July 22, 2024

The rise of a whole new position, or engineering skill set, in high-growth organizations during the past five years has been one of the numerous developments. This function is called product engineering. Searches for product engineers have increased by over 80% in the past year and are now three times higher than they were only two years ago, according to a cursory look at Google search statistics.

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It may be easy, if you’ve never heard of this position before, to write it off as just another hiring term employed by employers to find “rockstar” applicants to fill traditionally distinct jobs.

Product engineering is more than just a trendy hybrid job, though. It is quickly evolving into a distinct field with its own tech stack and traits.

This article will explain what product engineering is, how it varies from other fields of study, why high-growth start-ups find it so helpful, and what tools and methods product engineers usually employ.

In any case, what is product engineering?

A product engineer is, in the simplest terms, a person who combines the abilities and responsibilities of a software engineer and a product manager. In real life, this implies that while product engineers are capable of writing code, they also interact directly with users and have general responsibility for a feature or product. They usually concentrate on front-end work and dedicate most of their time to technical activities, however this isn’t always the case. They may also be full-stack or backend engineers.

Product engineers typically possess a keen sense of empathy and curiosity, which they apply to create increasingly complex and comprehensive products. The Pragmatic Engineer once said:

“[Product engineers] have empathy for the emotions that consumers experience and the advantages that come from utilizing the product. They frequently get right into company and user metrics data, obtaining it in any way they can.They act in this way because they are naturally interested.

According to Pragmatic Engineer, product engineers must be excellent communicators with both engineers and non-engineers. Strong product managers undoubtedly possess these kinds of soft talents, but they also work particularly effectively when combined with a software engineer’s technical aptitude.

Last but not least, product engineers frequently have an obsession with data and can use it in conjunction with their empathy to identify new opportunities for a team or a product. To obtain as much data as they can and test new concepts, product engineers frequently combine surveys, A/B testing, and product analytics tools.

Once more from the Pragmatic Engineer: “They frequently go right into business and user metrics data, obtaining this information in whatever way they can. If it is feasible, they could access it directly. If not, they might speak with the data scientists or product manager.

Why Do We Need Product Engineers?

Because of their enormous potential influence, competent software engineers and product managers are already among the most valued personnel of a firm. Product engineers are still extremely essential, though, because they can work independently within a team. A product engineer is capable of handling both tasks independently, as opposed to depending on a product manager to establish the strategy or a software engineer to carry it out.

In practice, this means that product engineers are constantly seeking out customer feedback, identifying potential edge situations for the product, and taking appropriate action based on the information they get. Above all, they are scheming for better products and creating prototypes to measure the effects.

“Product engineers are always seeking autonomy and fast decision making,” to paraphrase Sherif Mansour.

Naturally, when a product or team is in its early stages and there is still a lot of uncharted territory to cover and product-market fit may not be proven, product engineers are very valuable and in high demand. Product engineers may make significant contributions to a company in these kinds of settings if they have the appropriate tools.

Which Stack Are Used by Product Engineers?

Product engineers frequently make use of tools used by other roles, such as product managers, marketers, and designers, in addition to the standard engineering tools, such a code editor:

Feature Flag Software: To swiftly roll out new features or introduce beta versions of new prototypes so they may collect user statistics, use programs like LaunchDarkly or PostHog.

Session Replay Tools: To get data on how users truly interact with a feature, utilize tools like HotJar or PostHog. User surveys are frequently employed as a follow-up method to obtain more input.

A/B Experimentation Platforms: To validate theories and assess the effects of front-end modifications to a product, use platforms like PostHog or VWO.

CI/CD Tools: To facilitate continuous iteration and free up engineers to concentrate on product vision rather than infrastructure, use tools like GitLab.

Product analytics are another crucial component of the stack as product engineers find immense value in data in all its forms. Product developers may analyze data with tools like Amplitude, Mixpanel, and PostHog to uncover new opportunities. Actually, PostHog offers a special program just for businesses that includes a whopping $50,000 in credit along with many other benefits.

In summary

As we’ve discussed here, since product engineers frequently make direct contributions to software projects, there doesn’t always have to be a “either-or” choice between software and product engineering. However, the discipline’s ascent indicates that it’s becoming more and more important to be able to provide goods faster while integrating customer input based on data.