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How to go from tech to project manager

By ramabrooks ·
I have spent the last 4 years as an IT tech. most of that time as a desktop tech and the last 6 months as a help desk tech. I have CompTIA A+ and Network+ plus I just recently earned an Associates of Applied Science Degree in CIS.

I am looking for other folks who have made the career change from tech to project manager to see how they did it. Currently I am studying for the CompTIA Project+ cert. Thanks.

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On Project+ Certification

by veerabhatnagar In reply to On PMP certification

Project+Certification unlike PMP does not require work experience. However, to answer the questions, you certainly need to be experienced and must know project management concepts.

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I concur - time will tell all

by jasmith In reply to Becoming a PM

I have worked all sides of the fences (think split rail type). I have been a consultant, a VAR (mom and pop to Fortune 500), a dealer and government. 10 years is about right and you need to mix up your areas of expertise. In order to run a project you need to understand the big picture. Business education and expierence are vital. Get a bachelors degree in businnes from an accredited institution and expand your technology skills. Ask to be a part of a project team so you can learn the process. Look for someone that might mentor you. If you go this route, do not be a job hopper. They are willing to make an investment in you, you had better be ready to make an investment in the company. In many cases, project management can be from aquisition to deployment to the entire process. It also could be interfacing with other project managers to bring a conclusion to a much biger project. Hey I just spent $2M on pc's, am shutting down 10 sites that will save $250k annual in data circuit costs alone. You have to be a generalist with knowledge in many different areas to be a project manager at larger. That should be your goal and yes, managing people is a very big part of it. If you do not have the people skills, you will not get out of the "I was a part of the project" to being the project manager role.

Hope this helps from one doing this for 20 years.

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Reply to BFilmFan

by nidogski In reply to Becoming a PM

I disagree with your remark about needing 10 years plus experience in industry and needing a business degree.

Its not all about qualifications, although a project management methodology one is good, its more about ability to manage and 'fit' to the job

I've worked in IT for 8 years and have been project managing multi-million pound projects for the last 4 or more. I've implemented global bespoke software systems and the largest greenfiels implementation of Cisco infrastructure, and i achieved this because i had a committed and knowledgeable team and was able to manage them well and set the correct expectations

Employers these days, in the UK at least, are more interested in ability to get the job done and the team fit, than how many degress in business professionalism you have

Stick your nose in every technical piece of work and offer to assist, if you display your skills in front of the right audience, the role will come up especially if you discuss your ambitions with the management teams of the project arena

Hope this helps


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by JamesRL In reply to Reply to BFilmFan

As this is an IT group, you should relate to acronyms. This one is: The world is a very big place.

When I was searching a few years back, I found an emphasis on certification and degrees, to the point of rather pointed instructions that you should not apply unless.....

That was in Toronto, it may be different where you are.


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Time Periods

by BFilmFan In reply to Reply to BFilmFan

You have had some exceptional experience and luck in that 8 years, but then so have I in the past 5 years working with clients such as State Farm, General Motors and the US Army Reserve implementing Active Directory and Exchange.

My comments were intended to be general advice and there will indeed be some people that rapidly move into project management and others that will be on the Help Desk 20 years from now. Everyone is different.

I've found in the past few years a number of clients are desiring someone that can both implement the technology and perform project management functions.

As you said, the degrees and certifications will not and never should trump experience, but a candidate with experience, degrees and certifications will be called before someone with no certifications or degrees and the same amount of experience.

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Success story...

by nidogski In reply to How to go from tech to pr ...

I too started off life as a desktop/server support guy back in '97 managing a 50 user network. Progressed to supporting a client base and building/speccing servers (Unix and NT4) until 2001, then made a move to Accenture.

After that it all came easy, my skillset raised me above others as i have both full Unix (Sco, HP-UX, Linux) and WIndows (NT4, 200x) skills, as well as application skills.

Get involved in project managed pieces of work from a technical level and if you show willing to get the job done you can start the migration across to Technical Project Manager, looking after the delivery of purely technical packages of work.

After two years of this you can really sell your project management skills, as employers believe that two years of project management experience means you can project manage anything (apart from complex software projects)

I moved from Accenture to a smaller IT solutions provider delivering to several market sectors in 2003, and after doing 2 years there managing multi million pound Infrastructure and Software projects have now moved to a financial software house.

You need to care about delivering something and be prepared to slug it out through thick or thin. I have moved from large company with good framework to places with none just to prove i could. I now earn an excellent salary and could project manage pretty much anything but it does take commitment.

Most people from a technical background give up because they are closet geeks and miss the hands on playing with new 'toys'. If you can get over this hurdle (i still have servers at home!!) then you should do ok. A project management methodology course should also help, i have Prince2 which is a real winner

Hope this helps and good luck!


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Maybe a little different

by mberner_learner In reply to Success story...

My backgroung is a bit different in that I started in sales and marketing with a BS degree in Marketing Management, after 12 years I somehow found myself in technology. I have had the opportunity to work with servers and desktops, O/S and applications, routers and switches. Right now I am a Sr. PC Support Specialist working for a large credit union. I am also finishing up my first year at Capella University working on a MS Degree in Information Technology, specializing in Project Management & Leadership. I have had the opportunity to work on several small projects but by no means have what I would call real PM experience which is making it very difficult to find a job in PM. Unfortunately my current position does not offer the opportunity to transition into a PM position. So, my dilemma is HOW to make the tansition to PM from where I am. I am cocerned I will wind up becoming a highly educated Desktop Support Technician. I am not eligible for the PMP certification due to lack of experience. Does the Project + cert carry any weight in the industry??

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Tech to Project Manager transition

by ron.jacobs In reply to How to go from tech to pr ...

Hello ramabrooks
I was a network engineer for 11 years before making the transition to project manager. I've been a Project Manager for about three years now.

The biggest challange for techs wanting to become project managers is the change in mindset. You now longer determine "how" to do a task you determine "what" needs to be done and "who" should do it. This ability of determining "what" needs to be done requires the tecnical person to devel into the business needs as to why a technology or project is needed. This means you need to know what business your company is in and how it goes about making money. This knowledge of the business is what drives the technology needs.

You will also need think more in terms of systems instead of unit of work.

Hope this helps

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Re: Tech to Project Manager transition

by GoingMobile In reply to Tech to Project Manager t ...

Excellent advice.
Another aspect to keep in mind is that as PM, you are responsible for a project where you do not have full authority over the resources. This means you will need to posess excellent people and political skills. Usually a PM gets involved when a project has been approved but no one really knows how long it will take, what the scope is, or how much it will cost (or the PM is part of getting the project approved/denied based on figuring out these factors). As you start and run the project, you will constantly be negotiating these factors with your stakeholders. Stakeholders of course have their own priorities, agendas, and issues to worry about.

Try it on a small project if you get the chance and see how you like it. I started managing small projects (~25 people) about 5 years into my software development career and liked it (all the people also reported to me which makes things *much* easier, and eventually moved up to a 100 person project. As this project was much more visible, it required full time schedule and expectations management and I hated it. I personally prefer to do work than watch it get done. So I no longer manage projects, but have a much greater level of respect for those who do. And of course I use my understanding of Project Management even on small projects to plan for unexpected events, plan staffing, and even when I will get work done.

Good luck.

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Techie to PM

by jlemmon7 In reply to How to go from tech to pr ...

I am a lot like you in that I started out with a 2 year degree. I supported a Govt. agency doing desktop support, networking support and cyber security. I then went back to school and got a 4 year degree in CIS and went back to the same company. I then was given more technical enterprise wide issues to resolve which turned into IT based project work. Once I successfully completed several projects on-time and under budget [by doing a lot of project management guessing/trial and error], I was then moved over into the Project Management office. Fortuneately for me, my boss was very eager to send me to any PM type classes I could find and the first year in his department was primarily getting the PM training I needed. I have also taken the PMI classess that will get me to my PMP next month [hopefully].

Looking back, the best advice I can give you is get involved in some projects or even run some low level projects at first. During this period you will want to pay real close attention to the expectations of your Sr. Mgmt. You may read that there is a certain way [or perferred way] to run projects, but if that is not what will make your managers happy, you are doing it wrong. Be perceptive to their expectations and get with others in your organization to see what pitfalls to stay away from. Communications with your management and project team members is one area that I spent most of my time, making sure that everyone was on the same page. It only takes one person in a meeting that you are not invited to mis-stating progress or problems with your project and you can get side swiped, putting you in a situation of damage control that was not even your fault. Expectations and communications were key for me and I still rely on both heavily in any project I am doing.

Hope this helps....good luck.


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