Published on Thursday, May 07, 2009
Not everyone is cut out to be a Project Manager. Being a PM is not an exclusive club. It’s not even necessarily a highly desirable profession. You get a lot of visibility, but not necessarily a lot of recognition. That often goes more to the technical team than the PM, unless the project is very successful and highly visible.
I’ve written an article on the Background of an IT Project Manager and I’ve written five articles so far on the Characteristics of a Project Manager. Here I’d like to look at five possible signs that indicate you may not be choosing the right career as a Project Manager.
Like Technology more than People
If you’re not a people person and prefer technology over people, then it’s not likely that you’re ready for a career as a Project Manager. PMs are often thrust into customer-facing roles and are looked upon to lead a team of skilled resources on projects. They must be ready to present materials, lead status meetings and status calls, initiate adhoc communication, and just in general be very confident dealing with people.
If that’s not you, then run don’t walk. If you prefer technology more than people you may be more designed for the role of the techie on the project – the person who develops the solution, not the individual who maps out how and when it will be delivered. And patience with your team and the customer is critical. If you don’t have patience, don’t sign up to be a PM.
All People, No Technology
Likewise, if you’re all about people but do not have any technical background then running IT projects as a PM is not for you. I still contend that a good IT PM must have some technical background in order to be trusted, understood, and followed by the technical resources they are leading on a long project.
You might get away with it on a very short engagement just by being a strong, confident leader. But on a 6-12 month engagement or longer you’ll be exposed and the technical team will question decisions, etc. I’ve seen it happen and I’ve witnessed very frustrated PMs who aren’t PMs anymore.
Don’t Handle Pressure Well
Being a PM means you have the target on your forehead for the entire project. The Project Manager has to stay on top of status, project schedules, issues, risks and all project communications constantly. Pressure is frequent throughout the project.
If you don’t handle pressure well, then being a PM is probably not the best choice for you. Being anything in IT is probably not for you, for that matter….because pressure on IT projects is felt pretty much throughout the entire team and throughout the entire project duration.
Need for Constant Recognition and Praise
Like I said earlier, you can get a lot of recognition, but it’s harder to get good recognition than it is to get bad recognition. On the surface, much of the good recognition for a successful project will often go to the technical resources that developed the solution. This, of course, depends on the company, but it is common…and it’s ok. The developers likely did great work on a successful solution. You led, but you didn’t create…and that’s ok.
If you are one who needs constant praise, then a Project Management path is probably not for you. It’s rewarding, but most of your rewards will likely come from the relationships you build on your teams with your team members and with your customer, not from the overflowing of praise and recognition you hope to get on a project.
Being a PM means you’re required to be a confident decision-maker. Look to your team and other available resources – including your customer – as sources to help you solve issues and make decisions. But if you’re inclined to run from problems or put them off and hope that they resolve themselves or that someone else steps up to solve them, then a PM career is not for you.
At every critical problem point, both your team and your customer’s team are going to look to you as the key leader and decision-maker and you can’t back down. If you’re shaky in your decision-making or tend to be wishy-washy when it comes to problem solving and leadership, seek a different path for your own good.
These are just five – I’m sure I could come up with more and I probably will. I would definitely welcome your input, as I’m sure the list could be nearly endless. Please share your thoughts on what you’ve seen ‘not work’ in the PM field. I’m sure everyone has some great colleague stories. Thanks.
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