Two Indispensable Technical Skills for Product Managers

As a product manager, you’re probably looking at data day in and day out. Either you, your boss or other stakeholders need it to make decisions.

The thing is that, many times, that data is not accessible. It doesn’t quite have the format you’re looking for, or simply, there is no easy way get what you or others need.

You might or might not have a person dedicated to getting that data for you, but even if you do, that person has a thousand things in their to-do list, so you’ll need to wait for them to get to your request.

Once they get back to you, you realize there’s something that needs adjusting, or something else to be looked at, and the cycle continues.

This is way too slow. It’s time to do things in a different way.

There are a couple of easy skills that I learned as a developer that have really helped me with all-things data: Python and SQL.


I had forgotten what a superpower programming is until I became a product manager. Any request I get for reports or data I can code it so that the next time I need it, it’s already done.

It’s even better when people expect you to take hours or days to get back to them and you’re like: “bam, there you go”.

With Python, you can do easy things very easily. You can make one or multiple APIs requests to get the data you need, query databases, create an excel sheet (or a Google Sheet), draw charts, you name it.

Programming is easier than everyone wants you to believe. It gets harder as complexity increases, but for simple things it’s really simple.


Another language that’s getting in your way to the data is SQL, which is a query language more than programming one per-se, used to extract data out of databases. It looks like this:

SELECT name FROM User WHERE id = '1234'

You’re just telling the database to give you the name of the user that has a certain id. Simple, right? It gets harder from there but the concepts are easy to grasp.

I don’t have any good references on learning either Python or SQL. Since I’m no expert by any means, I’m constantly looking stuff up on Google and Stack Overflow.

I won’t say that any of those things are super simple to learn, but they’re not as hard as you think they are. Programming gets hard when you have the equivalent of a spreadsheet with a dozen tabs, all interacting with each other in subtle and convoluted ways.

However, with Python and SQL, doing simple things is easy, and that’s all you need to get a superpower.

Why become a Product Manager

As an individual contributor in a product team, do you ever feel like you’re missing out on the big picture? Do you feel like every other part of the process is as interesting as the one you’re confined in?

When I was a developer, I certainly did.

That’s why thought becoming a product manager would be awesome. A product manager contributes to all stages of product development, from research to user support, with design, implementation, marketing and sales in between. That sounded like an incredible opportunity to learn a lot about everything that goes into making a successful product.

Not only that, I really believe that some of the skills that you’ll hone as a product manager will be incredibly useful for the rest of your career, such as communication or leadership.

I was lucky that my first job out of college was on iOS development. Especially since I had no clue what I would be doing after graduating. I pictured myself working in a grey open-space office, wearing smart-casual, doing something very uneventful.

I was wrong. I soon learned that there were a lot of cool things to work on in software development and I managed to find an amazing one.

I landed on a really interesting project that lasted about a year. It was a R&D project that got me really hooked. We worked hard, learnt a lot and got the project past the finish line.

But, just as many R&D projects with no users or impetus to make it a real product, it got canned.

Not cool.

After that, I worked on various client projects. More times than not clients just wanted the thing built and didn’t have much context, neither did we get a chance to evolve the product past the first version.

I did not enjoy that. I wanted to know their reasoning behind the design, who their users were, why they wanted to go with those features and not others.

That’s when I realized that I wanted to work on real products, with people using them, and help evolve them over time.

I wanted to become a product engineer.

I joined a little startup called TouristEye where we built an awesome product. We got acquired by Lonely Planet and that’s where I’ve been building products for the last 6 years.

What I really loved about being an engineer there is that not only I got to build the iOS app, but I’d tightly collaborate with design and product on a daily basis.

I would get to do many other things, such as user research, design feedback, analytics analysis, user support, and many more.

I loved contributing in all steps of product development, at all levels. Being a generalist suits me better than being a specialist.

So a next logical step for me was becoming a product manager. I was super fortunate that an opportunity opened up for me and I decided to jump right into it.

It’s now been about six months since then, and I’m still getting the hang of it, but these are, in my opinion, the most useful skills I’m acquiring.

(Feel free to comment or disagree with me)

Hard skills

Data analysis

Data is everywhere. From your screen time on your phone to the variability of your heart rate and anything in between. With digital products especially, it’s so easy to collect that there is a crazy abundance of it.

What’s not so easy is to interpret that data. In a world where data is so ubiquitous, it’s really crucial to have the ability to know what it means and whether to listen to it or not.


It used to be the case that only professionals used digital products so it was ok to give them crappy interfaces to work with. Now basically half the population on earth is on the Internet so we need to make things that can be effectively used.

Even though it’s gotten a lot better, it’s 2020 and most software still looks and behaves in ways that will drive us crazy. Understanding good design will give you a competitive edge.

The two books I recommend Don’t Make Me Think and The Design of Everyday Things


If you work on a digital product, it will be really useful to understand how technology works under the hood. It will help you determine what’s possible, how long it should take and have thoughtful discussions with your team.

Project management

Product management is not project management. Still, sooner or later, you’ll be doing some of it. I think this basically comes down to two ideas:

  • Break down the work into smaller chunks so that work can be distributed across multiple people.
  • Prioritize some chunks over the others to maximize efficiency.

Seems easy enough, just like tennis is just hitting a ball with a racquet over the net. But it’s not. It will, though, be useful for any project that you have in your life. Think of  planning your wedding or renovating your house.

Soft skills

Even if there are a lot important hard skills to be learned as a product manager, I think soft skills is where the real deal is. Coming into it from an individual contributor background, you’ll need to get better at rallying people together to accomplish common goals.

For that, there are at least two key skills to be learned.


You’ll need to become a clear communicator, especially in the written form (Hence the impetus for writing more on this blog). Product requirements, user stories, emails, release notes, etc, will all be done in writing. Clear writing means clear thinking, so developing the habit and skill of writing can only be of great benefit for you.


As a product manager you will hardly be the boss of anyone you work with, yet you’ll need to steer them towards achieving your goals. That’s when leadership principles come into place.

My two favorite resources for all things leadership are the powerful Jocko Willink in his podcast and books, and Oren Ellenbogen with my favorite newsletter: Software Lead Weekly It contain countless gems on leadership from a technology perspective that usually translate well to any other areas.

I’ll be writing more about these specific skills as I hopefully get better at them, as well as on other topics as I continue down this path.

If you’re interested, come along.

The comfort zone we want to get out of, and the one we don’t

I was talking to a friend the other day about a project that we want to start together. He was super excited about a much more ambitious idea than the one we had thought of before. That idea involved taking a bigger risk and being more exposed if it failed.

That new idea was far away from what I’m comfortable doing. It scared me only by thinking about it.

He mentioned how it is good to get out of your comfort zone, and I agreed. “Ok, if I’m going to get so far out of mine you have to do something that gets you out of yours”, I said. Because, of course, his idea was much more in his wheelhouse than it was in mine. Even though it was outside of his “comfort zone”.

Then I mentioned something that I knew would be very hard for him to do, and he was like “Oh shit, I don’t know if I can do that”.

So I guess there are things that we know are uncomfortable for us but still are sort of similar to what we like or are good at. If I’m a programmer, I’m going to learn this new programming language or paradigm. Or if I like to run, I might try to do a marathon.

But then, there are the things that we don’t even try because they’re so far from what we’re comfortable with. Things that make our gut spin by only thinking of them. Sometimes, we shouldn’t just try to get out of our comfort zone, but to run away from it so far we can’t even see it when we look back.

Favorite Podcast Episodes

I love podcasts. They allow me to get to know incredible people that would otherwise be impossible, and do so in a very intimate, honest way. I like listening to podcasts while I’m doing other things like chores, commuting or falling asleep. I think it’s one of the best things that is happened to the Internet and I’m so grateful they exist. Heck, I even had one and I think about reviving it almost every day.

I think we’re still at the infancy stages of podcasting, with so many people still to be reached and new ways to consume them. I would love to have a way to have podcast episodes transcribed so that I could go back to the information that’s shared in them. I would also love a way to know what episodes of what podcasts are the most popular. Find out what my friends and people I follow are listening to and enjoying. A Good Reads of sorts for podcasts.

If anyone reading this want to take a shot at either of them, that would be amazing.

This list is my simple solution to the problem of sharing my favorite episodes: I’ve created an RSS feed that you can subscribe to using your favorite podcast app, in which I’ll be adding the best podcast episodes I listen to. If someone wants to create a tool to make this easier, that would be great! I’ve been thinking about doing it myself for a while now.

So anyway, I hope you like some of my favorite episodes of my favorite podcasts in the last year or so:

Artificial Intelligence

George Hotz

I’ve been watching the autonomous driving phenomenon for a long time now, but never before I had truly understood the depth of the challenges it faces and above all, the different technologies, the different approaches and what the state of the art is. This conversation shed some light on it all. Also, check out other episodes because the guests are great.

Naval Podcast

Play Long-term Games With Long-term People

This episode is one my favorites but all of them are packed with wisdom about life and business. Each of them is a very short gem that needs to be listened, but above all, applied.

The Joe Rogan Experience

Dr. Ben Goertzel

Really awesome conversation about the coming of a Artificial General Intelligence with someone who’s been working on it their whole life, and with a very particular point of view. Loved it.

Rich Roll Podcast

Yuval Noah Harari

Yuval is the author of Sapiens, one the books that I’ve heard people recommend the most, and that I still hadn’t read before listening to this podcast. I couldn’t even finish it before I bought the book. What I’ve enjoyed the most so far about Yuval is the perspective he brings into things. Being a historian that has studied the whole of human history, he can see things in the world of today with a clarity that is very, very rare. I’m planning on reading his three books now and listen to as many interviews on him as I can.

The Knowledge Project

Getting Better by Being Wrong

This is the type of conversations I like the most. That is, the ones where I learn things I didn’t know they even existed. Annie Duke is a very successful professional poker player and an expert in how to make good decisions. I was surprised to know that there is so much knowledge out there about improving the quality of the decisions you make, and in this podcast there are some really interesting strategies to do so.

Big Questions with Cal Fussman

Kobe Bryant

This interview perfectly embodies what I love about podcasts. One of the best basketball players of all time sits with an awesome interviewer who asks the most amazing questions, and you feel like you’re just there with them. A very intimate conversation that gets you into Kobe’s mind and gives you a glimpse of how he thinks about not only basketball, but also creativity, life and much more. Just wow.

The Joe Rogan Experience

Matthew Walker

This one blew me away. Matthew Walker has been studying sleep for decades, and even though I’m pretty paranoid about the quantity and quality of mine, I didn’t know most of the things he talks about in this episode. We all know that we need to sleep more and better, now you’re really going to know why.

The Tim Ferriss Show

Joe Gebbia — Co-Founder of Airbnb

This is one of my favorite interviews of all time. Joe is incredibly talented and his story-telling is amazing. This interview is packed with humor, wisdom and great, great stories.

The James Altucher Show

Tim Ferriss: Using a New Lens To Make Life Easier

I’ve been a Tim Ferriss fan for a long, long time. I find it super interesting how he’s managed to do extremely well in a wide variety of fields, learning things from scratch, quickly becoming an expert at them and then sharing his knowledge while making a business of it. He is usually the interviewer in his podcast and rarely appears on other ones, but when he does, he leaves gems like this one.

The Joe Rogan Experience

Jordan Peterson

Joe Rogan’s podcast has been the single biggest discovery since I started listening to podcasts. I’ve changed my mind at so many things since I started to listen to the guests that Joe brings to his show. From hunting to psychedelics, the number life-changing experiences that you can learn about in his show is big. This episode is one of my favorites. Jordan Peterson is a clinical psychologist who has really strong and deeply researched opinions about what makes us happy.

The Joe Rogan Experience

Rhonda Patrick

I was first exposed to Rhonda Patrick on Tim Ferriss’ podcast but I think I like Joe’s interviews better. She’s become one of my go-to sources of knowledge when it comes to nutrition, aging, and related diseases. She is super smart and some of her knowledge will blow you away. She also has her own podcast, where she talks about all these subjects. It sometimes gets a bit too technical, though.

Hardcore History

Blueprint for Armageddon I

I’ve always been interested in the World Wars, two conflicts of absolutely mind-boggling dimensions that took place right here, in Europe. I’ve never heard someone talk about history the way Dan Carlin does, he kept me equally amazed and horrified during the narration. Must listen.


If you like this list and would like to subscribe to it, Good news! You can add this RSS feed to your favorite podcast app (see how here) and you’ll be notified when I add a new episode to this list, just like any other podcast.And if you have a favorite podcast episode that you think should be on this list, please let me know.

Happy podcasting 🙂

How to make a great day

I don’t know exactly when it started, probably with my latest existential crisis, but I have been thinking quite a lot about what makes me feel like I’ve had a good day and what doesn’t. This has become increasingly important for me since my one of my favorite definitions of happiness is “many good days and a few bad ones”, or something like that.

Three things:

Spending time with people that make me feel good

It’s the one that has the most profound effect on me and is particularly important because I wasn’t even aware of the effect that people had in my internal state until very recently.

Love is the thing that lifts me up like nothing else. Whether it’s my better half, my family or friends, spending time with my favorite people is the #1 thing that creates a good day. It’s taking me a very long time to fully appreciate and embrace this but I’m getting better. One thing that has really helped me is that I’ve been super fortunate to spend a significant amount of time with a very close child, and it’s taught me or maybe reminded me) what unconditional love is. The way children love is the way we should all love. It’s incredible. When I was little my dad used to tell me that he learned more from me more than I could from him, and I never believed him —What could I have possibly taught him?— Now I understand.

Another very valuable thing I get from people is knowledge. I can’t stop learning and doing so with people I appreciate is another fountain of positive energy for me. I really enjoy spending time with people that don’t have anything to do with my world and see what their life and perspective on things are like. That’s why I love meeting new people, whether in real life or on interview podcasts, they teach me things I don’t know I don’t know, and that gets me super fired up.

One more really good thing that I get from people is laughter. Like sex, it’s great when done with other people and just ok when alone. For a while, I think I was probably prioritizing other types of serious matters and leaving this one aside, but it’s crazy what a good session of jokes and pure fun with people can do to you. I’m trying to surround myself more and more with people that know how to do it properly and learn from them. I’m rediscovering and improving my social skills and I’m just pumped about the effect it’s having on me.


As opposed to the previous one, this one I’ve pretty much always known about and relied on. For as long I can remember, I’ve always done some sort of physical activity a few times a week and it’s always been more about the way it makes me feel than the exercise itself. Running and lifting weights have always been my top two, although I’m trying to get into more group activities so that I spend more time with people, which multiplies the effects. (people + exercise = joy)

If I exercise early in the morning, it needs to be low-to-medium intensity, otherwise it will take away too much energy for the rest of the day. I also hate doing it early. My favorite time to work out is in the early afternoon, especially after an intense morning of work. When I come out of it, it’s like a new day has just started. I feel again full of energy and positivism for the afternoon and evening. If I can’t do it then or maybe I’ve had a shitty day, one thing I usually do is run at night. I love doing it in low-light spots like parks or trails. My brain doesn’t get distracted by what’s around me and it’s pumped-up from the exercise so I’m in this kind of positive dreaming state which makes me generally feel super happy and relaxed.

Exercise is so easy it almost feels like cheating. If you exercise you will feel better. It’s that simple.

Good work

Good work provides me with a different type of satisfaction and good feeling. Every task done or problem solved feels like getting a little drop of joy into mind and body, as opposed to exercising or some time with loved ones, which is more like a whole bucket of it at once. But enough of those drops and it will end up being just as good.

The thing though is that work is the most difficult for me to do and my brain never wants to get started. I planned to finish writing this post yesterday but instead, I almost cleaned the whole house, went grocery shopping and spent two hours fixing a bicycle. I struggle to find the time and commit to doing work outside of my job but when I do it, oh boy.


That’s it! This is kinda how I think about my well being. Do one of them and feel good, do a couple and feel great, check off the three and feel amazing. Then repeat for as many days as you can.

Can it be that simple?