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Moving from Technical Specialist (Programmer) to Software Project Manager

Venkata NK Madireddy

 The purpose of this article is to provide advice to technical (software) specialists on making a career from purely technical path to project management path. I have outlined a few important and essential skills that are required and the ways and means to acquire the skills/knowledge to move to a career path in Project Management. The content in this article is based on my experience of trying to achieve the move successfully and aims to provide a clear understanding of the possible approaches that can be taken by others who chose to make a career path in project management.

I identified the following ideas which you can turn into individual objectives for PM Career development:

Read: Read books on Project Management Methodologies like PMBOK or Prince2. Read articles on Project Management those are freely available on the internet. These will help you understand the fundamentals of project management.

Network: Identify and develop relationships with Project Managers or Project Leaders. Discuss whenever you have an opportunity about their nature of work or their job scope. Some of these acquaintances may turn out to be your mentors.

Take new responsibilities in your current job: Take ownership of aspects of Project Management slowly one at a time. One example of taking this up is to deputize for your manager or team leader to attend meetings in their absence or whilst they are away. Get involved in project meetings, it is one of the best opportunity to show your presentation, leadership and communication skills. Seek to take responsibilities being carried out by your current project leaders.

Professional Affiliations: Take membership of some professional association in Project Management. Lot of knowledge sharing takes place in these professional communities. They are also help to expand your network. You can enroll in chapter groups or special interest groups of these associations. Attend to their meetings and free short courses and seminars. PMI (www.pmi.org) is the world leading association for PM’s and PMI’s Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) is the widely accepted standard for Project Management. PMI represents over 300000 Project Managers in more than 100 countries and covers all the industries.

Training: The Project Manager needs to have skills to balance the needs and requirements of all stakeholders. Project Managers own the Project and have to provide timely and accurate reporting and budget management. In addition to the basic project management education where risk, commercial and financial management skills are taught, aspiring project managers need to be good at soft skills like consultancy, negotiation and assertiveness. Attend to specific courses which teach you these skills.

Professional Accreditation: Try to gain Professional accreditation like PMP and Prince2. These exams test your basics on Project Management. There are different levels of certification like Associate, Practitioner and Professional.

Experienced programmers, system analysts and DBAs plan to pursue project management opportunities, but if they end up filling those roles depends on factors beyond the technical expertise they have gained in their areas. Project Managers do communicating, facilitating, coordinating, presenting, planning and monitoring projects 90% of the time and 10% technical work. Information technology projects are run by people with IT background as it helps one to understand the technicalities involved in the project, but IT background isn’t a must.

To summarize the above, find a mentor, increase your network, join communities and professional associations, volunteer for roles, take more or additional responsibility and find a good mentor. You need to develop the skills and make the transition slowly and in a controlled manner. You cant really move one day from being a software engineer and then suddenly become a project manager the next day.

About the Author: Madireddy Venkat has a Bachelor’s Degree in Electronics Engineering from Bangalore University, an MBA (Operations) from Indira Gandhi National Open University, and MA (Education) from Indira Gandhi National Open University. He has over 25 years’ experience in IT Industry. He is Certified ITIL Expert, Certified Prince2 Practitioner (Peoplecert), and Certified COBIT5 Implementer and Assessor by APMG. He has imparted training to over 3500 IT Professionals in India and Overseas. He can be reached on mvenkat27@outlook.com.

 

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