How to become a Project Manager

In my experience, official project managers are usually consultants in the high technology or construction fields. This may include but is not limited to software development, computer networking or architecture. They are hired to manage and own the processes that take a project from start to finish and into warranty phase, while dealing with the triple constraints that make up project scope. These constraints are:

  1. time
  2. cost
  3. quality

Project managers usually start out with a business degree or some equivalent level of experience. They may work as a project coordinator or hold some other executing type role for several years before obtaining the skills, experience and credibility necessary to begin managing projects. In my role as a webmaster and graphic artist at a corporate internal communications consulting firm, I report directly to two separate project managers corresponding to two unique projects. My personal background includes a business degree and work as a coordinator (including this role). If I choose to stay with this consulting company as a coordinator and express interest in advancement I may expect to rise into the PM position eventually.

In addition to developing your own hands on experience, the Project Management Institute offers a Project Management Professional (PMP) certification that can be achieved through personal study and documentation. This type of certification process can help boost a coordinator up to the project manager level and may be worth considering. Many colleges and continuing education organizations offer project management courses that will help you earn a PMP.

Through my own interest and initiative I have earned a PMP and seen an increase in pay, job offers and personal understanding for how projects work. A big part of certification is learning new vocabulary and acknowledging the official steps that the PMI deems appropriate and most effective for project management. Ultimately, you will face a rigorous test and be required to document 5,000 hours of project leadership to qualify.

For those interested in becoming a project manager or improving at an existing role, tasks that you may encounter on a daily basis include:

  • identifying and documenting objectives, achieving buy-in and sign off from stakeholders
  • accomplishing objectives within the constraints set out by stakeholders or identified by the project team
  • controlling and monitoring the project, this might consist of planning and running meetings, asking how everyone is doing, documenting status and following up to make sure things stay on track
  • tracking metrics and reporting to stakeholders
  • proactively identifying, monitoring and responding to risks

Depending on the organizational structure, project managers will report to a functional manager or a program manager, this depends on whether the organization groups teams into functions or silos ie. marketing department, finance department, or by project with multiple roles held in each department.