Angela Wise (B.A. ’06, M.C.S. ’07) is the Director of Product Management at Twitter.
After leaving Rice, she spent almost five years as a Microsoft program manager, then earned her M.B.A. at Harvard Business School. Following HBS, she worked as an Uber product lead and headed up product management for Sprig, a startup focused on the preparation and delivery of thoughtfully-sourced ready-to-eat meals.
Based on her experience, Wise says a really good product manager can take customer needs and translate them into something that can be engineered. “A PM who understands engineering concepts is valuable in deeply technical products, like self-driving cars.”
She said a PM with the ability to dive into the technical details of a project can more easily earn the trust and respect of his or her engineering team.
“When I can demonstrate to the engineering team that I understand what they are doing, we execute better together. They trust me to know enough to ask for the right things.”
Wise identified three skills that are critical for a PM, making the discipline more appropriate for people who prefer a broad skill set as opposed to a deep skill set.
“The most important skill for a PM is the ability to work well with your engineering team, to understand their challenges, costs and risks,” she said.
“Second, you need to be able to understand the customer, speak their language and understand their needs – even if they don’t communicate them very well. Finally, you have to understand the business and market dynamics at play. The hard part is balancing priorities between the engineering team, the customer, and the business.”