Whether you’re a project coordinator who’s motivated to get that next promotion or just hoping to transition into a stable career path, something has drawn you to project management. Maybe you were attracted to the promising job outlook or high salaries. Or you relish any opportunity to plan, categorize and strategize to your heart’s content.
These are all valid reasons to pursue project management. But to be successful in this fast-developing tech career, you’ll have to prove much more than a fondness for organization. Specialized technical abilities, a commitment to constant learning, confident leadership, and business acumen are just the beginning.
It’s time to delve deeper and decide if this world of Gantt charts and sprint planning is for you. If you’re wondering what your path might look like and exactly what a project manager does all day, here’s a peek behind the curtain.
The Growing Need for Project Managers
As companies become more globalized, there’s a growing demand for leaders who are adept at communicating between all parties, but also focused on achieving a specific objective for the company. Projects are also becoming more complex: increasingly detailed customer research, larger teams, and data-driven testing processes means more moving parts overall.
And all the tasks that go into roadmapping a project from planning to completion - scheduling, budgeting, predicting roadblocks, meeting with department leads, tracking progress - create the need for a specialized position. Organizations are realizing that they need leaders with a specific set of skills to take ownership of projects that plan span multiple departments.
This demand for skilled project managers is felt across industries including tech, oil and gas, manufacturing, construction, pharmaceuticals and finance. While the types of projects will of course vary immensely, the core skills of a successful project manager remain the same. Whether the goal is to introduce a new app or bring a life-saving drug to market, the proven strategies that project managers use to establish priorities, allocate resources, and motivate teams will be more or less the same.
All of these factors make for a promising job outlook. If you choose to specialize in project management and continue honing your craft, you’ll open yourself up to a long, fulfilling career.
The Typical Project Management Career Track
You’ll probably start with Assistant, Junior or Associate in front of your name. Even so, your first project management salary could be in the $80,000 range and will only go up from there. In the beginning of your career, you’ll likely join a firm or an in-house team.
As a Junior Project Manager, you’ll help the key players in your project plan as they delegate tasks within their teams. In your first year on the job, you’ll work with different departments, learning how they operate and communicate internally. Even in an entry-level role, you may find yourself developing relationships with senior leaders as you track progress and report results.
Impress the right people by reacting quickly to problems, staying calm under pressure and building strong partnerships, and you’ll move up the ranks. Senior project managers determine high-level strategy, translating company goals into bite-size deliverables that can be assigned, tracked and completed. You’ll be expected to go beyond the needs of the position. In this high-level role, the leadership team will rely on you to support company values and boost morale even as you challenge teams to meet tight budgets or aggressive timelines.
Once you’ve racked up several years of experience, you’ll have demonstrated an ability to balance priorities and take ownership of your accomplishments and mistakes. That puts you on the path to leadership roles. If COO is your end-goal, a career in project management can get you there.
Alternatively, some experienced project managers prefer to work as consultants. Consulting gives you a different set of challenges as you work with new clients year to year; but it could also afford more personal freedom to set your own schedule and choose which clients you’d like to work with.
Whatever your career goals may be, we’ll help you achieve them - just like we have for so many other students who developed long-term careers in tech.
Project Management Specializations
IT: Large organizations rely on project managers to support their IT team when introducing new software or upgrading systems. IT project managers calculate costs and benefits, and negotiate contracts with vendors. A familiarity with IT infrastructure and procedures will help you create detailed action plans and feasible timelines. This tends to be a higher-earning area of project management, and one that we focus on in our project management course (even if you have no prior IT background).
Marketing: As a marketing project manager, you’ll take the vision of the marketing team and find an efficient, cost-effective way to carry it to your target audience. Writers, designers and strategists will thank you as you put power behind their ideas with resources and budgets.
Engineering: You’ll help engineers and business analysts agree to timelines that work for everyone. Engineering project managers may also work with vendors and clients, ensuring all the logistical needs of the project are met.
What You’ll Do Day-to-Day
Like any tech role, project managers put in a good amount of screen time. Large companies rely on a suite of organizational tools like Jira, Asana, or Basecamp; it’s up to the project manager to make sure those tools are used consistently and reflect real-time progress. You’ll need to reserve focused time to comb through status updates, pull reports and calculate spending.
But the real value of your work centers around human interaction. Expect to have a lot of on-on-one time with team leads in order to understand their department workflow and needs. You’ll develop different communication and collaboration styles, help teams troubleshoot and resolve conflicts, and employ leadership strategies that build their trust.
These very different skill sets come together as you plan, implement, and report on progress. Below are some of the specific responsibilities that will make up your work week.
Make the game plan. Develop the budget, create a schedule, and choose the key team members who will complete each stage of the plan.
Communicate the desired outcome, and how you’ll get there. The project manager makes sure everyone involved is aware not only of their role in bringing the project to completion, but also the value of the project as a whole. You’ll have close communication with your key players so make sure they’re confident and have all the resources they need.
Track progress. Analyze reporting from all departments involved, and turn the numbers into a quick progress snapshot for upper management. You’ll lead meetings throughout the project so you can support your teams and catch issues or setbacks early on.
Show results. As you achieve project objectives, show that success with data-driven reporting. If things go south, come up with a plan to correct course.
Keep learning. Customer needs, investor priorities and department structures will change. You’ll have to adjust your approach to match. Project management is ideal for anyone who thrives on constantly learning and facing new challenges.
Key Project Management Skills
To progress in this field, you’ll need to hone your budgeting, data analysis, and leadership abilities.
Project management software: Large companies need to demonstrate tangible results and create constant visibility between team members. Today’s project management tools have become more robust to match those needs. As the expert, it will be your job to ensure teams are using these tools consistently and benefiting from all the bells and whistles.
Budgeting & resource allocation: Help the organization achieve their goals with detailed budgets. Track spending throughout the course of the project. Consider potential problems and come up with solutions in advance.
Interpreting data: A basic knowledge of data analysis will help you make informed decisions and illustrate your progress.
Leadership: Project managers need to inspire trust and take responsibility for successes and errors. Empathy and integrity will play into your success.
Soft skills: A great project manager can fine-tune their communication strategies based on their audience. Anyone can share a monthly progress doc, but it takes finesse to make goals relevant and relatable for all involved.
Do You Need A Project Management Certification?
There are several certifications available, the most popular one being the Project Management Professional (PMP) Certification. The PMP covers project management concepts and terminology. It’s a useful line on your resume or LinkedIn, and signals to recruiters that you’re serious about your project management career. But it’s not required for most jobs.
Project managers need to exhibit strong communication and interpersonal skills in order to be effective, and achievements like a PMP certification don’t capture your full value. Hiring managers tend to place more weight on your portfolio and technical expertise.
How to Start A Career in Project Management
If you’re looking for a long-term career, online tutorials won’t cut it. You need to get comfortable using the current tools tech companies swear by, and understand how to make the most of their many features in a business context.
Because your success relies so heavily on intangible leadership skills, it’s important to learn from other project management professionals who have navigated conflicts and team disputes first-hand. With an industry mentor, you can hear how real-life situations have played out, and talk about developing the soft skills that may be a challenge for you.
Take a course that allows you to use the industry-preferred tools to map out projects just as you would in a real-life business setting. In Technical Project Management, you’ll have a mentor at your side who’s already developed their own career and is committed to your success. They’ll help you understand the course material and put it in context based on their own experience.
You’ll graduate with a portfolio that sets you up for a higher level position. We offer payment options that allow you to start learning now, and pay us once you’re hired. And it’s all backed by our tuition refund guarantee: get a job within six months, or your money back.
Ready to start your new career? Book some time on our calendar to get started with your application.