Posted April 26, 2012 by

Interview with Project Manager

I am a consulting project manager and have been working in the IT industry as a PM for about 8 years. I am a certified Project Management Professional and obtained my certification in March of 2005.

My job entails going into a company or organization on a contract and managing a software project. This often entails managing employees of the organization, as well as contracted workers. Many casual observers are not aware of the day to day tasks of a project manager. On the surface, project management looks easy. However, it is anything but easy. The PM keeps the project on track and answers to the stakeholders, such as upper management and the departments that will utilize the software, once deployed.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I would rate my job satisfaction at about a 7. Project management is challenging and the PM carries the responsibility for the success or failure of a project.

Being a consulting project manager is not necessarily my calling. However, after years as a developer, attaining project management skills and certifications is the next step in an upwardly mobile career. Project management is not my calling, but it pays the bills and pays quite well.

Project management is for the very detail oriented individual. This individual must also have people skills as they are required to motivate workers, even when the workers are reluctant. If the PM is excited about the project, and can visualize a successful end, they are often able to get others on board and excited, as well. In my case, I have a talent for visualizing the end of a project and then transferring that vision to the team.

I moved into project management from software development. As a developer, you may only climb so high within the corporate structure. Many companies have a dual structure that determines workers’ upward mobility within the company: Technical versus Management. Attaining skills and certifications in project management allows you to make the move from the Technical ladder to the Management ladder. I made the move into project management because of the encouragement of my technical supervisor at a major company where I was employed. This supervisor was in the process of becoming a certified PMP and basically guided my efforts along the way.

As a PM, I learned the hard way that anything that goes wrong on a project is your responsibility. Just like on the TV show, “The Apprentice,” the project manager carries all of the responsibility for the success or failure of a project. This means that if your team members are not motivated, or if they do shoddy work, it falls on your shoulders. However, if you are successful at motiving people and getting their “buy in,” managing a project is rewarding and fun.

The single most important thing I learned in the work world as opposed to school life was how much time people spend on their jobs. School was so nice in that you just went to your classes, did your class work and took your tests. Some semesters, you can cram all of your classes into three days or so. In the work world, especially as a project manager, you can plan on spending the majority of your waking hours either on the job or thinking about the job.

The strangest thing that ever happened to me on a project I have managed has been that everything worked out well! If there are no risks to mitigate, the client remains happy and the team is motivated to produce a quality piece of software, that is the exception and not the norm. However, great projects do happen. When they do, it is strange yet rewarding.

When I am managing a project, the project itself propels me out of bed in the morning. Because projects are fluid and ever-changing, every day presents new challenges. I find this exciting. When a project is going well, and you have the chance to meet with stakeholders to update them about the great progress, this is the best part of the job.

Challenges that a PM faces are never-ending. The hardest thing to deal with as a PM is the unmotivated or reluctant team. Each task is assigned to a team member and if you have one or more team members who are not putting forth their best efforts, this is a challenge. The team is only as strong as its weakest link so you need to do whatever you can to get the resource back on track and engaged.

The job of a PM can be quite stressful. The size of the project can cause stress. For example, if you are dealing with a multi-million dollar software roll out, every day is a new stress. Knowing that you are responsible for the success or failure of such an investment weighs heavily on the PM.

The salary range varies for a project manager. Consulting PMs, those who are brought into a company on a contract basis, are generally paid more than a PM that is on staff with a company. However, in general, the PMs salary is well over 100k per year. The problem is that, while a project is in process, the PM is concerned with the project 24 hours per day, seven days per week. Even when you make great money, there is no time to spend it when in the throes of a project!

PMs can take vacations when their projects allow. The great thing about projects is that, by definition, they have a limited life span. PMs are bound to be between projects at some point in time, and able to take vacations.

Education for a PM can vary. Usually, basics about project management are included in several business and technical curriculum. However, graduate-level courses in project management generally delve more into the details of how to manage a project. In addition, certification courses to prepare students for the PMP examination follow closely to the PMI guidelines to cover what will be covered on the test. For me, the certification training was the most useful. I was able to assemble the body of knowledge into a cohesive, usable resource both for managing projects and for taking the certification exam.

If a friend asked me about a career in project management, I would tell them about the skills required, what a day in the life of a project manager looks like and other details about doing the job. I would only recommend becoming a project manager to a friend with notable leadership skills and an orientation to detail.

If I could write my own ticket, I would be sitting on a beach on a remote island in five years, perhaps writing a novel. I probably would not be managing large projects as a PM. The work is stressful, but the compensation is good. However, this type of work takes its toll on people and they tend to burn out after a few years.

 

This is a true story as told to JustJobs Academy which houses career interviews and job search advice for professionals in any industry.  Visit to read about how to find the perfect job and how to get promoted once you land it.

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