If you’re reading this article, you probably know that there’s a lot of new tendencies and growing opportunities for specific professionals in the business market. In the last decades, new occupations were created and others have become high in-demand positions, some of them are in the Project Management career paths.
But, in case you didn’t know that, here’s why: work is becoming more and more project-oriented. This transition has been hinted at for some time, for example, in this research, Bain and Company, a major consulting firm, released some insights into what the “Firm of the Future” would look like and one of the predictions was that in 2027 most work would be project-based, with Agile teams as the predominant organizational unit.
In addition, according to the Project Management Institute, also around 2027, project-related job growth is expected to be 33% collectively. We know that time flies so, why don’t be ahead of the game and embark on this promising career path right now?
1. Defining Project Management
Before you dive deep into a career in the field, how about understanding more about it? Project management, as the term hints, is the operation of planning, executing, and completing a project. The project manager typically handles everything involved, such as the project scope, the team collaboration, as well as the resources assigned to the endeavor.
In this field, there can be the “traditional” project managers – those who are officially PMP-trained and who have “Project Manager” as their official title – and those known as “Unofficial Project Managers”, people who routinely work with project manager duties and responsibilities, such as overseeing and delivering projects.
2. Which skills are key to a career in this field?
When building a professional background in Project Management, a person can come across several qualification options but, just like most occupations, acquiring specific skills is a big part of true success in the field.
Project managers are team leaders, a position that comes with atypical challenges and demands certain abilities, not just technical, but also interpersonal skills. Let’s get to know some of them.
2.1. Hard skills
- Plan and anticipate
A major part of Project Management is proper planning, PMs need to make strategic choices to apply the right methods, resources, and time distribution. They also need to make smart analyses to plan timelines, forecast possible obstacles along the way, and avoid scope creep.
- Ability to manage risks
Projects can be unpredictable. Somewhere along the way, a PM may come across risks that, although should put them on watch, must never hold them back. Perhaps an invested resource that didn’t bring good results, or maybe a delayed approval that set the timeline back a few days. A proper project manager is skilled at handling risks and strategically creating solutions. PMs should try to anticipate such risks and do their best to avoid them altogether.
Another thing that is unpredictable about projects is how easily they can go over budget. Keeping the plan under control financially is the goal, but many details and events can get in the way of it. Project managers must promote development while still respecting the financial constraints of the job. To make this possible, they have to use their budgeting and financial management skills and deliver winning projects within those limitations.
- Tracking and monitoring
The goal of every project manager is to successfully begin and finish a project, but, there’s a lot that lies in between these two stages. Throughout the period that a team is working on a project, it’s the PM’s job to keep track of what has been completed and what else is there to accomplish. They also need to monitor every step to ensure projects are running according to plan and still supporting the broader business goals.
- Knowledge of project management methodologies
Although project managers tend to have great instincts and organization skills, the best-case scenario is when they are also qualified in project management methodologies and approaches. This knowledge brings a more experienced take on managing projects, resources, and teams. But, we’ll get into methodologies later in this article.
- Strategic business knowledge
As you probably know, project management is a discipline that’s not particular to any specific industry segment. This wide range of markets means even more types of projects to manage. This is why the PM needs to understand the main elements of the industry they’ll be working in, this way, it’ll be easier for them to perform more accurately, estimate costs and designate resources, as well as set more precise timelines.
- Experience with a project management software
A well-prepared project manager doesn’t just rely on coordinating plans with ordinary tools, such as spreadsheets and task lists. Instead, they prioritize using smart solutions like software to assign and visualize tasks, centralize communication, track time, and structure project plans.
2.2. Soft skills
Yes, technical skills are immensely important for a career in project management, but this position is so strategic that it also demands someone with emotional intelligence and a few other interpersonal skills. Let’s discuss some of them.
- Critical thinking
In a project, the contribution of the team is undeniable, but, when it comes to big decisions that can influence the outcome of the endeavor, PMs are pretty much in charge. They can’t be too reckless, nor too comfortable. Critical thinking is a personality aspect that must be present for them to make better choices while considering all the important aspects.
As we’ve stated before, project managers are in charge of the operation, but, without leadership, that “power position” falls through the ground. Perhaps the most important aspect of being a PM is having leadership quality, which means managing people, but also supporting, motivating, and understanding them.
Another important quality for any PM is the ability to clearly communicate feelings, expectations, and necessities. People usually rely on their managers to get clarity on work subjects, that’s why PMs must be able to articulate what they need to their team, coworkers, stakeholders, and customers.
- Patience and resilience
Projects usually face setbacks, team members aren’t always in sync or their best conditions, changes in requirements happen… Long story short, things don’t always go as we expect, in fact, they rarely do. PMs must be patient and resilient to face these bumps on the road and, most importantly, manage a solution to overcome them while still encouraging the team.
3. Where should you begin your studies?
This career path has several education options to choose from. You can start slowly through introductory courses or, if you decide to officialize your title, you can get official certifications in the area. Since this article is aimed at those who are starting their journey of becoming a PM, let’s check some beginner-level tips, but, if you seek more advanced options, you can check out our complete guide on where to learn project management by clicking the button below.
3.1. Learn the fundamentals of Project Management
If you’re starting your journey in the field, jumping to advanced levels of PM studies may not be a very efficient idea because you’ll probably lack some basic knowledge.
Considering this scenario, to kick off your preparation, check out these introductory online courses at edX, Coursera, Udemy, or Alison. They present fundamental notions about project management and, although they’re not too advanced, you can still learn valuable lessons that will be indispensable as you move on to expert-level courses.
Another great method to be introduced to the career is following this Linkedin learning path. You can finish it in less than a day and it covers several areas, such as requirements, schedules, budgets, team management, communication, risk management, and many more. Take in the most information possible from these platforms before embarking on more complex ones.
Of course, we can’t forget the primary source of knowledge: books! You can find several written materials available for purchase, whether they’re physical or digital books. The internet and bookstores are filled with interesting titles about Project Management, especially when it comes to introductory and basic manuals. In fact, take a look at this video we prepared with some great recommendations of beginner-level books:
Once you learn the fundamentals of project management, you can also choose an area to specialize in. According to the PMBOK Guide, there are 10 knowledge areas of management: Integration, scope, schedule, cost, quality, resource, risk, communications, procurement, and stakeholder. The more specialized, the easier it would be to have your first experience in the field.
3.2. Alternative methods
Alternative ways to study PM is by looking for a working experience in the field. This way, you’ll have tangible and applicable knowledge; however, to work with PM you’ll most likely need some prior understanding, so we’re back to the reasons to include introductory courses on your resume.
Of course, there are other sources to learn from, which is why we also recommend you to use the internet in your favor. Just like the article that you’re currently reading, you can find many other rich materials available online. Nutcache’s blog, for example, publishes weekly articles regarding project management specifics and valuable lessons.
When you feel ready, you can dive deeper into the field and begin a specialization by getting a degree or a certification.
4. Agile methodologies
A big part of project management is the variety of methodologies a PM can choose to work with. To name a few, there are Waterfall, Lean, Scrum, Kanban, etc. Let’s take a small glimpse into some of them.
In this methodology, the activities are driven sequentially, from top to bottom, simulating a cascade, hence the name “Waterfall”. This method is typically used in projects whose scope of work is clearly defined since it brings rigidity in execution, which means that it is only possible to advance to the next phase if all previous ones have already been completed.
This approach seeks to make projects as lean as possible, generating a significant reduction of costs and mitigation of wastes. In the LEAN method, only the necessary for the completion of the project is used. In short, it is all about the economy and smart use of resources, while ensuring the highest value for the products or services delivered.
Scrum is a methodology for agile project management that enables optimizing the time to develop activities. This method is oriented by 3 basic principles:
- Transparency: A clear alignment between those involved in a project.
- Inspection: Every step be inspected and accompanied closely;
- Adaptation: The project is subject to adaptations during its execution.
This methodology is very visual and typically uses colorful frames with lists and task cards to follow up on every development in a project. The most basic way of using Kanban is when 3 columns are created: “To do”, “Doing” and “Done”, and tasks move from one column to the other as they are completed.
Interesting, right? Those were just a few of the several methodologies that can be used when managing a project. If you want to know more about them or other approaches, Nutcache prepared this very complete list on the subject.
5. The importance of technology in project management
Remember when we stated that one of the skills of a Project Manager should be familiarity with smart solutions? That’s because technology is a big part of the job. It has the power of making the work significantly easier, quicker, and more efficient.
For example, the software is a relatively new automated solution that makes it possible to relentlessly manage all critical points of a project, such as:
- Alerting stakeholders on the progress of each stage/task;
- Sending automatic communications in the detection of delays;
- Managing the overload or unproductivity levels of each employee;
- Helping in establishing priorities;
- Managing cost control;
- Facilitating collaboration between team members.
Working with software and other tech tools as facilitators is a smart move because project managers need a general and clear view of the project. And as William Deming, the famous engineer, and management consultant, once said: “What can not be measured can not be managed.”
Technology also provides greater control of important factors, with the click of a button it’s possible to access the requirements of a client, visualize each stage of the project, the percentage of work delivered to date, preview delivery dates, redistribute activities, and even track budgets.
Bringing business intelligence to a project through technology is assuring better control over details that can go unnoticed by human eyes. Not only that but the ability to access critical information from any point in the globe and communicate with other members of the project, as long as there’s internet access.
Technology will also help businesses with complete reports on individual performance indicators, budget charts, deadlines, facilitating understanding of what is not going well or what can be optimized. See why a project works better when a project manager has a partnership with an IT service?
6. The market for project managers
Within this role, there are various job titles that a professional might hold, for example, Project Manager, Program Manager, Portfolio Manager, Scrum Master, etc. The list goes up to Senior and Executive-Level Roles (Project Management Office Director or Chief Operating Officer).
When it comes to industries, there’s a misconception that project manager jobs are resumed to companies within the IT field. The reality is that PM positions are present in many segments, so, as long as the business operates with projects, there’s room for a professional who can be responsible for it.
The following are some of the most promising segments for project managers:
- Construction, Architecture, and Engineering;
- Marketing and Sales;
- Financial Services;
- Software and Information Technology.
As we’ve mentioned before, to enter or grow in a specific industry, project managers may need to develop specialized skills related to that field. For example, if a PM is working in the technology sector, they’ll likely need a strong understanding of the software universe to effectively manage a software project. So, when you choose a segment, make sure to become familiar with its particularities.
Entering a career in project management is no different from any other career, it demands a qualified education, time, and effort. As you deepen your knowledge, it becomes important to specialize in a certain approach, get an advanced certificate or degree, and, just as important, obtain valuable and relevant experience.
Although it might seem hard at first, it can be extremely rewarding, since the whole model of work is adapting and leaning towards project-oriented business. With that in mind, we hope to have helped you understand more about the best path to follow to become a project manager. We wish you success in your journey.