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Core TPM Skills That Are Not Emphasized Enough

I recently posted about TPM core skills on LinkedIn. I have seen many TPMs who are hyper focused on perfecting their technical skills and learning new domains. TPMs pride themselves on the technical judgment and ability which is the foundation of the role.

However, I often find that other aspects of the TPM role are given less importance or not emphasized enough, often disproportionately to the amount of impact it can have on the success of a TPM. Solid program management skills, strong leadership/people skills, and excellent communication skills are core to the TPM role and crucial to making an impact and achieving success. Moreover, while technical prowess is essential, the holistic development of TPM skills, including program management, leadership, and communication, is what truly distinguishes exceptional TPMs.

In this post, we will explore:

What is a Technical Program Manager?

A Technical Program Manager (TPM) is a special type of program management role often found in the tech field. The definition of TPM largely varies from company to company or even team to team. You have most likely heard of the titles Technical Project Manager and Technical Product Manager, both of which can be abbreviated to ‘TPM’. However, for this topic, I will focus on TPM as in Technical Program Manager.

To get an understanding of the Technical Program Manager role, let’s start with the basics - projects and programs.

Project - is an endeavor with finite start and finish, with primary focus on execution and a goal to create specific product/service.

Example: Launching Google Maps to one new country/locale

Program - Collection of interdependent projects that need to be managed and coordinated together. Scope is usually larger and can last longer through multiple phases

Example: Launch Google Maps in multiple languages in a region with specific plan to increase available features over time.

A Project Manager generally manages a single project and the teams responsible for fulfilling that project at any given time.

A Program Manager manages collection of projects, ongoing iterative changes and/or multiple programs. They track interdependencies across programs, creating program level plans to achieve a combined goal.

Technical Program Manager is a type of Program Manager where the primary focus is on managing technical programs. Technical, program management, leadership and communication skills for program managers are crucial due to the complex nature of the TPM role.

What does a Technical program manager do?

TPMs drive complex and cross-functional technical programs by leveraging deep domain expertise, building a holistic execution strategy and harnessing human leadership qualities to deliver strategic business outcomes that have wide-reaching impact.

Technical Program Manager skills shine in strategic planning, where these professionals makes roadmaps aligning with organizational objectives and driving project success.

Top skills required to become a good Technical Program Manager

I created the following visualization to provide clarity on the core technical program manager competencies. In order to achieve Impact and Success, you need to strengthen all the skills to become a well rounded TPM.

TPM Skills

Technical skills

These core technical skills form the foundation of the role. Without proper domain expertise and technical judgment, it will be very difficult to take off in the TPM role. Most of you are well aware of this and are already putting in a lot of effort to learn new technical domains.

Technical Program Managers, with their advanced technical program management (TPM) skills, exhibit a deep understanding of evolving technologies. They ensure projects gets the latest innovations to stay at the forefront of industry trends.

Program Management skills

Execution skills are not just about tools like Jira or methodologies like Agile. A solid understanding of program management skills means that you are able to plan proactively (short and long term), prioritize effectively, track effortlessly and mitigate risks flawlessly. Don’t make the mistake of creating elaborate sprint boards or tasks with a laborious amount of detail. If you spend hours doing so instead of figuring out what risks will become real, you are focused on the wrong stuff. TPMs are hired to eliminate risk and reduce complexity. The tools and methodologies are just a means to an end.

The essence of TPM skills lies in project management, where Technical Program Managers put together, guide and synchronize different aspects of technical projects.

Leadership skills

Leadership encompass various behaviors that are critical to the TPM role but are not discussed enough. TPMs have to influence without authority, negotiate with teams to achieve win-win, get buy-in from senior leaders, motivate teams to meet deadlines, build strong relationships with stakeholders and manage conflicts objectively. Emotional intelligence, growth mindset, and empathy are traits that will help you cultivate these TPM leadership behaviours more easily. Leadership qualities play a much bigger role as you go up levels in your TPM career. I often see smart technical TPMs get stuck at the Senior TPM level because they lack the appropriate leadership skills.

Collaboration is at the core of a Technical Program Manager's role. TPM skills require teamwork among different functions, ensuring smooth collaboration and the successful execution of technical projects. Setting up TPMs for success involves fostering a collaborative environment where communication flows seamlessly and teams work together efficiently to achieve common goals.

Communication skills

Communication is spread across all other areas and go beyond just the written text, Your communication style is less about you and more about your audience. You have to adapt your communication style constantly. You have to keep honing the various facets of communication. If your audience does not have the clarity after communicating with you, then you need to strategize better. Any communication you put out there should provide answers not raise more questions. And it should be able to answer the “So what?” question that is more common than you think. Keep in mind that language proficiency is separate from communication skills.

Communication is key TPM skill. They skillfully explain complex technical ideas, acting as a crucial link between technical teams and stakeholders.

Don't let your TPM monument crumble. Pay equal attention to all skills so you can be the most sought after TPM.


If you feel stuck in your role or not sure on how to enhance your leadership and communication skills, I can help. Contact Us to setup an introductory consultation.


Frequently Asked Questions

Is Technical Program Manager a good career option?

TPMs are integral to driving complex technical programs which makes it an aspirational path for many and especially those who want to stay close to technology but may not want to code.

What is a good technical program manager course?

What are TPM skills, and why are they important in technical program management?

Can you provide examples of core TPM skills that are often overlooked or not emphasized enough?

Why is strong leadership essential for TPMs, and how can they develop these skills?

What role does effective communication play in technical program management, and how can TPMs improve their communication skills?

What is the significance of problem-solving skills in TPM roles, and how can TPMs hone these skills?

How can TPMs showcase their proficiency in these skills during job interviews or performance evaluations?

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