I’m finding myself at a place in my career where I need to grow into what’s next, for me, that’s growing into a title I’ve given myself - Technical Product Strategist. Product Strategy could be easily defined to include product roadmap, go-to-market assessment, marketing plans, etc. Often in product marketing you’ll find that Product Managers are often paired with Technical Product Managers or Technical Marketing Engineers. I’ve seen both scenarios. Even with Technical PMs or TMEs, I think there’s a broader role that is needed to cross the boundaries between Product, Product Marketing, and Customer Success that is involved with working with customers to find what technical improvements they need in a product and then influence the product roadmap, executive decision making, and the way a company brings a product to market.

You could argue that Technical Product Strategists already exist in most vendor orgs, but from what I’ve seen, people in Technical PM or TME roles get bogged down with more niche items, focusing on content or product releases rather than the big picture. Rarely do those roles get to cross boundaries, work with internal and external customers, bring that information back into the product and marketing teams, and help message to executives where the market is signalling the product needs to go. Executive leadership relies on sales organizations, outside firms, and internal metrics to help direct product strategy, but what if there was someone, with deep ties in the industry, that lived and breathed product strategy from a technical level every day?

Non-technical folks can justify just about any product into any market with the right amount of creativity and spreadsheet gymnastics, but what can’t be ignored is if the product will actually provide value from a technical level. Will the feature that has been prioritized in engineering matter? Will it make the product more attractive to customers? If you pair a highly technical individual, with good business sense, and a solid picture of the overall market, with the team generating the product strategy, I think companies could have a much higher chance of success with their products.

As of today, I’m a senior/principal TME, with some good experience in sales, and a hyper-technical background. I’m really enjoying working in product marketing and am in love with the idea of having folks who are not in engineering that can help influence a product’s direction. Day in and day out, I’m working on cross-polination between different parts of my organization, trying to spread information about the market we’re serving. This is not necessarily a traditional TME duty, it’s just one that I’ve become quite good at through my unique background.

Over the years I’ve found that the more I uplevel my thinking beyond just the tech, the easier it is for me to produce products that move the needle in the industry. Spending five years in sales as a Systems Engineer was an extremely difficult period of work for me, but it brought forward a type of thinking I never would have experienced if I remained on the customer side, or if I remained purely technical - being able to speak to business leaders.

Often I would find myself talking to CIO’s, Directors, and Managers in engineering who were looking to solve a problem. CIO’s and Directors were 99% of the time talking about a business problem, rather than a technical problem. They also happen to be the ones who generally say yes or no to a purchase. So, I started working on rounding out the rougher areas of my communication capabilities, speaking with those in decision making positions.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a tier 1 engineer or a CIO, everyone is just trying to solve the problems on their plate. The problems though, look very different. From the top, individual business units may be purchasing SaaS solutions out of their own budgets, rather than going through IT, causing data sprawl and security concerns. Where the infrastructure engineer can’t keep up with the on-slaught of requests, causing the shadow IT to happen in the first place. To the engineer, the problem will look like they can’t scale their infrastructure fast enough because of one reason or another. The problem will look different to the CIO, because they’ll just see that they’re failing security audits or costs have spiraled out of control.

So I learned how to bridge the gap. To find the technical solution to the business problem, then explaining it to both parties in a way that made sense to them. The same solution, with two explainations. This type of understanding in how folks in different levels of an organization think, triggered a big shift in my career. It made me start thinking about how, inside of a technology company, engineering might look at things differently from Product Marketing, how sales might look differently at something when compared to how a customer might look at it.

If you’re purely an engineering lead organization, you’re going to have a bad time. Marketing isn’t a bad word, and most people in marketing aren’t what you think of. I strongly believe that Product Marketing is the glue that keeps an organization together, but there’s often a gap in how everything functions.

I believe that Technical Product Strategists could fill that gap, if they’re given the power to do so.

Read Part 2 now!