Product Manager vs Engineering Manager

product manager vs engineering manager

The meaning of a Product Manager’s role differs between companies, and it sometimes overlaps with other operational stations. We’ll compare and contrast the duties of a Product Manager with those in different positions in this mini-series: Product Manager vs Other Roles. Today, we’re exploring the similarities and differences between a Product Manager vs Engineering Manager as they both contribute to the success of a product.

These two positions are integral to the formulation and creation of products. However, they can also be at odds at times as both want to solve user problems and come into conflict as to which takes priority.

Product Manager Definition

a Product Manager owns the product and is responsible for the success and failure of the product. They’re also responsible for the vision and strategy of the product. They have to stay on top of developments and make sure the product is covering all bases.

A Product Manager will need to have healthy working relationships with their team of engineers who will be building the product, and especially with the Engineering Manager. One of the most important Product Manager skills to have is excellent communication. As a leader, it’s the PM’s responsibility to not only set the strategy, roadmap, and vision: the Product Manager needs to keep their team on the same page every step of the way.

A Product Manager must have positive working relationships with the engineers who will create the product, especially with the Engineering Manager. Excellent communication is one of the most essential Product Manager skills. The Product Manager is responsible for setting the plan, roadmap, and vision and ensuring that all departments involved are working in unison.

Engineering Manager Definition

Engineering Managers are responsible for the management of the engineering team and making sure that the product is being built correctly. Their role entails being the technical lead to technical decisions and needing to stay on top of advancements in related technologies. They are responsible for the implementation of the product.

The biggest difference between a Product Manager vs Engineering Manager is that Engineering Managers directly manage the team, whether that means sitting down and coding along with his team or supporting the development opportunities for the engineering staff, including mentoring, coaching, and reviewing their progress.

Responsibilities

What are the responsibilities of a Product Manager vs Engineering Manager? Product managers are in charge of defining the product vision and formulating the product plan. Engineering managers develop the product’s architectural vision and technological plan. As Jen Liu writes:

Product Managers are responsible for the “what” and “why” while engineers are responsible for the “how” and the “when”

Product Manager Responsibilities

The Product Manager is in charge of the product roadmap and execution during the product’s life cycle. Their responsibilities include collecting and prioritizing development and consumer specifications, identifying the product vision, and collaborating closely with the Engineering Manager to ensure a viable product that delivers on customer satisfaction. Some of their responsibilities include:

  • Setting the strategy and vision of the product to align with business and user goals
  • Building a product roadmap
  • Working with engineers, designers, and stakeholders
  • Requirements evaluation
  • Stakeholder management

Engineering Manager

An Engineering Manager is in charge of making sure that main tasks and engineering responsibilities are completed. They are tasked with resolving any engineering issues that arise during a project. Here are just a few of the key responsibilities of an Engineering Manager:

  • Answering technical concerns
  • Proposing project budgets
  • Recruiting new staff
  • Collaborating with Product Managers to ensure features are worthwhile investments

Overlap

The primary overlap between these two roles lies in the future success of a project. Clear communication and collaboration need to occur for either position to achieve its KPIs

Product Managers must provide clear use cases for their products to ensure that the Engineering Manager can allocate the appropriate resources throughout the different development phases. 

If a breakdown in communication arises, this can create a substantial bottleneck for both managers. However, if the Product Managers role has been clearly defined, and the Engineering Manager understands where their responsibilities extend regarding feature development, creating a successful product becomes significantly easier. This collaboration can ensure that a product is one that consumers want while also being one that users can use.

Skills

Leadership, communication, and a willingness to understand another’s perspective are essential for both Product Managers and Engineering Managers. Adding in conflict management can ensure a healthy relationship throughout a project.

If both share these traits, the divergent success metrics can be met by all parties. 

Product Manager vs Engineering Manager

Transitioning from an Engineering Manager to a Product Manager role can be seamless. Since Engineering Managers work side-by-side with Product Managers, they gain a thorough understanding of the roles and obligations that come with taking control of an entire product. This move comes with the added benefit of communicating with engineers in a language that other engineers are familiar with due to your background. 

If you’re thinking of transitioning into product management, take the first step by scheduling a free career coaching session with our in-house team of PM recruiter experts. We’d love to answer any questions you may have. In the meantime, join our supportive community of Product Manager Job Hunters to chat with peers and gain extra job-hunting insights.

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