Examining the Need for a Technical Background

Discover the significance of the technical toolset as a foundational pillar for TPMs.

We'll cover the following

In this chapter, we’ll make the case for the technical toolset. Introduced earlier, the technical toolset is a foundational pillar for a TPM. It is the connecting glue between the other pillars—program and project management—and sets a TPM apart from a generalist PM.

We’ll continue by discussing the various tools in the technical toolset and how they help us not only excel at our job but also work across job families as the need arises.

We’ll explore the technical toolset through the following topics:

  • Examining the need for a technical background

  • Defining the technical toolset

Let’s get started!


While discussing the origins of the TPM role, we looked at the role of the PM and how gaps in knowledge could hinder the execution of a project or program. This course has focused largely on the tech industry and the common usage of the word technical to refer to information technology. However, if we look at the word as a synonym for specialized, then the need for a specialized background might be a bit clearer.

Looking back at the pillars of the TPM, program and project management are two-thirds of the foundation of a TPM. This is because these skills transcend each individual project and program management position. They are the most fundamental needs to succeed. However, to truly thrive as a TPM, our specialty focus as a technically minded practitioner requires a fundamental understanding of technology. This is what sets us apart and allows us to be more successful than a generalist PM in this role.

TPM specializations

The tech industry as a whole is still getting used to the concept of a TPM as a needed role. However, some companies are going a step further and making the role more specialized within the technical spectrum. This makes sense given that the reason for the TPM role is to provide specialized knowledge of information technology to the PM role. As the market for TPMs becomes saturated, a more nuanced delineation is needed when a simple technical background will not suffice. When you need a TPM specializing in Application Security (AppSec), then the title becomes TPM—AppSec. If you need a TPM that can help you move entire ecosystems to the cloud, you may need a Solutions Architect—TPM.

Becoming a TPM: The career path of a TPM was covered earlier, but it’s worth noting here that while the discussion on needing a technical background sounds like the path to a TPM is as a PM that expands their technical knowledge, the path is most often a person with a technical background (for example, a software developer, systems developer, or another similar role) that expands their PM skill set.

This is why this course provides a lot of chapters on PM skills that are relevant to a TPM because this is the area of growth for most people coming into the TPM field.

This trend of specialization is similar outside of the tech industry where TPMs are needed. A medical company may need a TPM with specific medical knowledge or a specific software package or device. One such job where this is needed is Program Manager (Medical Device). Though listed as a PM, the role requires an engineering background with knowledge of working with feature launches of medical devices. If the need is large enough, a new title may be created. The figure below illustrates a few different TPM specializations found on the Amazon job board and how they are related:

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