Project Manager: Managing the World, One Project at a Time1 | 2 |
At the highest level are those who are in charge of more than one project, or program managers. For this, PMI offers the Program Manager Credential, or PgMP.
“Program managers oversee a group of projects that are directed toward a common organizational objective,” Hanchar said. “Individuals who attain this credential will demonstrate a high level of experience and competence in managing programs.”
To throw out another project management-is-everywhere analogy, organize the rehearsal dinner, wedding and reception, and you’re managing a program.
Of course, project and program management take place at some of the highest levels of business and government. The Olympics are a prime example, with multiple locations, events, people and organizations that must be managed at the same time to ensure the smooth running of multiple sites and events. International certification, such as that offered by PMI, gives PMPs and PgMPs the credibility to run projects in any part of the world.
In fact, globalization plays a large part in the growth of the profession. Not only has competition increased as people do business with those in every corner of the globe, but the need for those who can communicate with their peers around the globe has grown as well.
More project teams work virtually, from all parts of the globe, making many of the nontechnical skills that much more important. With that in mind, communication is key.
"You have to be organized; you have to be able to deal with details without getting flustered,” Yinger said. “You’re not going to be a very good project manager if you’re not detail oriented in the first place. You have to be able to listen, and finally — it almost goes without saying — you have to be really good at speaking and writing. So much of what you do is communication; project management is primarily communication. Making sure you’re hearing what the client is saying, and being able to turn that back around in the form of written communication” is an absolute must.
“Really having stealth communication skills” is of absolute importance, added Ouellette, who also holds a PMP certification. “You have got to have communication skills that can take you where you need to go on your projects. You need to know how to make the best decisions for the projects and communicate to all these stakeholders why these decisions are made.
“Next to stealth communication, I would highly admonish them to build a network of senior sponsors and mentors,” said Ouellette. “Build your network early, and build it strong.”
On the more technical side, prospective project managers need to be able to keep up with the times.
“You have to be a power user of current technology,” said Yinger. “You don’t have to be a developer. But if you can’t use this stuff in your sleep, you’re going to spend too much time behind the eight ball.”
“There are a lot of good things you can learn from a PMP prep course,” Yinger said. “Whether or not you get your PMP, you have to have an inherent understanding of project management to make the best of it. I was a project manager for 20 years before I sat for my PMP.”
Project management prep courses and career paths within a company or industry are becoming more common, and there are also many online resources to help the project manager in training. Yet, most agree that on-the-job training is one of the best ways to determine if project management is right for you.
“A lot of project management, even today, is learning on the job, and it’s hard to short-circuit that experience,” Yinger said. “Someone has to be willing to give you a project. The typical path to becoming a project manager is to begin in some form of analyst role, so you’re part of the team.”
Yet, when it comes to managing complex projects and keeping all the pieces in place, not every skill can be taught. That’s where good old-fashioned experience plays the biggest role.
Erica S. Brath is a freelance writer living in Philadelphia. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.