What Is a Technical Program Manager? (With Tasks and Skills)
Technical program manager roles are mid- to senior-level positions that support organizations with their product goals. They often work across organizations with leadership and their own teams to manage the development and release of products. Learning more about this role can help you determine if it might be a career you want to pursue.
In this article, we discuss what a technical project manager is, explain what they do and share the skills, education and salary that professionals in these roles commonly have.
What is a technical program manager?
Technical program managers (TPMs) are business professionals who oversee one or many projects for a company. They oversee all aspects of a project, from defining its requirements to evaluating the finished product. Many companies may hire technical project managers because businesses across industries use technology to perform their duties and evolve. TPMs often work with engineers to establish technology and product architecture for companies.
Job duties for a technical program manager
Some of the typical duties of a technical program manager include:
Technical project managers often work with business stakeholders to understand their program requirements. This can often include technology for internal systems and programs or products that a customer can buy. When defining project requirements, the technical project manager might determine what resources they might need, how long it can take and how many people they might need for development and testing.
Defining project scopes
Within a program, TPMs might manage different projects. This often might involve different phases of development and testing plan before the technology is ready for use. Technical project managers might design the timelines and scope of each project, including resourcing. For example, one phase might include a round of coding, technical QA and user QA and an iteration of the product as the scope.
Technical project managers can oversee different aspects of a program, including the schedule. Though a program may contain many projects leading to completion, the TPM might review the overall schedule to ensure everything continues smoothly. This can include coordinating efforts between technical teams and individuals from other departments that may provide input.
Testing and reviewing solutions
TPMs might also test and review potential solutions within their program. This can involve both user testing and code testing. Though they often have QA teams that can test the detailed code requirements, the TPM might perform general testing to ensure the product operates as expected from the business requirements document.
The TPM of a company might have to generate different reports for different stakeholders in an organization. For example, they might provide high-level schedule and budget reports to leadership or detailed bug reports to IT managers. These reports could help to make decisions on future progress or monitor the quality of team performance.
Skills for a technical program manager
There are several key skills you might need to become a technical project manager:
As a technical project manager, you often communicate with several people from different teams. These can include product strategists, developers, managers and vendors. Sometimes, you may need to explain complex technical issues about code with business users, requiring the ability to share crucial information that can affect product design or delivery.
Technical project managers can use their technical skills and experience to oversee the development of products for a company. This might involve a high-level knowledge of an organization's technology capabilities and technical details like coding. Though your organization may not require you to perform hands-on coding, this knowledge can help you support your teams and help you accurately plan for new programs.
Though program management often contains many smaller projects, you can apply many of the same skills to a TPM role. Depending on the organization, you may use project management frameworks like agile project management, or the process of releasing features in shorter iterations to adapt to business needs or changes. Project managers often use a subset of other skills, including schedule management, communication, problem-solving and strategic thinking.
Program managers often prepare and respond to potential risks while overseeing their projects. This might involve assessing if a certain risk is worth taking to proceed with product development. For technical programs, this can include the likelihood that a product bug or feature may impact sales or if increasing the resources to work on a program might cause a breach of budget.
As program managers oversee the requirements design, development and deployment of new technology, they often act as leaders to employees across teams. Having strong leadership skills includes the ability to motivate people and think of innovative ways to solve problems. You might create program road maps that detail tasks and milestones for people to complete while developing a product, so it can help to ensure each person knows their role and the goals so that everyone shares the same desire for product success.
Though a highly technical job, TPMs also use basic business knowledge in their roles. This means understanding how organizations structure their business and technology departments and basic financial concepts, like budgeting and profit. By learning these different areas of business, TMPs can work with leadership to determine product strategies and timelines that can help grow business.
Education for a technical project manager
Technical project managers might have a few different degrees. Many roles require at least a bachelor's degree in business administration, business management or computer science. Though often not required, some positions may hope to hire candidates with master's degrees. Some companies may require certain certifications such as a certified project manager certification.
Salary for a technical program manager
According to Indeed salaries, the average salary for a technical program manager is $115,403 per year. However, the salary can vary based on your company, location, education and experience. For example, an established technology company may pay more than a startup hoping to develop new products.
Resume sample for a technical program manager
Here is a sample to help you craft your resume:
- Review allocations and work capacities while collaborating with other managers to create detailed project plans from the estimated work scope
- Created design procedures that increased both efficiency and customer satisfaction while reducing customer escalations by 30%
- Implement company security procedures to safeguard customers' data and personal information
- Approve vendor designs, reports, deliverables and Quality Assurance processes
- Manage daily system design and hardware procurement tasks from initial concept to final sign-off
- Managed communications between software team, clients and stakeholders
- Collaborated with stakeholders to assemble project teams and delegate responsibilities while identifying the required resources and developing schedules to ensure timely project completion
- Established professional services business line to provide customized software solutions to clients
- Software development
- Attention to detail
- Testing methods
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