Product Engineer Mindset
The image of the product engineer is not new, and the best illustration is in the quote of this article:
“I wish engineers spent less time understanding the problem and more time coding.” — said nobody, ever.
I consider the role of a Product Engineer as a mindset.
Having this mindset is available to any software developer with any level of technical skill. You don’t need to be senior to have the product engineer mindset. With it, you bring more value to the team and the product.
Product engineers bring value to a product.
What Is This Mindset?
What does it mean to have a product engineer (PE) mindset?
With the product engineer mindset, the focus is on the product, not the tasks.
In a nutshell, the PE never loses sight of the impact of their work on the final product. This is because PEs are not machines that complete tasks. Instead, the PE focuses on adding value to the final user.
PEs don’t just implement requirements; they understand or even challenge them if they don’t make sense.
PEs ask for feedback as soon as possible, even before they finish the task.
—This doesn’t make sense—says the product manager.
—I know, but it was in the requirements—replies a developer without the PE mindset.
This interaction doesn’t happen to PEs. Instead, they have asked for reviews early, especially if they see something confusing.
Developers with a PE mindset turn vague requirements into a feature. They fill in the details and talk to other teams to finalize and understand what is needed.
PEs interact with the other teams to create a better product. They are involved from the beginning of the product cycle because their input is valuable.
Even after agreeing on a feature, PEs might come back to other teams to clarify new edge cases or scenarios.
PEs have a close relationship with the product and design teams.
PEs are experts in the domain of the product. For example, if they work with accounting software, they become accountants; at a shipping company, they become experts in transportation and logistics.
Not only are requirements challenged, but also the order in which the features and tasks should be developed. PEs identify and push for quick wins.
PEs understand the product and technical tradeoffs of the tasks and prioritize them accordingly. They are pragmatic and focus on quality when needed.
Become a Product Engineer
This mindset is an excellent way for junior developers to differentiate themselves and become as valuable as seniors. And for senior developers to become more valuable and essential in the team and company.
Become a product engineer.
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