risk Management 

Risk management is recognizing potential challenges when they arise and developing strategies to overcome them. The program manager is responsible for overseeing projects with budgets in the millions of dollars. 

Program management requires strong risk management skills to help minimize risks that may result in unnecessary expenses or project failure. You must also consider how team members might react if these risks occur. 

A TPM’s focus must always be on an organization’s long-term, strategic goals. That said, a successful technical program manager has the ability to recognize, measure, and mitigate the risks that come with different approaches. 

They must also have the ability to make prudent decisions regarding an organization’s time, resources, and personnel. 

Flexibility 

Flexibility in program management is the ability to adapt to changing circumstances. As a technical program manager, you may need flexibility in your work. This is because projects often have unexpected challenges that require quick and creative solutions. 

Flexibility also helps you to become more accepting of change within an organization or project, so you may find ways to improve outcomes and processes. 

Problem Solving 

Problem-solving is an essential role of program management. It is the ability to identify and address issues that may arise in a project. Because the technical program manager oversees several projects at once, it’s essential to have strong problem-solving skills. 

This ensures that each project runs well. Your problem-solving ability also helps you develop effective solutions that meet your organization’s needs. 

 

Takeaway 

Former Facebook technical program manager, Liana Gevorgyan, says that technical program managers impact employees. They bring about happiness and satisfaction through their leadership and guidance, increase customer satisfaction, and monetize successes for the company. 

You need a bachelor’s degree in business administration, business management, or computer science and strong core skills. While the role is complex, you’re on track to becoming a successful technical program manager with the right balance of soft and hard skills.

If you are ready to pursue a TPM role, follow the tips in this article. You’ll then set sail in your desired direction! For a smoother process, search for TPM interview questions to prepare yourself better. 

Are you inexperienced in technical program management and looking to break into this role? We recommend taking the AWS Certification Course. This course helps you build your skillset in program management. Online learning opportunities are a great way to focus on the core technical program manager skills. Other ways to learn these skills include reading books or articles on these topics. 

Josh Fechter
Josh Fechter is the co-founder of Product HQ, founder of Technical Writer HQ, and founder and head of product of Squibler. You can connect with him on LinkedIn here.