Upgrading Your Tech Skills

Through work and my involvement with Cornell Tech, I talk with many junior / aspiring product managers and MBAs who want to ‘get more technical.’ I’ve always been relatively technical, but for those who weren’t making their own websites in elementary school (or didn’t stick with it), here are my suggestions:

Learn to Program

The foundational piece of any technical skills, learning to program is a must. I highly recommend Automate the Boring Stuff with Python (the book or course) to start.

I recommend using introductory programming books or courses as a way to get a quick overview of any new language or interesting technology – I usually find a reason to do this every other year.

Understand the Cloud and Infrastructure

If you’re comfortable with basic programming, the next step is understanding basics of the cloud and managing infrastructure. There are two paths here I recommend – either have a project and host it yourself with something like Digital Ocean or go through a beginner certification of a major cloud provider, like AWS’s Certified Cloud Practitioner.

Data Structures and Algorithms

So you’re familiar with writing your own scripts and spinning up a quick website for a new project. What’s next? This is where you get to work that might not impact your day to day in most Product or MBA jobs, but will still be very useful mental models.

For data structures and algorithms, I recommend The Algorithm Design Manual.

System Design

Arguably more important than DSA, system design is an incredibly deep topic. I don’t have a singular entry level resource to point folks to, but the System Design Primer has a ton of resources worth going through. There is also this System Design Interview course that has been recommended to me, but I haven’t gone through it myself.

Staying Technical

The most important part to staying technical is to always be pushing yourself. If you aren’t being forced to flex your technical skills at work, you need to find time to stretch yourself elsewhere. I try to devote at least 5-10 hours per week to leveling up a skill outside of my day to day responsibilities. If you want to get and stay more technical, the above resources are a great place to start.

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