Featured Employee: Product Managers Share the Secrets to a Successful Engineering Relationship

Erin Knight is one of our Product Managers, and we asked her what the keys to a successful relationship with Engineers looks like.

What makes a dynamic duo dynamic? Besides just a knack for teamwork, a lot, actually.

Take a famous pair like Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson, the fictional crime solvers from the mind of Arthur Conan Doyle. They’re opposites: Holmes is eccentric, moody, awkward and sharply observant. Watson is patient, level-headed and down-to-earth. But together, they balance each other out, their characteristics contrasting but well-matched. 

Beyond their banter and complementary traits and skills, they have trust, mutual respect and established communication, enabling them to excel as a team more than they ever would as individuals. 

That same partner-in-crime mentality that made Holmes and Watson so successful isn’t just limited to the streets of London. In tech, product and engineering teams maintain the same characteristics that make for well-functioning teams.

“Product managers and engineers are partners-in-crime in the product development cycle,” said Madi Palermo, senior director of product management at Ibotta. “Their relationship has a huge impact on the teams’ success and overall mission.” 

According to Palermo, communication, consistency, complementary skills and courage are the keys to a successful dynamic relationship between product and engineering. Erin Knight, a product manager at Peaksware, said another element is critical to a successful relationship between engineering and product: empathy.

Built In Colorado found out more about what makes the relationship successful from these two local leaders. 

As a product manager, what are the key ingredients for a successful relationship with your engineering team?

Having mutual respect for each other makes it easier to have open and honest conversations when things are going as planned, but especially when they aren’t. I try to avoid surprises and ensure everyone knows what’s coming by communicating early when there’s a change of plans.

Describe how your product and engineering teams intersect, and how this organizational structure helps build the relationship between the two. 

I work best when I am in touch with what the developers are doing. This doesn’t mean micromanaging, but instead joining standup meetings, whiteboarding or workshopping new ideas, and taking part in demos so I’m on the journey, too. If something doesn’t go as planned, I already know why and how we got there, and we can collaboratively move forward. Our product managers meet periodically to align with the product roadmap across teams and share what is working well or identify areas we can improve collectively. Standardizing practices that work well across development teams means we can increase consistency and learn from each other.

What communication strategies do you use to ensure engineers share your product vision?

I work closely with designers and engineers when defining new work. We iterate on the design and review it weekly or as needed to get technical feedback from engineers and ensure the visual design solves the problem efficiently. A whiteboard or mockup can quickly confirm that we are on the same page, and we avoid unnecessary rework later.

Original article written by Cathleen Draper, click here for the entire article.