IT Project Manager Job Description: The two most popular ways to become a project manager in IT are to switch projects from other areas to the IT-sphere or switch from the role of an IT executive to the role of a manager. Each of these methods has advantages and disadvantages. Yana Ganina, product manager of the Project Manager course at Yandex talked to three project managers and learned about the pros and cons of each of the options.
In my experience of communicating with project managers, for a beginner project, it is not previous experience that is more important, but the skill of achieving goals – the ability to make sure that the team releases the product on time and with such content that the client needs.
If a novice specialist has experience in project management in another area, then it will be easier for him in terms of management – to coordinate the work of a team or negotiate with a customer. At the same time, it will take longer to adapt to tasks where you need to know the specifics of IT. For example, if you need to agree on the terms of reference for development or discuss a task with the developer and get an estimate of the labor costs for it. A newcomer with an IT background will have a mirror image of project and team management challenges.
- Management is more difficult to master, so a project with experience wins
- Semyon Yakushev
- The best project managers come from former developers
- Sergey Sedykh
- The main thing is that a person likes a new direction, the rest can be taught
- Vitaly Chesnokov
IT Project Manager Job Description:
An analogy can be drawn with weights. Someone will outweigh the management bowl, someone will have the IT bowl. The job of the project manager is to find the balance in order to ultimately achieve results.
I will make a reservation right away that there is no correct answer to the question, which is more important – each specialist has his own vision. The opinions of employers, which we have collected below, will help to look at the issue from the other side and assess how specific employers perceive the previous experience, what arguments they give for and against.
Management is more difficult to master, so a project with experience wins
What we are talking about is management in IT, not IT in management. Therefore, managing what is happening is a key skill. The task of the project manager is to make sure that the specialists working with their hands do not struggle with chaos, but understand what needs to be done and why.
When a person says “I was managing in another area,” for example, in the production of tractors, it means that he studied it. This shows that he has two important skills for a manager: the ability to manage and the ability to learn. If he just worked in this area, then he studied it, but there is no guarantee that he received management skills. Mastering management requires different skills than studying a subject, so a project with experience wins.
Technicians often specialize in one thing. For example, a Java developer wants to become a project manager. They give him a draft and ask: “What are we going to write it on?” He replies: “Of course, in Java!” In my opinion, this is why there are many former testers in management. They interact with different languages and platforms, are not limited to specialization, and therefore it is easier for them to move to PM.
The main skill of a manager is not knowledge of technical specifics, but the ability to unite the team and convey the desired idea. This requires communication skills: getting an idea from a client/customer, using the right questions to understand the goals and objectives, and then convey all this to the team. If he can’t handle it, it doesn’t matter what the manager’s technical knowledge is. It is highly likely that without proper communication, the processes will be more expensive and longer than planned. And the worst thing is that it will turn out not at all what they wanted to do.
There are not many approaches to management. We are an outsourcing company, so four things are important to us when hiring:
- The specialist understands the project budget. The customer determines the project budget and goals, and the use of the developed solution should bring more money than development costs.
- How a specialist sets goals. Either the team has formed an understanding of a common goal, and its achievement becomes more important for the team than pursuing personal goals, or everyone is just digging and trying not to bury each other, without specific motives.
- What tools were used for project management and communication? A person must understand that effective and formalized communication must be established.
- To be able to lead people. When you try to explain something to people with a sad face, nothing will come of it. You have to be active and be able to captivate. And this skill can be improved.
The best project managers come from former developers
Almost any background in IT is more important than in management. If a manager comes to find a job, for example, from the oil industry, it will be more difficult to retrain him for IT tasks, because he does not understand basic things: what is an application and how it gets into the App Store, what is a full development cycle, QA, production and Agile. Such a person will dive into work longer than a programmer or QA who knows the development process.
For managers in other industries, the transition to IT is almost like starting from scratch. IT has its own specifics that differ from other areas: for example, micromanagement and the ability to find a common language with the team are very important. For example, in outsourcing, any hours are always equal to money, and if you overlook the task, do not decompose it, and do not approve it, either the client or the company will incur losses. In other areas, processes are often structured differently.
What sets a manager from another industry apart from other Juniors is his skill in interacting with people.
For IT people, everything is easier. They understand the industry, for example, if they have already worked as developers, designers or testers. They understand the release cycle, understand how tasks are set and what processes will take place. It is enough for them to take courses, certification or retraining, where most management issues are revealed, for example, artifacts of methodologies (the same Scrum), or convenient project management tools are demonstrated with examples, and it tells about the psychology of teams and methods of managing them. Another way to find out all this is to try to learn from colleagues while you work in the company.
The biggest blocker for a developer when moving into management is the lack of immunity to burnout and stress resistance. If a line developer comes to management, who previously just received tasks and did them, at first it will be very difficult for him – a new environment with a constant interruption of the context and not always adequate clients. Most often, managers are people with the makings of a team lead or former and current team leaders who already have a share of management in their role.
Skills that will help you become a good manager:
- Work with people. The manager should not be just a forwarder forwarding customer messages to the team. This mistake is often made by junior specialists. In such a situation, the manager is an unnecessary link, and the team lead is much more needed because he sets tasks, he can do code review and design. The manager needs to decompose tasks, distribute them among the team and control the execution.
- Communication skills, team understanding, and basic knowledge of human psychology. Developers are often closed people who have a hard time making contact. Plus they have impostor syndrome. You need to be able to work with such people, as well as resolve conflicts that may arise between developers of the same level or between backend and frontend developers in their infancy.
- Knowledge of the subject. To work, lead processes and understand what is happening in the project, you need to know Agile and Scrum first.
The main thing is that a person likes a new direction, the rest can be taught
In the work of a manager, soft skills are important: responsibility, curiosity, the ability to learn, understanding problems, reaction to criticism, because a manager is more about time and experience than about theory and knowledge.
After the books, you will have a lot of theoretical knowledge that is practically not applicable in practice. The longer you work as a manager, the more you analyze different cases. Experience in IT is also useful: if you understand how development works, it will help a lot.
The ability to hear and be responsible, the executive is the first thing that is required of a person when applying for a junior project manager position. As an employer, it is practically unimportant to us what area of experience in project management was: automation of a farm, production or construction of Baikonur, or even organizing holidays. It is important that a person thinks logically and can manage many tasks, linking them in a certain sequence.
The main thing is that a person likes a new direction, the rest can be taught. Because there is a lot of terminology in IT, you need to dive into the specifics. If you do not understand this and do not want to understand it, it will be uncomfortable.
If a person has previously organized events or exhibitions, knows how to achieve goals, manage budgets and deadlines – such a person can also become an IT manager. Because management is, first of all, money management, time management, work scoping, and a little psychology.
A developer can also become a manager. If he is sociable, consistent, understands architecture and code, he will make a great project. But most of the time I come across introverted programmers.
It is necessary to prepare for the fact that you will have to solve, achieve and organize a lot of things. A project is an unmeasured work. It has highs and lows. And you also need to be stress-resistant, as customers will press, and developers will not understand the tasks. One must be able to understand the purpose of the task. Why is it needed? What business problem do we want to solve with this? Then it will be much easier.
Even experienced managers often experience professional deformation, when they begin to complicate the task from the height of their experience. They think they need some kind of super solution. Although most often the customer will be satisfied with a simple and quick solution to his problem.
To become a good project manager, you need to study several areas:
- Everything that is directly related to the profession: who is a project manager, what does he do, what are the methodologies?
- Immerse yourself in IT: what is architecture, what systems are, how they interact with each other, how the Internet works, what happens when you type yandex.ru in your browser and a page opens to you.
- Psychology, because a project manager is about interacting with people, and they need a different approach. The project is not a soulless machine, it is made by people, including developers and business customers. Each of these two sides has its own goals and values that must be managed. Somewhere to concede, somewhere to press, and somewhere to defend their point of view.
- Be able to understand the business goal and manage customer expectations. Initially, it is necessary to correctly formulate and discuss together the terms of reference, present the solution so that there are no ambiguous interpretations and misunderstandings. This will help to avoid a lot of misunderstandings when it comes time to deliver the project and will facilitate interaction during work.