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How does a Product Manager become a Software Engineer? | Reply
I'm currently a product manager for a business intelligence platform at a large financial institution but would like to work hands-on in software design and engineering. I do not have a CS or engineering background. How does someone like myself transition over?

I have bills to pay, and don't have the luxury of going back to school for several years just to become an entry-level software engineer. How can I move over without taking a hit in pay?

Should I pursue certifications? Gain experience doing component design and development on sites like TopCoder? Contribute to open source projects online and hope to make some connections? Development my own applications, try to sell it online, and try to gain attention? All of the above?

I'm working as hard as I can to get my algorithm rating up, which I see as a measure of aptitude. But is aptitude alone, for someone without a degree in CS or math and without engineering experience, enough to get a job? Everything I know about data structures, graph theory, and algorithms is self-taught specifically for the purpose of TC competition. It obviously isn't a solid base for real-world software engineering.

What is the best way for me to attract employers? Not only that, but what is the best way for me to actually become good enough to merit a position as a well-paid software engineer?
Re: How does a Product Manager become a Software Engineer? (response to post by entaroadun) | Reply
You can't drop back into a SE role unless you become an Architect for a system that becomes a mission critical sub-system to a larger application. (without the training you want to avoid)

At that point your technical position is a lab manager for the product.

Essential duties are those of a SE but responsibilities are much greater; essentially you control the door to production. Deployed changes are your right to approve.

Re: How does a Product Manager become a Software Engineer? (response to post by PuffRing) | Reply
Thank you very much for your feedback.

In most major financial institutions the mission critical apps are IBM CICS, and my background is data warehousing on relational databases. It's a stretch, but it may work. What credentials would I need in addition to product and project management experience? I assume I'd need some education/certification in mainframe transactional systems.

There are different levels of training that I would be able to pursue. Short of actual job experience or getting a degree, what are my options? For example, would becoming a Sun Certified Enterprise Architect qualify? Are there any other accomplishments I could pursue that would lend weight or credibility?

Re: How does a Product Manager become a Software Engineer? (response to post by entaroadun) | Reply
I myself was a DBA for a banking software company/transaction backup group for the banking industry. One of the companies on the emergency networks in case the public internet dies. Was even there for a cold restart.

I never got certified, but my first contract involved working with a 20 yr veteran of the company. The senior operations person that no one wants to see up and about. Claim to know nothing, since you probably won't. Never discuss any ideas you have until you've already done the proof of concept. And don't assign work you can't do yourself.

Volunteer for a "just get it done" project and get it done. And when you leave at the end of the day, leave the work at the office. Let them see you work.

Depending on how you get your shot the credentials are important.

Most companies have apps that made the mission critical list, the development of the systems at some point was decisive to the success of the company.

Remember the mission critical apps all began as a demo on someone's desk. Also, remember that when they hand the project to a team and no longer give you directions. Your project has been nominated to recieve the "mission critical" honor. Keep working and don't give up caring.