So, it’s time for you to become an IT project manager.

But you don’t have a relevant degree, experience, or technical background…

Is it possible at all to become a project manager in an IT company like that?

Yes, it is.

For sure, the easiest way to become a software project manager is by getting a promotion inside an IT company. So, if you are just starting your career, I strongly recommend getting a job on an IT project in any other capacity like QA, Developer, DevOps, Business Analyst, or a Scrum Master. From there, you can quickly get a promotion to a PM.

Below you’ll a FULL step-by-step guide on how to become an IT Project Manager from any role you are currently at.

Featured Download: Getting ready to become an IT Project Manager? Get my Action Plan “How to become an IT Project Manager in 3 to 6 months”. It will provide you a proven roadmap to the desired leadership role. (Click here to get the Action Plan )

Table of Content


CHAPTER 1

What You Need to Know About the Career of an IT Project Manager


Before you get into all nitty-gritty of becoming an IT Project Manager, I want to make this career change sweeter for you.

In this chapter, I want to explain:

  1. Why it’s a great idea to become an IT PM.
  2. Different levels of project management.
  3. The essence of the project management role.

3 Top Reason to Become a Software Project Manager this Year

IT Project Manager is not the easiest profession.

So, why would you want to embark on this journey

Here are three main reasons:

1. Substantial Increase of Salary

The statistic shows that people in project management roles earn 82% more than people in none-leadership roles.

Image taken from PMI’s Project Management Job Growth and Talent Gap Report // 2017-2027

That will provide a higher income at the start. It will also give opportunities for salary raises for the next few years (decades?).

2. Lot’s of Job Opportunities for IT Project Managers

The same Project Management Job Growth and Talent Gap Report  from the Project Management Institute states that the IT industry is the second leading sector in job openings.

Image taken from PMI’s Project Management Job Growth and Talent Gap Report // 2017-2027

What does that mean?

With current trends, the demand for IT Project Manager will be higher than Educational establishments can provide.

And it won’t change for years to come.

That’s important for you because a degree in Computer Science becomes a desirable requirement. It can’t be mandatory with these numbers.

3. The Profession that Keeps You Engaged

I know your kind. If you consider becoming a project manager, you feel a nagging desire to lead.

You want to take over the control and do things better.

Most likely, you are a natural-born leader, and you know the value of motivating and helping people.

And sciences shows that helping others is the most fulfilling activity. It brings happens.

Combine it with challenges of cutting edge technologies. Add smart people you work with and the freedom to make it your way.

It all constitutes a perfect profession. You’ll fulfill your leadership potential. It will keep you happy and motivated.

But it feels like a demanding role.

Why am I so sure you can start a career as an IT Project Manager from any role?

Here’s what you need to know:

There are Different Levels of the IT Project Management!

Let me take a step back from the IT industry and illustrate it on construction projects.

I’ll show you three pictures:

Here’s a project for home renovation. The budget is somewhere 50 thousand dollars. It will take two-three months to complete. 10 to 15 people on the project team.

Home renovations as an example of a small IT Project

Here’s a project to build a multistoried building. It’s a two million dollars project. It will take a year to finish the building. And hundred of people will work on it.

And here, someone’s building a stadium. Most likely, it’s even a group of projects. With all infrastructure, it may cost anywhere from $500 million to $1.9 billion .

And here’s the catch:

There’s a project manager on all of this project.

Do we put a manager who built a stadium on a renovation project? No.

Do we need the same skillset to build a house and to do repairs? No.

You got the point.

Projects vary in size and complexity. There are more small projects than huge ones. Smaller projects don’t require a degree, expert knowledge, or certification.

That’s your way in.

How Does Project Look Like in the IT Industry?

Just a side note.

Why didn’t I show you the IT project as an example?

They all look the same like this.

IT Project Manager and her team work at computers

People are starting at displays and typing. You can’t tell whether it’s a huge enterprise project or a garage start-up.

Moreover, the number of people doesn’t communicate the scale of a project.

{table number of employees in different comapnies}

That leads us to the next thing you need to know:

What Are the Job Responsibilities of an IT Project Manager?

If you don’t need a degree, technical background, or specialized training, what does an IT Project Manager do?

Let’s break it down.

You’ll Communicate with Clients

Different kinds of communication will take up 80% of your time.

You’ll be the primary communication point between people who started the project and the project team.

It doesn’t mean you’ll just transfer information and request from the client to the team.

You’ll have to bridge the gap between business people and technical experts. Keeping both camps happy.

You’ll Obtain Expert Knowledge and Expertise

You will need to understand the business need of the clients. You’ll then go to your team to find a technical solution that will meet that business need.

Again it requires lots of communication.

And you can’t just throw ugh technical specifications to the clients. You’ll need to find ways to explain complex technical problems with simple words.

You’ll Have to Make Decisions

This one is huge.

You know the business need. You have some technical solutions with pros and cons.

Now you’ll need to make lots of decisions as to what to do and how.

But, again, you’ll seek for expert knowledge from your team and other experts.

You don’t do it on your own.

However, the responsibility for the final decisions is always on you.

You’ll need to Select and Establish Processes

The IT industry is ahead of the world in the adoption of Agile Frameworks. You’ll execute most of the projects with Scrum, Kanban, or SAFe.

It makes it much easier on this front on smaller projects.

Nevertheless, you do need to learn the project management basics to be a successful IT PM.

You’ll Lead and Motivate Everyone

There are pros and cons to working with educated and smart people.

The main disadvantage is that they know a lot and they have critical thinking:).

So, a big salary and a cute office are not enough to motivate them.

You’ll need to put lots of efforts in people management.

By the way, clients and other stakeholders are human beings too. They need your encouragement as well.

IT Project Managers resolve conflicts a lot

You’ll Resolve Conflicts a Lot

It’s not only about personal conflicts between team members.

That’s the easiest part.

On a project, you’ll face conflicts in requirements and policies. There will be conflicts between stakeholders and their expectations. Conflicts between wants and allocated resources.

So, conflict resolution is a constant thing in project management.

Chapter Conclusion

The profession of an IT Project Manager is one of the best leadership roles.

Moreover, the opportunities to become an IT PM are on the rise.

You don’t need experience, degree, or technical background to manage smaller projects.

These projects are your entry point.

CHAPTER 2

Do you Have What it Takes to be an IT Project Manager?


Most likely, you must have already looked at the requirements of an entry-level IT Project Manager.

And it is frustrating! I know.

They want a Junior PM to have one or two years of experience. Additionally, one should also know what a mid-level PM does.

So, is it that difficult to become an IT Project Manager?

Here’s the catch:

Recruiters and interviewing PMs have a hard time expressing the skillset. They don’t know how to state what an entry-level Project Manager should know.

Below, I’ll outline what you need to know to cover the requirements in the job descriptions.

What Should You Focus on to Start a Career of an IT Project Manager

Project Managers that interview candidates suffer from the “curse of knowledge.”

They forgot how it felt in the beginning.

Here is the catch:

You can NOT grasp the whole project management knowledge domain.

Moreover, you will not be able to integrate the theory of project management with real-life execution.

(Even if you have a formal PM education)

So, you should not feel lower-grade if you don’t fit into those job descriptions.

It’s not your fault.

Recruiters use templates and standard terms to describe a role. They post a typical job description. Usually, it has little in common with reality. It explains what you will do on a daily basis even worse.

Nevertheless, what do they expect from you?

1. Learn The Benefits of Project Management

You should know and believe in the benefits of project management.

Why should someone pay you lots of money when you don’t create direct value?

(Project managers provide other types of benefits. Intangible mostly)

Moreover, your belief should be contagious. You should know how to sell it.

People should feel that you want to help them do their job better.

You may not have enough experience and knowledge to provide all the benefits at once. However, it is something you are going to work towards.

Read more about the benefits in this article:

26 Arguments to Prove the Benefits of Project Management

When you know the benefits of project management, it’s easier to invest time in learning the basics processes, tools, and approaches.

2. Understand Project Management in the IT Industry

Every industry has its project life cycle. You need to understand it.

Moreover, you need to be able to visualize the processes and problems at each stage.

Why?

Project management approaches are common across all industries. However, some specifics require different selections of tools and techniques.

Knowing them puts you in a better position on an interview.

When you are aiming for the IT sector you must know SDLC:

Software Development Life Cycle and Project Management

And soon, you’ll learn that SDLC demands the knowledge of the Agile Frameworks.

3. Be Proactive!

There is one thing that separates successful PMs:

They always think of how to improve project work.

  • “What can I do better?”
  • “How to avoid that risk  from happening again?”
  • “What if…”

Here is the truth:

You can develop healthy anxiety about your project.

Just pretend as if you are paying for the project from your own pocket. You need to reach a business objective as efficiently as possible.

So, make an impression of a manager who cares about the project outcome.

4. Learn to be Productive and Efficient

Whom will I choose?

A manager who sits eight to ten hours doing “something”.

Or

A manager who did (delegated) the work in two hours and now reading a book.

In most cases, I will bet on the second one assuming that her project is in good shape.

The ability to prioritize and be efficient is crucial.

An entry-level project manager is always overwhelmed by the tasks and information.

You can’t sort things out and decide what the most critical task today? Well, you will be in trouble when stressful situations come .

…and they will come.

Learn productivity today !

5. Train Your Empathy

You watch a movie. There’s an emotional scene. You feel a knot in your throat.

Congratulations!

You have some empathy.

However, that’s not enough for a project manager.

You need to understand a person’s motives and drivers. You need to feel a person’s emotions. You need to be able to mimic them.

For example, here’s a simple way to understand a person’s emotions. Observe his or her facial expressions and try to mimic them on your face. You should feel the dominant emotion of that person.

Why?

Our expressions are tightly connected with our emotions. And it works both ways.

So, it will give an ability to motivate your team members efficiently. You’ll learn to overcome a client’s fears. You’ll leverage stakeholders’ expectations.

It all starts with empathy.

Learn more about Leadership and Motivation in Project Management here.

6. How to Get Things Done

It’s different from productivity.

It’s your ability to identify the most efficient way to deliver tangible results .

Also, it is your ability to control the team. It must work towards tangible results, towards accepted deliverables.

It takes a lot of discipline and leadership to keep the team focus. There will be moments with no exciting work to do. The team should grind.

That’s where you need to organize the work. You need to motivate a team to finish the project and reap the rewards.

For example, here’s a productivity tip for you:

It’s always a good idea to break the project down into smaller pieces .

First of all, it will be more manageable.

Also, it will help you to gain small quick wins in the process.

But the final grand celebration of the project completion stays at the place.

So, you get more opportunities to celebrate hard work with the team.

7. Find Way to Organize the Work

So, you know how to be productive, efficient, and how to get things done.

Can you teach others to do the same but on a broader scale?

Your knowledge should translate into efficient workflows. You should see the integration points between processes and tools .

How can you do it without real-life project experience?

  1. Organize parties and events.
  2. Become a volunteer.
  3. Take unofficial leadership in your environment.

After that, help people to collaborate more efficiently. Find ways to streamline their work and communications.

It doesn’t have to be something epic.

You simply need to ensure that everyone knows what to do at a given moment.

8. Set Compelling Goals to Follow

We tend to think about goal setting in the wrong way. It’s always about something tremendous and life-changing.

What about short-term goals?

If you break down your project, you’ll need a goal every week or month. Some goals should be personal. Some goals should aim at the combined effort of the team.

Knowing you people helps here. Empathy is also a great addition.

Nevertheless, formulating a relevant, challenging, and achievable goals require practice.

The best way to develop this skill is by practicing on yourself.

If you are not in the habit of goal-setting for your personal life and career, you should start immediately.

Chapter Conclusion

Does it take a lot of efforts to become a suitable entry-level project manager candidate?

Yes, it does.

However, you might be wasting your time on theory way too much.

In the long run, a project manager should deliver a project successfully .

You can do it following the PMBOK Guide to the letter. You can manage a project on a napkin.

It doesn’t matter as long as you deliver the project.

In an interview, you should demonstrate that you have what it takes to finish the project in their organization.

I can bet they do not follow the PMBOK Guide or any other established approach.

And if they do, it’s too early for you to work there.

CHAPTER 3

Action Plan to Getting Your First Project Management Job in the IT Industry


In this chapter, we’ll review different paths that lead to the role of a project manager.

It all depends on your current role and level of leadership experience.

And let me warn you:

It’s challenging to become an IT PM.

And sometimes it’s almost impossible to make a direct leap into the role.

So, you may need to make interim career steps.

How to Become a Software Project Manager Without Experience, Degree, or Technical Background

How to become an IT Project Manager diagram.

How to become an IT Project Manager diagram.

There are two major starting points:

Starting Point #1: You not in the IT industry.

Starting Point #2: You are in the IT industry, AND you are in a project environment.

Choose what describes you the best.

We’ll start with the most challenging scenario:

Starting Point #1: I’m Not in the IT Industry. Where Should I Start?

So, you are not an IT specialist. You don’t work in one of the main industries:

  • Software Development
  • Telecommunication
  • Online Marketing
  • Social Media

And for sure you don’t have a degree in Computer Science.

If that’s you, the very first thing you need to assess is your leadership experience.

No matter what industry you work in – you can’t become a project manager without leadership experience.

That’s a fundamental job requirement. You need to find a way to prove that you have a leadership talent.

Even if you have a degree in management, no one will put you in a leadership position without a proven record.

So, do you have leadership experience?

😀 I have more than three years of relevant leadership experience!

Congratulations. You are in a great place to start the career of a Project Manager.

You see, I’m not asking where does your experience come from.

The truth is leadership is universal.

But I can tell you that soft skills have more value than technical ones in the IT industry.

OK, below are the five main steps you need to take.

Step #1: Learn the Basics of Project Management

I hope it goes without saying for you:

You need to learn the basics of project management.

Agile Frameworks are popular in the software development industry. However, you still need to understand the main concepts of project management as a whole.

You might think that it’s a great idea to get a Project Management Certification.

It would give you the knowledge and a certificate.

But here’s the truth:

There’s a big gap between the theory of project management that you get during certification and real-life project management you do.

At this stage, I don’t recommend investing in a certification.

Agile Frameworks is a Must

Keep in mind that you need to learn a bit about Scrum and Kanban.

It’s something that interviewers will ask about.

There are a lot of resources on the internet about Scrum and Kanban.

Check out the Mountain Goat site or get the book Scrum and XP from trenches.

Step #2: Improve Your Technical Awareness

There’s a whole chapter about the technical skills of an IT Project Manager below.

Do read it thoroughly.

This step never ends.

You need to improve your technical awareness during your whole project management career.

And in the IT industry, technologies evolve daily.

You need to keep an eye on the products of technical giants to be aware of different solutions.

No course will fill this gap. You need to develop curiosity in regards to new technologies.

You need to look one level deeper into new shiny things on the market to understand it’s pros and cons.

That’s the only way to substitute the lack of actual technical background.

Step #3: You MUST Upgrade Your CV!

You can’t even imagine it!

The majority of candidates for entry-level project manager role do not position themselves as managers and leaders.

They think that their previous unrelated experience is more important.

Why?

They think that more is better.

The more experience you have, the better your CV looks like.

That’s wrong!

How Does Pre-Screening Processes Look?

Imagine that you are an engineer of some kind.

In your CV, you describe all the projects you did, all the technologies you used. You pepper it with lots of technical terms.

But the recruiter is not a technical expert. She has a list of competencies or job requirements that she must find in your CV to suggest you for an interview.

If she doesn’t find the keywords relevant for a Project Manager, your CV goes into the trash.

So, you must re-write your CV from scratch. You need to position yourself as a leader.

That’s why keep only the experience that shows your management, leadership, and communication skills.

Show your achievements in organizing people and improving something. Show your skill in communicating with stakeholders.

And remember, your CV needs to achieve only one goal. It should get you to an interview.

Step #4: Improve Your Professional Network

I talk about LinkedIn here.

IT Recruiters use technologies. They use social networks to find and assess candidates.

By looking at your activity on LinkedIn, I can tell quite a lot about your professional interests.

And there’s a flip side:

You are not active on a major Professional platform. You are not using technology. You don’t understand the power of global connectivity.

(hint: It goes beyond posting cute cats.)

You got the point. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Keep your LinkedIn Profile in sync with your CV. Update it regularly.
  2. Start building connections with recruiters from IT companies from your area.
  3. Be active on the platform. Show your interest in professional topics. In our case, it’s the IT.

This step has a long-term effect. You’ll use your network to build a career of an IT project manager rapidly in the future.

Step 5: Build Up Your Interview Skills

Next, you need to start applying for project management jobs.

Where should you focus?

As we discussed above, there are different levels of companies and project management in them.

So, your best bet is on smaller companies and startups.

Your primary goal is to get 6 to 12 months of hands-on experience on an IT Project.

It Takes More Interviews than You Think

Lots of candidates quit the idea of becoming an IT Project Manager too soon.

You apply to 10 or 20 job openings.

Maybe you fail an interview or two.

And you think that you are not a suitable candidate for the role of an IT PM.

That’s because you don’t know the statistics:

On average, each corporate job offer attracts 250 resumes. And only four to six candidates get an interview. Only one gets the job.

1 out of 250. It’s less than a percent—0.4 %.

Be Ready for Interview Grind

At some point, you’ll become a candidate that quickly gets lots of interviews.

But right now, you should apply to job openings in bulk.

Don’t overthink it.

Apply to anything related to project management just to get the experience of the interview.

And be ready that your first ten interviews will be a mess.

Step 7: Move to the IT Development Centers

It seems common sense, but I need to point it out.

If you want to build a career in the IT industry, you need to be close to the development centers.

If you leave in a small town, you shouldn’t expect lots of job opportunities as an IT Project Manager

The IT industry is clustered in big cities. Every country has one or two such development centers.

Simply google it.

OK, it’s a life-changing step. So, I can’t recommend you how to do it.

You can try to find a job first and then make a move.

Or you can make a move to an IT center and look for a job there. It will be easier to get to the interviews.

Here’s a shortlist of major cities with a high level of software development job opportunities.

United States Seattle, WA
Raleigh, NC
Austin, TX
Phoenix, AZ
Salt Lake City, UT
Atlanta, GA
Dallas/Fort Worth, TX
Houston, TX
Detroit, MI
St. Louis, MO
Norway Oslo
Israel Tel Aviv
Germany Berlin
Canada Montreal
Toronto
India Bangalore
United Kingdom London
Australia Melbourne

How to become a software Project Manager diagram without leadership experience

How to become a software Project Manager diagram without leadership experience

I don’t have 3-5 years of leadership experience 😟

Let’s put it all the challenges together:

  1. You are not in the IT Industry.
  2. You don’t have a relevant technical background.
  3. You don’t have leadership experience.

So, here’s the hard truth:

You can become an IT Project Manager only with a massive amount of luck.

For example, a small and unsuccessful startup may take you as a manager. They’ll pay you nothing in exchange for a chance to get some experience.

But even this downgraded opportunity is hard to find.

So, what should you do?

You need to overcome at least one of three challenges.

Option #1: Get into an IT Project Environment

Focus on getting an entry-level position in an IT project. In the software development industry, the Tester or Quality Assurance Engineer is the best bet.

You can learn everything on your own very quickly. There’s a high demand for inexperienced QA resources.

Once you are inside, be sure to state your desire to become a Project Manager. Focus on getting leadership experience and looking for opportunities to do Micro Projects.

Read this article to find more opportunities:

How to Gain Initial Experience.

Option #2: Expedite Obtaining Leadership Experience

There’s a whole chapter on how to gain relevant leadership experience below.

You need to focus on filling out your CV with leadership achievements.

You do it at your current job.

However, I would recommend combining both options.

  1. Get into an IT organization and state your desire to become an IT Project Manager.
  2. Get a professional development plan on how to become an IT PM from day one.
  3. Then, work towards fulfilling the plan.

In the process, you may benefit from sponsorship on trainings and certifications. Most IT companies support professional development.

Starting Point #2: I’m In the IT industry. What’s next?

Here’s the insider’s secret:

The majority of leadership roles in the IT industry are covered by internal resources or from referenced candidates.

What does it mean for you?

Your leadership literally can’t wait when you state your desire to become a project manager.

So, the only thing you need to do is to go to your boss and inform him or her.

Here’s what might happen.

Your leadership Doesn’t See You as an IT PM.

That’s bad, but it’s the outcome on its own.

It might happen for a few reasons:

  1. The organization doesn’t have small projects for entry-level PMs.
  2. Your boss doesn’t like you.
  3. Your boss can’t decide on the spot.

You need to know the real reason. If it’s #1 or #2, you need to change the company.

If it’s #3, you need to repeat your attempts several times more.

You Get a Development Plan

Good. Your boss gave you a set of requirements you need to meet. Then, he or she will promote you.

Do your best to learn and achieve everything that is on the list.

But what’s even more important:

Do communicate your progress regularly. Stay at the top of her mind. Show that you are serious about it.

Then, take all possible opportunities to get trainings inside the company on project management. Or get sponsorship for trainings or certification.

You Get a Promise to Find You a Project

Congratulations. Now you need to wait for the opportunity.

But don’t wait passively.

A new project may not appear for a few months. So, you need to keep reminding about yourself and that you ought to cover a new opening.

It’s still your responsibility to get that opportunity. Don’t expect that your work is done.

CHAPTER 4

Technical Skills of an IT Project Manager


“I do not have the technical skill to become a software development project manager.” I hear this all the time.

However, here is a catch.

No one expects you, as a project manager, to write code or set up servers.

You do need to know the software development process, what goes into creating software applications.

So, in fact, you don’t need to have skills. You need technical awareness.

OK, I get it.

All those terms and technology alone are too much. Coding by itself looks so complicated and out of touch.

It is.

However, only for a short period of time.

Once you are surrounded by software engineers, QA, BAs, and so on, you start to learn everything like a sponge.

In a month or two ordinary people would not understand you. You will use so much slang…

But you do need some initial set of terms to learn.

So here we go.

The glossary of a Software Development Project Manager

Note: this article is for project managers by a project manager. If you have an engineering background, it may hurt reading this. I warned you!

Hardware vs. Software

These two are simple:

Hardware means all kinds of computers and mobile devices where your software will be used at. It is your Mac or PC, printer or server, iPhone, your car, refrigerator, or smartwatch.

Software is actually all the software applications and programs on the hardware you use. It includes apps that you use on your Mac, PC, smartphone.

But it is also a firmware on your microwave, drivers in your printer, photo camera, etc.

Team Composition on a Software Project

Software Engineers are people who write code (or source code) and do all the mental work to develop a software application.

You can also use term developer interchangeably.

Don’t use “coder” as many software engineers despise it.

Quality Assurance Engineer (QA) is a person who ensures that the application your developers created is of the required quality .

Tester or Testing Engineers are people who actually test the application or service.

Often these roles are used interchangeably. However, as you may know, there is a difference.

QA Engineers should focus on developing proper processes to assure quality.

Testers focus on controlling quality . It means they test and state the defects they found.

Their goal is to verify the quality level of the application.

Business Analyst work with customers and other stakeholders to understand the business requirements of a project .

Sometimes he needs to identify them by researching a market and demand. Sometimes he just needs to communicate with stakeholders .

After that, he needs to translate business requirements into specification or user stories.

User Interface (UI) Designers/User Experience (UX) Designers are people of art. They work with the team to understand the requirements.

Then, they draw the design of the application or service.

If you open any standard application on your Mac, you will see an example of hard work of a team of UI/UX designers.

Writing Code

So here is how it works:

Software Engineer writes code.

She uses a Programming Language.

A programming language is a set of formal instructions to a computer or a mobile device. Every programming language has its syntax, semantic, and core programming principles.

For example applications on iPhone are written on Objective C or Swift . On Samsung phones (and other Android phones) they use Java .

Here is the list of ten major programming languages you need to google about:

  1. C
  2. Objective C
  3. Ruby
  4. JavaScript
  5. C# (C Sharp)
  6. PHP
  7. SQL
  8. Java
  9. Python
  10. Swift

A bit deeper knowledge

The code that software developers write is human readable too some extent. These are instructions

It is not something that a computer can understand.

That is why this code is compiled and transformed into the machine-code that hardware can understand. It is called lower-level code .

Core Libraries, Frameworks, and Kits

Also, you need to understand that programming language is only a set of standard functions to implement and group logic, store and represent different types of data.

It is engineer’s work to find a way to use available means to implement an application.

However, it would be very time consuming if each time each engineer should implement some basic algorithms and functions.

Also, it would be hard to write code that will work directly with the hardware you use. It is a lower level of programming.

For example, to use a camera or speaker on your phone, different sensors, motors, etc.

That is why many programming languages come with Core Libraries or Frameworks.

In this libraries, you can find standard and frequently used functions.

They can be developed by enthusiasts to make life easier. Alternatively, they can be created for commercial use and sold to software engineers.

Also, companies that produce hardware usually supply such libraries to help developers to use their devices.

For example, Apple provides numerous libraries that make it easy to use all the built-in features of iPhone or Mac.

So, developers do not need to implement everything from scratch.

Integrated Development Environment (IDE)

The code can be written on a napkin, in a notepad, or in MS Word.

But it is not convenient.

You have to memorize all the functions, libraries, and structures by heart. To say nothing of possible mistakes.

That is why developers use Integrated Development Environment or IDE.

IDE is a separate application developed specifically for software engineers to work in. In essence, it is a code-centric text editor.

It makes code easier to read visually by highlighting, coloring and structuring the text.

It also contains documentation on the programming languages and core libraries. Moreover, it makes it easy to add more of the core libraries if needed.

There are also tools for debugging. There is a build-in compiler. And much more.

There are many IDEs. Some are free. Some are paid.

Microsoft Visual Studio , Xcode , RubyMine, Eclipse just to name a few.

Each IDE can work with several programming languages.

Source Version Control

In essence, code is just text.

This text is stored in files.

Files are organized in folders (source tree).

There might be hundreds and thousands of files.

Some code is written once and never changed in years. Some files are altered on a daily basis by many developers.

The code is interdependent. Code from one file can use code from other files.

Keeping a record of all changes to the code is essential. Moreover, it helps a lot when you can revert to an older version of the code.

That is why developers use Source Version Control.

The proper use of Version Control is the cornerstone of quality assurance in software development. You do want to learn more about it.

So, a developer writes a piece of code or updates existing one. He has to ensure it works as expected and doesn’t break the rest of application.

After that, he makes a Commit of his code into Source Version Control.

SVN and Git are the examples of Version Control Systems.

Layers of Application

In Web development, you will also hear a lot about front end and back end parts of an application.

Front End is the part of the application that you see on the screen of your device. So, the design, layout, buttons, and text right on this page is the front end.

(HTML, CSS, JavaScrip are the programming languages of the Front End)

Back End refers to the server side, database, and logic of the web application. So this very article is stored in a database on a server. This site uses MySQL as database management system.

(PHP, Ruby, Python are the Back End languages)

Deliverables

So, what are the end results of a software project?

First of all, it is the source code. All the code created during the project is transferred to the client.

Sometimes you store the code in client’s Version Control system from the start. So you just need to commit all the code there.

Sometimes the code should be archived and sent to the client. You do it just like you would do with any folder with files.

However, more often software development projects include the work required to deliver the application to the end users.

So, in case of iPhone, Mac or Windows applications you will compile the code and create an application (installation) file. It is a build in functionality of every IDE.

You may also need to submit this application to one of the main markets – App Store, Windows Market, Google Play.

Nowadays it is relatively a user-friendly process. No harder than uploading a photo to Facebook. Though with more steps.

In case of a Website (web application), you need to deploy the application to a server. If the application is complex, it can be a task in itself.

Chapter Conclusion

For sure, it is not a comprehensive list of all technologies you will face. Also, you will need to get a bit deeper in every term I used here.

Here is what I suggest you to do:

  1. Start googling these terms from the perspective of “for dummies“.
  2. Keep to one topic/term at a time.
  3. List other new terms that you will encounter.
  4. Google new terms until you have a bigger picture.
  5. Find a friend or a colleague (developer, experienced IT PM, etc.) and ask them to explain everything in more details.
  6. Develop a curiosity habit. Look around at all the tech around you and ask yourself, “Do I know how it works?” If no – google it.

CHAPTER 5

How to Gain Initial Management Experience


So, you noticed that you need one or two years of relevant experience of a project manager.

For an entry-level role of a project manager!

I get it. It’s frustrating.

You want to get your first job as a PM.

But they want you to that much some experience.

In this chapter, I’ll share some thoughts and tricks on how to get that “relevant” experience.

And here’s what you need to understand:

Trying Things Out Also Counts

Relevant experience does not equal to the experience in the capacity of a Project Manager.

It means you need to have experience similar to what a PM does.

Recruiters don’t even mean skills on using project management techniques or tools.

Here’s the catch:

A project manager organizes people to do a work in a controlled and predictable way.

You need to have skills in working with people. Specifically, you need to know how to organize them.

But…

You need to do it in a way they like.

(Check out leadership topic in the PM Basics archive )

Here’s more:

A project manager keeps the wheels turning.

What does that mean?

Well, it means everything and anything.

You need to do whatever it takes to push the project to its goal.

Quite often it requires you to make decisions.

Therefore, you’ll have to take responsibility for those decisions.

In the process, you’ll need to communicate a lot.

That’s actually it.

These are the areas where you need relevant experience:

  1. Organizing people
  2. Making decisions
  3. Taking responsibility
  4. Communicating

Notice there’s no dependency on any project management methodology or technique.

So, here’s what you can do:

1. Take an Unofficial Vacant Leadership Position

A leadership vacuum is always present in any company and on any project.

People at official leadership positions can’t address all the needs.

You can always find an opportunity to improve something or help someone.

Therefore, you can become an unofficial leader for a small group of people. Now, you can try to organize them to act upon a problem.

Ideally, you need to get support from your boss. At the very least, you need to inform him or her about your endeavor.

Your efforts shouldn’t be unnoticed.

In the end, you’ll want to put this experience into your CV.

So, here’s what you need to do:

  1. Identify a problem worth dealing with.
  2. Select a solution.
  3. Implement the solution:
    3.1 Organize people, don’t do it yourself
    3.2 Measure your progress – you need numbers in your CV.
    3.3 Communicate with your boss to validate results.
    3.4 Take responsibility for the outcome.
  4. Describe “before and after.”
  5. Explain it as if you planned it all from the beginning.

2. Build a Career of an IT Project Manager One Step at a Time

I know for sure it’s difficult to leap right into the position of a Project Manager.

It’s even harder when you have no experience in a leadership position.

Don’t try to force your way to the top skipping several steps on the ladder. Make a natural progression step-by-step.

It may take longer. There’ll be roadblocks.

But you’ll gain valuable experience in the process.

Moreover, you’ll be under less stress.

So, look around your current company.

Do they have a leadership role?

Anything will do that will allow you to state:

“I lead a group of five persons…”

“I managed a small project of seven team members…”

“I was in a leadership role…”

But here’s an important tip:

You should always keep your ultimate goal in mind. All the interim steps should help you transition to a PM role.

It means you need to be transparent with your management about your intentions to become a Project Manager.

Most of the times, it will work to your advantage.

3. Become a Volunteer

OK, I get it.

There might not be official or unofficial leadership roles in the organization you work in.

However, there’s always a cause that would benefit from the proper organizational effort.

It may not be a full-time job. It may not be a project.

Remember that you need to gain experience in organizing people, making decisions and communicating.

Yes, it’ll be free of charge. You need to do some extra work.

Here’s the key:

You need to approach any opportunity from a perspective of a Project Manager.

As much as possible you need to apply the project management basics.

Check this article to see what I mean:

Project Management Basics That Will Make You a Better PM

Why do you need this?

You need to see and feel resistance from people you will lead.

They will be eager to do something useful. But they will not want to follow the lead. They will not want to be controlled.

At least at the beginning until they see the benefits of your efforts to organize them.

And you need to sell them the benefits of the project management. However, you may need to use simple words.

Here’s one more tip:

For sure, you will put such experience in your CV. Nevertheless, there should be a story behind it.

And here’s what will make it powerful:

“You should NOT say that you accidentally got such experience. It was your educated decision to try yourself out in a leadership position.”

You volunteered because you knew it would be a challenge and experience you needed. Frame it this way and do include your efforts to apply project management.

4. Become an Assistant Project Manager Now

Last but not least – look around. What do you see?

If your company does projects, you see some project managers.

Most likely, you’ll see experienced PMs.

Why?

Junior PMs are doing some routine tasks right now. Experienced managers do something meaningful, visible, and tangible.

(What Does it Feel Like to be a Project Manager (True Story) )

So, it may feel like your company only needs such experienced Project Managers.

You may feel like you need to learn first, gain experience, get a certification.

But here’s the truth:

A company wants the cheapest labor it can get.

If they can get a Project Manager for half the price – they will do it.

Moreover, it’s much easier to find a substitution for you than a suitable project manager.

But there’s only one problem you need to overcome:

They’re not ready to entrust you their clients and people. And it’s not about your knowledge and skills. It’s about how responsible and reliable you are.

So, communication comes into play.

You need to become a savvy communicator.

You need to keep your management well informed about your progress in learning the basics of project management.

You need to keep your name at the top of their minds. You should be an easy solution for the next opening.

It also helps to get a mentor inside the company.

This person will know your abilities and knowledge first hand.

He or she will understand what kind of a project manager you can become.

Most importantly, this person will provide feedback on you when the time comes.

Conclusion: Relevant Experience of a Project Manager

Is it hard to become find relevant experience or a project manager?

No.

Is it hard to leverage the opportunity?

Yes.

You need to overcome a lot of objections. You need to have a specific set of basic knowledge of project management. You need to be confident to communicate with your management.

CHAPTER 6

How to Find Time to Become an IT Project Manager


Before I became a project manager I was a sailor.

During one of the voyages, I had a morning shift on the bridge for four months.

In 20 minutes after the shift, there was breakfast.

So, these 20 minutes were kind of useless. You can’t do anything with them.

Except learning.

20 minutes a day for four months gave me 40 hours of pure reading. That’s ended up with about eight books.

Not bad for a useless in-between time.

An overwhelmed woman who wants to become a software project manager.

An overwhelmed woman who wants to become a software project manager.

I know you have a job to do. That’s why you need a system!

An IT Project Manager Learns Non-Stop. Get Used to It!

At that time, it was a voluntary decision.

When you are a PM, it’s a necessity.

There’s no such book or a course that will teach you all things about project management.

You need to develop soft skills. You need to grow your knowledge in your industry. New trends in approaches to leadership are also important.

So, you need to learn all the time.

Otherwise, in a year or two, people you manage will see you are outdated.

If you’re not a project manager yet – good. Build a habit now!

And it all starts with this:

Nail your WHY you want to become an IT PM

Nail your WHY you want to become an IT PM

“Achievement happens when we pursue and attain what we want. Success comes when we are in clear pursuit of why we want it.” – Simon Sinek

Nail Down Your WHY

Why do you want to be a Project Manager ?

Why do you want to be a great leader?

Why do you want your people to love you ?

You need to be clear about your WHY. What does it mean to you? Why it’s important?

That’s something that will help you build the habit of learning.

And here’s the trick:

You need to write it down!

You will keep your WHY in front of your eyes all the time. I’ll show you how to do it.

Here’s why it’s important to start with the WHY:

1. Helps to Set Priorities

Every day you will face a dilemma:

Should you spend those 20 minutes to read or watch funny cats on Youtube.

Should you spend 20 minutes on professional development or waste your best hours on a low priority task.

(We’ll talk about your “best hours” below as well.)

Your WHY will help you rule out everything else in favor of learning.

2. Helps to Overcome Challenges

Sooner or later you’ll get overwhelmed with project management.

It’s a huge knowledge domain.

You’ll get confused. You’ll be frustrated with conflicting information.

There are no specific “follow the checklist” approaches.

So, more than once you will feel like you don’t have what it takes to become a Project Manager .

Your WHY should help you remember what you want to achieve.

3. Helps to Be Consistent

I hope you are ready for this:

It won’t happen overnight.

It won’t happen after you get a certificate .

It’s a long journey. First to become a Project Manager. Then, you become a great PM and Leader.

Year after year, you will need to keep the pace.

Moreover, you will need to spend money on your professional development to boost the process.

And you need to do it consistently.

Compound effect of consistent learning of project management.

Compound effect of consistent learning of project management.

The compound effect of consistency.

Analyze the Workload of Your Day

Now it’s time to find a perfect spot for you to learn.

All you need to do is to find 20-30 minutes of uninterrupted time.

One warning:

Don’t touch your lunch time!

Actually, it’s a break time you need to use wisely. You need to eat and restore. Ideally, you need to take a nap.

Why?

To restore energy and willpower.

It will increase your chances to efficiently use those 20 minutes.

Here’s how to find your ideal time:

Find Time When Your Boss is Busy or Not Around

From one side, I want you to be fully transparent about your intentions to develop professionally.

You should not close the browser in haste when you read something work-related or professional.

On the other hand, priorities on a project are the number one reason for conflicts .

Your boss may think you are not doing his priority task right now. Therefore, the reason for conflict.

You need his or her support and understanding.

So, it would be better to avoid any conflicts at all.

A woman dedicated time to learn Project Management

A woman dedicated time to learn Project Management

There might not be a perfect time to sit and learn. You’ll need to adapt and learn on the go.

Identify Periods With Less Distraction

During a day there are periods when everyone is interacting.

Such moments as:

  • In the morning when people come one after another and they want to great you.
  • Right after Sync-up meetings when everyone wants to clarify something.
  • Before and after lunch time.

You need uninterrupted period. You need to avoid these heavy traffic moments.

Prioritize Periods of Day When You Have More Energy

I worked in an office across the city. It took 45 minutes on the subway to get there.

It was a fabulous time!

That year, I had a problem finding books to read :).

Then, I got another job. It was a five-minute ride from home. Now, I need to be very intentional in finding the time.

So, commutes to the office are a great moment unless you drive a car.

(But even if you do drive there are audiobooks.)

For most of us, late morning is the best time to learn.

The best time to learn is in the morning.

The best time to learn is in the morning.

You got your breakfast and a caffeine fix. Maybe you walked a bit in the fresh air.

So, another great period is when you just got into the office.

Without opening your email or chat, sit down read or watch your educational materials.

So, you might want to come 15 minutes before the balk of your colleagues.

The next energy spike is somewhere around 4 PM.

Do the Top Priority Work Before Learning

So, you either learn right in the morning before getting to work or after you finish top priority tasks.

Again, you don’t want unnecessary conflicts.

So, do up to three priority tasks and the fourth is the meeting with yourself.

Why three?

If you don’t limit the number of these top one you will procrastinate.

Otherwise, you will use the “one more task to do” as an excuse. And when you do the work – you are too tired to get anything intense into your brain.

Be Open With Your Manager or Boss

Here’s why you need to transparent with your manager:

  1. Your boss should rest ensured that you don’t ditch your work in favor of your professional development.
  2. You need to prove that you actually put some extra to do the work quicker and learn on the time you saved.
  3. Later, you may need his or her support to get a promotion. If you show your dedication and hard work – you may get a recommendation.
  4. When a conflict arise your boss will be more empathic and direct to resolve it with you. There won’t be guessing. She will notify you that you crossed the line somewhere.

On the flip side:

In IT industries, organization provide professional elopement. If not - it’s a bad leadership.

In IT industries, organization provide professional elopement. If not - it’s a bad leadership.

Accept That Small Commitments WORK

The math doesn’t lie. Long term effect is huge.

Adding one or two 20-minute periods more and you skyrocket your output.

If that doesn’t sound convincing check this out:

Set an Appointment with Yourself

What gets scheduled gets done.

If you put a visit to a dentist in your calendar – you show up.

If there’s a meeting on your calendar you’ll be there.

So, you need to create a meeting with yourself.

a) You need 30 Minutes Per Day

By now you know how to identify the best period to learn.

Create a calendar event at that time.

If you work in a corporate world ensure you really blocked your time from everyone else. They should see you are busy.

If possible you can book a meeting room for 30 minutes.

Try not to put this time slot close to other important events.

Why?

That’s an opportunity to sacrifice your learning time to the work.

b) Treat it as a Meeting With Expensive Doctor

Think about it this way.

Whether you show up or not – you need to pay.

There is even such actionable technique – you pay your friend every time you miss your habit.

Set up an accountability system that will remind you about your WHY.

“What gets scheduled is what gets done” - Michael Hyatt

“What gets scheduled is what gets done” - Michael Hyatt

A calendar is a primary tool for a project manager.

c) Consistency is the Key

That’s where the majority will fail.

Consistency.

Let me be frank here:

If you can’t pass this test of consistency – there’s nothing for you to do in project management.

As a project manager, you have to be role-model for consistency. You’ll need it to:

  1. Follow the workflows.
  2. Keep to the processes.
  3. Use tools continuously.
  4. Keep project information organized.

All of which is key to project success.

Setup a Self Education System

Now it’s time to ensure you never run dry on the materials to learn.

0. Use Evernote to Leverage Every Opportunity to Learn

I find Evernote the best tool to store digital information I want to read or review later.

Moreover, it’s my brain dump.

There’s a pile of research that proves you should NOT keep your ideas, tasks to do, or any notes in your head.

It’s not a safe place to store information. Also, it hinders your focus and productivity.

So, create a free Evernote account now .

I’ll wait here.

Today I use Evernote as a digital brain dump. I don’t try to keep unnecessary information in my brain.

1. Create Your “Why” Note

Now, create your first note.

Put your WHY in it.

Drag the note into the Shortcut sidebar.

Let it sit at the top.

Every time you open up Evernote – take a glance at that note to remind you about your priorities.

2. Setting Up Notebooks

Next, you need to create several Notebooks.

You need only two for now:

  1. Inbox
  2. Cabin

You’ll put all new materials into the Inbox.

When you read a piece and it’s a good one – you’ll put it into the Cabin.

If it’s a poor article or a video – trash it at once. That’ll happen quite often.

3. (Optional) Getting Fancy with the System

I don’t suggest you overcomplicate the system.

But at some point, you’ll feel a need to categorize the materials.

You can add tags to each note.

I recommend starting a tag name with a dot – “.”

Like this “.scope“ or “.cost“ or”.motivation“.

This way you’ll be able to filter out knowledge domains to focus on.

Do add the tag at the moment you put something into Inbox.

4. Create a Collection of IT Project Management Resources

Now you need to find sources of information.

For sure I recommend you get one or two books on project management and leadership .

Make it digital! You don’t want to drag a book around 24/7 as you do it with your phone.

But books are not enough. You need different perspectives and you need information based on practical experience.

The best free source of such information is project management blogs.

Here are several compilations of good PM Blogs.

But here’s a catch:

It’s inefficient to visit all of them on a regular basis.

Therefore, meet Feedly.

5. Get Free Account on Feedly

Software Project Managers use Feedly to stay up to date with industry trends.

Software Project Managers use Feedly to stay up to date with industry trends.

Get all articles from all Project Management blogs in one place.

Feedly is an RSS reader. It means it will collect fresh articles from all your favorite blogs once they are published.

Feedly will help you to collect and review fresh content in a convenient way.

You need to:

  1. Create an account .
  2. Add all those blogs to your watch list.
  3. Review new articles once a week.
  4. Save articles to Evernote.

That brings us to the next point.

6. Evernote Clipping Extension

You need to install the Evernote Extension into your browser.

It will give you an ability to save whole articles into the Evernote with two clicks.

Evernote Clipper allows to collect articles on project management.

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Web Clipper allows you to save full articles into your Evernote. You can set it up for reading offline as well.

7. Keep the Reading List Full and in One Place

The idea is simple.

You should have more materials that you can read in one day.

Most articles on the Internet have links to related articles. Review them and save for later if you liked the initial one.

Be curious!

You’ll get into the habit and you’ll get knowledge.

Soon, you will scan lots of materials rather than read them.

So, you’ll need lots of articles.

8. Maintain the Open Questions List

And here’s a secret ingredient:

Whenever something’s not clear – write it down.

At first, there’ll be lots of questions.

Your goal is to get the answers to them.

How?

Google it. You’ll find the answers.

Or you can join Project Management Communities and ask your questions there.

Add Reading Books to Your Evening Routine

So, you’ll read or watch something once a day. Ideally in the morning.

It’s a substantial boost if you can add another slot during the working day.

I would specifically use it for watching one video. It can be five to ten minutes. You don’t need a full 30 minutes here.

And I would recommend you reading a book in the evening.

Personally, I don’t read professional literature before bad. Only fiction.

But if you don’t have other options – that’s your opportunity.

You can use this time to read about soft skills. Books on motivation, leadership, presentation skills, communications.

They’re easier to digest.

Conclusion

If you read this far – congratulations!

Why?

You’re good at reading. You have a focus.

OK, I get it!

It may feel complicated.

But if you are really short on time and budget to go over paid training that’s the best way to become a project manager.

That’s how I built my career as a PM.

Moreover, you will need to learn continuously throughout your career anyway.

So, start doing it now. Good luck!

The post How to Become an IT Project Manager Without Experience appeared first on Project Management Basics .

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