How to Become a Project Manager

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Published: 07th December 2012
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Project managers are an essential part of any IT project. They're in charge of organizing, coordinating and managing the work that takes place as part of an IT project, and contacting everyone active in the project. Becoming a project manager isn't an easy feat - but it’s satisfying and could be an enjoyable job role! In this article, I share a few tips on how to become a project manager.

The First Step - Career Progression to Project Manager

Firstly, let’s outline some of the ways an IT professional could become a project manager. Usually, IT professionals begin in an entry-level position, in a technical role, one that's very hands on with technology. This may be a software developer, tester, network engineer, or some other similar roles. They generally find some good experience in this role to learn how the IT business works, how the organization works, and what the job role consists of.

The next phase depends upon many factors including the individual, the organization they are employed in and the job market at the time. Quite often, the next step to become a project manager is to move into a team leader job. It will provide you with a a bit more responsibility, and will help you develop your communication skills and management, both skills required by project managers.

When you have some experience as a team leader, in many cases the next phase is to move into project management, either as a junior project manager together with another senior project manager, or as a full project manager.

Now, the path I outlined is just a general one. Your experiences and opinions may vary - which is actually a good thing! Having several paths to the same goal is yet another reason why IT is such a good industry - there are a variety of choices! To really progress from one role to another, though, you need to learn different skills.

What Skills Do Project Managers Require?

The thing that makes project management roles so different to other positions are the skills that they require. Some of the skills that project managers need to learn are:
• Communication - the ability to talk to different types of people in different varieties of roles is important for a project manager
• People management - Dealing with people’s workload, requests, issues and successes is an additional important skill for all kinds of managers
• Time management - There are numerous things which happen in a project management role, that time management is a crucial skill to have
• Leadership - General leadership qualities are helpful for project managers
• Planning - Having the ability to make plans, stick to them, and come up with alternatives if (or when) they go off target is essential.

Additional skills or traits that project managers really should have include responsible, hard working and honesty. These are what separate the normal project managers from the great ones.

How to Become a Project Manager From Your Current Position

The big question is how do you get to become a project manager from the position you’re in now? There are a few things you’ll need to do if you wish to get there:
• Assess your personal skills - Study your own skills and determine where your strengths and weaknesses are. I might assume that your strengths are related to your job role. You’re probably good at communicating if you’re a business analyst or good at analysis if you’re a network support engineer.
• Rate yourself on the project management skills - The next thing is to rate yourself on every one of the skills that are required for project managers (see the above section). The relevant skills that you’re not confident in are the ones you’ll need to give attention to improving.
• Start with small experiences - A good method to start learning to be a project manager would be to begin taking on small parts of a project manager role. You could speak to your boss about this, possibly taking on some planning tasks, or writing minutes, or organizing resources - all of this experience will likely be helpful in becoming a project manager.
• Look for junior project management roles - You can do a search on a job website (not while at work, though!) to learn more about the job descriptions and specifications for the role. This will help to identify what you ought to do to get to a junior project management standard.
• Look into project management certifications - There are some entry-level project management certifications that you might find beneficial to obtain if you’re interested in a project management career. The two most common ones are the Prince2 Foundation and the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) (more about these in a later post).

If you start researching project management, taking on some tasks a bit at a time, and improving the skills that project managers require, it should place you in a great position! Hopefully these pointers have shown you how to become a project manager!

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