Critical Reasoning and Logic are perhaps the most critical soft skills you can have as a TPM. It allows you to think critically about any problem you might face and formulate logical solutions.
At York University, for my undergraduate studies, I took an entire year of Humanities and Philosophy classes before I could graduate. Modes of Reasoning remains the most profoundly foundational class whose content still sticks with me today. Why?
TPMs on a regular basis deal with stressful situations, often impossible positions, and are expected to have answers or help collaborate and drive engineering teams to solutions.
TPMs over time with experience develop heuristics about how certain types of projects will go and how to deal with certain obstacles.
TPMs will be expected to advocate for either process or ideas, influence the direction of teams or entire programs.
Knowing about the latest agile methodology does not help the most when you're stuck or dealing with blockers for varying degrees and nature or advocating your position. Leaning on critical reasoning skills showcases your problem solving prowess:
Knowing how to spot a tech project investment exhibiting Sunk Cost Fallacy.
When two architects with opposing views have slipped in to circular arguments both entrenched in their respective solutions leading to a deadlock and project delays.
How this kernel panic maybe a red herring; the issue root cause is somewhere else and thus not focus resources on chasing this down.
When a heated debate between two engineers has veered into the Ad Hominem territory and it is time to intervene.
When someone says “Well the VP of Product clearly wants this technical solution” to overwrite a Tech Lead’s expert opinion - Appealing to the Authority Fallacy.
How you can lean on Stoic teachings to leave room for unexpected events in your goals and meet stressful situations (like showstopper bugs or schedule delays) with poise and grace - you will be seen as someone who can be expected to lead programs that have never been done before.
Yes, understanding how APIs, Cloud, CI/CD, DevOps, Frontend, Backend, all these systems come together to enable larger systems is important. But, the truly outstanding TPMs are masters of the critical reasoning and leverage these skills to influence and lead without authority.
If you spend time reading the latest white paper on ML research, I encourage you to spend even a fraction of that time on topics of philosophy, reasoning, and logic. It will make you an all around better TPM and Engineering Leader.
My Humanities Starter Pack for TPMs, PMs, and Engineering Leaders based on books I have read and consider a must read for anyone in position of leadership or management:
The Obstacle is the way by Ryan Holiday
Meditations by Marcus Aurelius.
The Great Mental Models Volume 1: General Thinking Concepts by Shane Parrish, Rhiannon Beaubien
Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
These are books that are on my book shelf today, and have read, that have left a mark on me and I hope you find them useful as well.
What non-technical books have you read that have had an impact on you? I would love to add them to my reading list.
Until next time 👋!
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