Tech & Work

Job snapshot: Project Manager

Thinking about getting into IT project management? Here's a job snapshot from an experienced Project Manager that may help you in your decision.

This is another installment of a series within the Career Management blog in which I feature a short survey of a tech pro in a particular specialty. It's not a comprehensive look, just a snapshot of what the person likes best and likes least about his or her chosen profession. I'm hoping it will give a little anecdotal direction to those of you who are just starting out in IT or are looking to change direction. (If anyone wants to talk about their job for the benefit of our readers, feel free to answer the three questions below and email them to toni.bowers@cbs.com)

This week's Job Snapshot is Project Manager, provided by TechRepublic blogger Rick Freedman, who is Director in the Global Services Division of NEC America, and a trainer and course developer in the Agile Project Management practice of ESI, the international PM training company.

What do you like best about your job?

Project managers have the opportunity to see deep inside every sort of business culture and every sort of business model. Projects are about people and personalities, and so the mix is unique each time out. It's a chess game, figuring out who is who, where power lies, and what is necessary for the project to succeed. In IT, the technology always evolves, so the opportunity to learn and develop never ends. PMs also get the chance to participate in the development of teammates; lots of talented IT engineers benefit from the structure and facilitation that PMs practice, and some decide to follow a PM path.

It's also an area where there's a constant evolution of theory, and I like to see the field mature as it integrates ideas like agile and adaptive project management. There's a lively debate within the professional community...I like that.

There's plenty of drama to keep your heart rate up, and lots of satisfaction when it works.

What do you dislike about your job?

Managing projects is a mix of the strategic and the tactical, and the tactical element can get pretty mundane. Constant updating of plans and schedules, constant wrangling over budget and scope, and constant technical challenges aren't always fun, but they keep it exciting and require creative problem-solving skills. It's quite competitive right now, and rates have come down based on that, so managing large projects is not as lucrative as it used to be, but I'd guess this is true for many IT contractors.

What education/background qualified you for your job?

My formal education certainly doesn't qualify me for my job...I'm a high-school dropout with a GED. My basic project management skills were developed as a roadie and road manager for NY rock bands. Under the pressure of a nightly show I learned how to ensure that the equipment and instruments turned up on time and were set up properly. I also learned the importance of the personality aspect. When I went into IT I naturally gravitated towards the management of delivery efforts, and experienced software, hardware, and Web development projects. I started training PMs in 1999 and have been both a practicing PM contractor and a trainer since then.

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About Toni Bowers

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

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