Project managers lead teams of IT professionals – programmers, analysts and designers – who work together to produce a new piece or system of software. They also consult with and report to clients, and deal with suppliers.
What skills do you need?
Strictly speaking a project manager doesn’t need to be strong on technical skills: the emphasis is very much on management, organisational and people skills. Most project managers, however, have programming or engineering backgrounds; this lends them more credibility with technical team members and equips them better when dealing with clients. It’s a job for people who can handle a lot of responsibility. The employer’s focus on ‘softer’ people skills, such as communication, interaction, management and negotiation skills, will become even more crucial. Ideal candidates have a good level of relevant technical knowledge and excellent people skills. Specific project management skills, such as risk management, are also very useful. Project managers need to have a positive, confident attitude. They need to be flexible and able to communicate and motivate people effectively. Initially, they may take on projects part time and move into an established position with time.
What the role involves
At the core of the job is the organisation of both people and time resources, and a project manager is responsible for seeing the project through from beginning to end. It’s not a position for novices; IT graduates need to have at least three- or four-years’ experience before becoming full-time project managers. They often move into consultancy after they have amassed more experience. Working hours are normal but overtime is commonplace, and project managers must be ready to deal with whatever obstacles may arise.
How your career can develop
Opportunities to travel are good, particularly at consultancy level where there is an increased possibility that you will be employed by an organisation overseas. New opportunities for project managers are emerging all the time. The electronic and mobile commerce revolution means exciting new software technologies for project managers.