Project managers are an important part of any IT project. They are responsible for planning, coordinating and managing the work that happens as part of an IT project, and communicating with all people involved in the project. Becoming a project manager is no easy feat – but it’s rewarding and can be an enjoyable job role! In this article, I share a few tips on how to become a project manager.
The First Step: Career Path to Project Manager
To begin with, let’s outline some of the ways how to become a project manager. Generally, IT professionals start in an entry-level position, in a technical role, one that is very hands on with technology. This could be a software developer, tester, network engineer, or other similar roles. They generally get some experience in this role to learn how the IT industry works, how the company operates, and what the job role involves.
The next step on how to become a project manager depends on many factors such as the individual, the company they work in and the job market at the time. Most of the time, the next step is to move into a team leader position. This will give you a little more responsibility, and will help you work on your communication skills and management, both skills required by project managers.
Once you have some experience as a team leader, in many cases the next step is to move into project management, either as a junior project manager alongside another senior project manager, or as a full project manager.
Now, the path for how to become a project manager I outlined is only a general one. Your experiences and opinions may vary – which is actually a good thing! Having different paths to the same goal is another reason why IT is such a good industry – there are a lot of choices! To actually progress from one role to another, though, you need to learn different skills.
What Skills Do Project Managers Require?
What makes project management roles so different to other roles are the skills that they require. Some of the skills that project managers need to learn are:
- Communication – being able to speak to different kinds of people in different kinds of roles is very important for a project manager
- People management – Managing people’s workload, requests, issues and achievements is another important skill for all kinds of managers
- Time management – There are so many things that happen in a project management role, that time management is an important skill to have
- Leadership – General leadership qualities are useful for project managers
- Planning – Being able to make plans, stick to them, and come up with solutions if (or when) they go off track is important.
Other skills or traits that project managers should have include responsible, hard working and honesty. These are what separate the regular project managers from the great ones.
How to Become a Project Manager From Your Current Position
The big question is how to become a project manager from the position you’re in now? There are a few things you’ll need to do if you want to get there:
- Assess your own skills – Look at your own skills and decide where your strengths and weaknesses are. I would assume that your strengths are directly 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 step is to rate yourself on each of the skills that are required for project managers (see the above section). The skills that you’re not confident in are the ones you’ll need to focus on improving.
- Start with small experiences – A good way to start becoming a project manager is to begin taking on small parts of a project manager role. You can speak to your boss about this, perhaps taking on some planning tasks, or writing minutes, or organizing resources – all of this experience will 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 find out more about the job descriptions and requirements for the role. This will help identify what you need to do to get to a junior project management standard.
- Look into project management certifications – There are a few entry-level project management certifications that you may find useful 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 on these in a later post).
If you start learning about project management, taking on some tasks a little bit at a time, and improving the skills that project managers need, it should put you in a great position!