Starting a career in project management is a good way to put your IT and communication skills to good use, but taking the first steps is never easy.
Good news: to pursue a career in project management, you do not need specific education in the field. We’ve seen successful PMs with degrees in marketing, political sciences and sociology. Of course, master studies in Computer Science and Management and PRINCE2 Practitioner certification may help a lot but are not enough to get you the job.
Bad news: the core qualities that make a good Project Manager are rather innate and hard to acquire. This is why it is so important to make sure you have what it takes to pursue the career.
What does it take to be a project manager?
Rather than just a university degree, it is strong communication, team spirit and superb planning skills that are essential for the role.
A project manager position normally involves a combination of several skills. You do not have to be a programmer, although some degree of IT aptitude will help. As a good project manager, you should be well organized. You will need some analytical skills to deal with problems and make the right decisions to keep the project on schedule and achieve goals within specific budget.
A PM is not a position for the indecisive folks. As an IT Project Manager, you must be ready to make some tough decisions, often without sufficient time for proper consideration.
This may go without saying, but project management is also for responsible people. In the role, you will need to coordinate the work of a group of developers and efficiently manage the project within numerous constraints (lack of resources, tight deadlines, unexpected problems).
Where to start?
Starting a Project Management career has never been easier, even for people who are still working full time or looking after the children at home. There are many project management courses available online. You do not have to break the bank to be a project manager in IT, either. You can learn a lot without even leaving the comfort of your home. For the fundamentals, refer to sites like Lynda.com which offer excellent online courses. You will find lots of tutorials on planning a project using tools like Microsoft Project or Basecamp, and learn the basics of Jira. This will also give you a gist of the numerous responsibilities that the role involves, including managing teams, scheduling, delegating, and juggling resources. If you are still confident that this is what makes you tick, you are ready to take the deep dive.
To jump-start your project manager career, do some certification. This will be a signal for the prospective employer that you are not only genuinely interested in the position but also try to be up to speed with project management definitions and trends. There are many project management certifications that you can choose from. If unsure which of them are worth your while, refer to your PM friends, and keep an eye on the requirements lists in the PM job posts of the companies you would like to work for.
Once you have done the training, honed your skills and made sure this is the job you want, make your LinkedIn profile reflect that. Help people notice your training, skills and personal traits as a project manager. Do the due networking.
Do not expect to be assigned to big projects from the get-go. You will have to prove your worth. Be patient, few people start out as Project Managers. First, seek employment in a large organization with many projects. You may also need to do some non-profit work to help you see if project management is really your thing. You will have to start down the career ladder and take some assistant positions. You are not likely to become a project manager immediately. Working in various areas of IT before taking a PM role is a good thing. This way you will find yourself in different teams, gain industry experience and demonstrate your drive and enthusiasm for the PM position. Over time you will be assigned to more leadership roles and eventually start your own projects.
Smaller software houses allow you to take on more roles and get more hands-on experience in different areas. This is something you can never count on working for a larger company. Make it clear to your colleagues and managers that you’re aiming for a Project Manager.
Land a dream job
Apply to a software house — there are a lot of PM vacancies on the market since every software company needs at least one such person on board. This role takes confidence and desire for continual learning. This is why you should seek employment in a company that offers training and education to help you improve your skills. A good employer should provide you training in specific management software and methodology they use, as well as negotiations and team leadership.
The Project Manager position is a rewarding and responsible job that offers challenge and a decent salary. But more importantly, the Project Manager is a future-proof role, one that can safeguard your career. Along with fast advancements in technology, the demand for this position is expected to grow at a rate of 15 percent until 2022, making it career-wise a really safe bet compared to other occupations.