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What is a Technical Program Manager?

A technical program manager (TPM) is a professional who is responsible for the development and delivery of software and technology products. They oversee and manage technical programs or projects. Success metrics for TPMs include on-time and on-budget delivery plus meeting or exceeding quality and scope goals for the program. They work with a team or teams of engineers, designers, product managers, and other professionals to ensure that products meet the needs of the customer.

TPMs are responsible for a variety of tasks, including:

  • Defining the scope of projects
  • Developing project plans
  • Managing the budget
  • Tracking progress
  • Communicating with stakeholders
  • Resolving issues
  • Ensuring quality
  • Closing projects

TPMs must have a strong understanding of technology and software development. They must also be able to lead and manage people and projects effectively.

The role of a TPM is becoming increasingly important as businesses rely more on technology to deliver products and services. TPMs are in high demand.

For more details see the What section.

Top companies who employ TPMs

These top technology companies are known to employ and value the role of Technical Program Managers.

Company Description
Amazon Known for its vast e-commerce platform and cloud computing through AWS, employs TPMs across various projects.
Google A leader in search, cloud computing, online advertising, and hires TPMs to manage complex technical projects.
Microsoft Offers products and services across operating systems, cloud services (Azure), employing TPMs for numerous technical programs.
Apple Specializes in consumer electronics and software, hiring TPMs for successful development and launch of products.
Facebook (Meta) A major player in social media, venturing into the metaverse, hires TPMs for innovative projects.
Netflix Leading streaming service that focuses on content production, employs TPMs for technical projects and infrastructure.
Tesla Known for electric vehicles and clean energy products, requires TPMs for technologically advanced projects.
SpaceX Engages in aerospace manufacturing and space transport, hires TPMs for complex space missions and projects.
LinkedIn Professional networking platform, employs TPMs for projects enhancing platform capabilities.
Salesforce Specializes in CRM software, employing TPMs to oversee technical projects improving its platform.

How is a TPM different than program, product, or project managers?

Technical Program Managers (TPMs) stand out from product managers, project managers, and non-technical program managers through their focus on the technical aspects of program and project management. While product managers are primarily concerned with defining the what and why of a product, aligning product vision and customer needs, TPMs navigate the how and when, orchestrating technical execution and timelines. Compared to project managers, who might manage the logistics and timeline of any project, TPMs specifically leverage their technical background to manage software, hardware, and IT projects, ensuring technical feasibility and implementation. Unlike non-technical program managers who oversee broad, often cross-functional initiatives without diving deep into the technical details, TPMs are deeply involved in the technical decision-making process, bridging the gap between engineering teams and other departments to ensure project success in technology-driven environments.

For a detailed exploration of how a TPM differs from other similar professions, see the Not a TPM section.

Why become a Technical Program Manager?

There are many reasons why you might want to become a technical program manager. Here are a few:

  • You enjoy working with technology. TPMs work with a variety of technologies, including software, hardware, artificial intelligence, robotics, and networks.
  • You are good at leading and managing people and projects. TPMs are responsible for leading and / or managing a team of engineers and other technical professionals. They also need to be able to manage projects effectively.
  • You want to make a difference. TPMs are responsible for developing and delivering products that make a difference in people's lives.
  • You want to earn a good salary. TPMs are in high demand and can earn high compensation.

For more details see the Why section.

How to become a Technical Program Manager

Here are some ways to become a Technical Program Manager:

Get a degree in computer science, computer engineering, or a related field. A bachelor's degree in computer science, engineering, or a related field is the most common requirement for TPMs. However, some TPMs have a master's degree or even a PhD.

Gain experience in software development and project management. Most TPMs have experience in software development and project management. You can gain this experience by working as a software engineer, a project manager, or even an intern or co-op student. You can also get this experience through school, college, and university projects. Another option is to volunteer to help open source projects. Your technical hobby projects also qualify as experience here.

Network with other TPMs and learn from their experience. The best way to learn about the role of a TPM is to network with other TPMs. You can do this by attending conferences, joining professional organizations, joining local meet-ups, or just talking to people who work in the field. Also network with related professions like software engineers, computer scientists, data scientists, designers, researchers, marketing professionals, and technical sales people.

Be prepared to work hard. The role of a TPM is demanding. You will need to be able to lead or manage a team of engineers, manage projects effectively, and stay up-to-date on the latest technologies.

For more details see the How section.

The Future of Technical Program Management

The future of technical program management is bright. The demand for TPMs is expected to continue to grow, as businesses increasingly rely on technology to deliver products and services. Search for the phrase "digital transformation" for examples of traditionally non-technical companies that are embracing software and technology. TPMs will be needed to oversee the development and delivery of these products and services.

In addition to the demand for TPMs, the role of the TPM is also changing. TPMs are now being asked to take on more responsibility, such as leading and managing cross-functional teams and developing new technologies. This is due to the increasing complexity of the products and services that businesses are developing.

To be successful in the future, TPMs will need to have a strong understanding of technology and software development. They will also need to be able to manage people and projects effectively. Additionally, TPMs will need to be able to think strategically and be able to adapt to change.

The future of technical program management is exciting. TPMs will have the opportunity to work on challenging and innovative projects that will make a difference in the world.

For more details see the Future section.