5 ways to survive and thrive

Life as a non-techy in a tech team

As a Product Manager at Sky Bet, you work closely with highly skilled Software Developers and Solutions Architects to plan, develop and ultimately deliver first class technical projects. There’s a lot of jargon, it can be a complex world, and each team chooses their own coding language and systems. But it’s not just for techies!

As a Product Team, we’re very diverse. Some of us have joined from Trading roles, so come with a fountain of knowledge about the industry. Some are former Business Analysts, that also have a flair for project management, highly skilled at process mapping and organisation. Some have lived and breathed product management within sports/betting their whole lives.

Me? My name is Soffia, I’d label myself a Commercial Product Manager by trade, but wannabe techy. Leading the delivery of a technical roadmap isn’t easy when you don’t always understand the solution, but it’s a hell of a lot of fun. I’m fascinated by how Developers can make magic by writing code. These tips are aimed at helping someone else that might be interested in transitioning to a role in tech, outside of their comfort zone, to have the confidence to do so.

Ask a million questions!

I am fully aware this is obvious, but sometimes everyone needs a reminder. Exploit being a newbie, it’s your right to ask questions, and don’t stop once you’re settled.

There is always someone who has been at Sky Bet longer, knows more about something, and is happy to answer the basic questions. There is a bible of online documents at your disposal, training courses for everything from learning Javascript to German, and an expert in almost every subject in-house. But there’s only so much people will remember to tell you, so don’t be afraid to ask.

Take strength from the experts

You won’t be hired because you’re a tech expert. You’ll be hired because of your strengths; whether that’s communication, organisation or general wizardry. If someone needs your help, they’ll ask, so don’t be afraid to reach out too!

My Tech Leads are my rocks, I couldn’t do my job without them and they don’t come alone. Solutions Architects, Testers, Software Developers, the whole of the tech team, are there to answer questions, support in technical meetings and translate code into something understandable.

If you don’t understand something, that’s fine, find someone that does, and learn as much as you can.

Translate the jargon

Now you’ve asked the questions, and gotten the answers, it’ll be time to relay the information to stakeholders. Chances are they won’t understand either…

So, go back and ask “now how do I explain this in simpler terms?” “does this make sense?” (once you’ve tried to normalise updates) or “how will this impact the customer experience?”. Not only will this make your updates readable across the business, but I bet something you thought you understood, will make even more sense after.

Learn how to identify ‘shiny’ tickets

They’ll creep on your board, and you need to learn how to spot them. Shiny tickets, are the tickets that don’t relate to your roadmap, aren’t part of BAU, no one prioritised it, but somehow, it’s moving through the board.

Developers have preferences, whether that’s front end, back end or a certain language, and then there are jobs they’ll avoid like the plague. If you want to keep your roadmap on track, make sure you don’t breed a parliament of magpies by limiting the number of shiny tickets working their way through.

The best way to spot these, is to ask your Tech Lead. Keep an eye on what’s going through the board, and if your tickets aren’t tagged as roadmap, or you have a lot of random tags popping up, ask how these new tasks have been prioritised.

The best way to avoid them, is to organise the prioritised tickets, and order the backlog, before they can be smuggled in. But make it a team effort, because we’re only human and some shiny tickets are good for the end goal. 

Show an interest

If you want to be in Product, having a genuine interest in Tech helps a lot. Asking questions outside of your remit, dabbling in coding courses, and making an effort to get to know team strengths, builds morale and helps you to prioritise tickets. You should feel the benefit, so at least scratch at the surface of your team’s technical systems and see if it helps.

Don’t get me wrong, if you have no interest in the detail of a technical solution, you could still do the job, but it’ll make your life a hell of a lot easier with a foundation of understanding.


If you're interested in learning more about what life is like as a Product Manager, keep your eyes peeled for upcoming events at SBG...

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