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Technical Skills for PMs Based on Spotify Job Listing

More and more companies now mention "experience with tech" in PM job listings. At the same time, I often hear from the same PMs that "tech is not our job." Let's take one job listing and analyze it in this light.
So, here's our job listing. Well, not ours, Spotify's.

Senior Product Manager for Playlist Platform

Delivering the best Spotify experience possible. To as many people as possible. In as many moments as possible. That's what the Experience team is all about. We use our deep understanding of consumer expectations to enrich the lives of millions of our users all over the world, bringing the music and audio they love to the devices, apps and platforms they use every day. Know what our users want? Join us and help Spotify give it to them,
If I didn’t have my favorite product in Booking, I would have responded to such a vacancy myself. Why? Well, firstly, Spotify is an innovative business that changes our reality: almost every person that you see on the street or in a cafe wearing headphones listens to music on Spotify. Or in its competitor service, that is, on a similar platform. So this is indeed huge.
Secondly, the fact that the whole team will only deal with the playlist suggests that everything will be very serious. That implies a lot of traffic, internal customers, ultra-optimization of customer experience, and, as a result, the need to build a platform, and not just a one-time feature.
So let’s see what Spotify wants from a PM for this one.
Maintaining and scaling the Playlist Platform for the large internal customer base and supporting the playlists of millions of users.
As you already understood, the product is a platform to support the heart of any streaming music service: Playlists. Here, an experienced (and rather technical) PM sees not just a "list of songs" on the iPhone screen, but also an algorithm for choosing their "right" order, simple and intuitive options to add / remove songs, auto-generating playlists based on listening history and recommendations. Not to mention storing all this so that not a single favorite song is lost!
Okay, we definitely need a team for that. Who will be there? The next block gives an answer:
Collaborate with designers, engineers, researchers and data scientists to identify problems, opportunities and solutions that will support the needs of our users and impact our goals / metrics.
This list of stakeholders (designers, engineers, data scientists, etc.) explains that we need not just a "techie" who will monitor technical indicators, but a product manager who will combine knowledge of the technical world with an understanding of the desires of customers and main company metrics. This is re-emphasized by the following requirement:
You have the ability to translate technical needs into simple understandable requirements and be a translator between tech and design/product and know when to push back.
I would like to draw your attention to the part "translate tech needs into simple understandable requirements." No-one needs a smart ass throwing technical terms around. On the contrary: PMs who can explain things in simple words (perhaps adjusting their explanations for each stakeholder) are valued way more.
What's next? Let's see:
Good understanding of how to define and build APIs which can be utilized by internal customers of a platform. Ability to understand tech architecture and systems and to know when a solution should be platformed or not (cost/opportunity exercise).
This section, once again, reminds us: no jokes here. Spotify sees “one feature” as a whole platform. A tech-savvy PM now can roughly sketch the architecture of the application:
  • The top level features services of the internal customers: main application, recommendations service, external integrations service (say, music player in cars), audiobooks service, etc.
  • API inside the platform: /add_song, /remove_song, /shuffle, /repeat, /enqueue_after, etc.
  • The main “brain” of the platform. It is responsible for the state of listening: it says which song the listener is now on and what is going to happen next.
  • A very reliable and quick storage service for all the playlists. Like, ALL of them. A user normally has anywhere from one to ten playlists, so with the number of users in Q3 2022 being 456 million… you do the math.
  • Last but not least, the ability to scale it all for podcasts, live streams, and other related products yet to come.
You can ask here: why so serious complicated? A smart company would want to hire a PM who’d be able to build it properly once and for all (and reliable). That will speed up the business development, shall they start working with other products, such as audiobooks.
  • Identifying new opportunities to evolve the platform
  • Building a platform that scales for many clients (ubiquity strategy)
  • Ensure the platform is build on modern language and optimized
By the way, as is usually the case in similar vacancies, the task of drawing architecture and discussing the nuances will surely be a part of the interview. By giving it to you, employers will probe whether you see the depth and whether you can decompose the task into pieces. Would you like to practice it? Come to the special course Tech for PMs, there you can practice sketching architecture for various products.
I have to say that this knowledge will also prove useful in your daily work. As you probably guessed, your current product can also be broken down into pieces of architecture, which will allow you to see it inside out, which, in turn, means that you can manage it better.
Further, the Spotify vacancy again gives us a clue that all this will need to be converted into a consistent strategy and the PM will need to be able to defend it in front of colleagues (by the way, we also practice this in our Tech PM simulator). Let's see how they phrase it:
  • You have experience in contributing, debating and crafting strategies
  • You have strong writing and debating skills to take part in strategic discussions
Finally, this job listing mentions more "classical" requirements for a position of a Product Manager: analytics and A/B experimenting:
  • Triangulate data and insights to develop a robust product strategy and advise decision making
  • Utilize a/b testing and other methodologies to validate the success of your chosen approach
I kinda hope that the majority of PMs have basic knowledge of data and A/B testing. This job opening, however, being a Senior level position, requires a deeper understanding and the ability to make data-driven decisions. So, here you will need to be knowledgeable of a statistical test for interpreting the result, A / B experiment metrics, using SQL and Python to quickly analyze hypotheses, common mistakes in real practice, etc. All these and more you can learn with us in our A/B testing simulator.

To conclude

In this analysis, I wanted to show that sometimes products are not only about UI or gluing together well-known blocks (website, chatbot, delivery) to create one big picture. There are simply no such blocks for the products of innovative companies as their area is so new and complex. And many interesting tasks, such as the Spotify Playlist Platform, arise exactly where business and tech come together.
Hope it helped! And if you consider applying to a similar job, I wish you best of luck in this endeavor!