Inside Project Manager Careers

Things you need to know, but nobody tells you

Biggest Surprises

"I was surprised how much social expertise is required of a Project manager. I believed it was all about technical know how, but that is not the case." (Project Manager; 2013)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in North Carolina, female
School: Studied Psychology at University Of North Carolina At Chapel Hill in North Carolina; completed Bachelor degree in 2012

"Opportunities Abound Pushed By Both Competition And Technological Advances...
Be prepared to bring your "A" game. Continue to develop your skills, and be dedicated to your work. Hours can be long, but rewards are there." (Sales Consultant; 2013)

Career: 5 years of experience, currently based in Florida, male
School: Studied Accounting at Univ Of Miami in Florida; completed Bachelor degree in 2005

"Learn To Learn For More Success...
I was surprised that neither my Computer Science study nor my International Business study had any direct bearing on my job. It was more the general capability for adapting and learning which I strengthened at college which were most useful." (New Systems Implementation Manager; 2013)

Career: 17 years of experience, currently based in Virginia, male
School: Studied International Business at George Washington Univ. in District of Columbia; completed Bachelor degree in 1979

"Necessary Tools For A Successful IT Career...
The lessons you learn in the lab are great guidelines but real word scenarios are often nothing like you are taught in the classroom. Common sense and technical knowledge will make you a great IT professional. One without the other will lead to a mediocre career. You need to listen to your clients and guide them to a full explanation of what the problem they are having as often the solution to the problem is not what they tell you but what they have left out." (IT Project Manager; 2014)

Career: , currently based in New York, female
School: Studied Certified Microsoft Professional at The Learning Annex in New York; completed Certificate degree in 1998

"Management Skills Are More Important Than Programming Skills...
I was surprised by how little my educational knowledge was actually applied to my role as a project manager. My training was in computer science, with a decent emphasis on machine learning, and as I've advanced in my career, I find myself less and less involved with actually developing computer applications and more involved with making sure projects get completed by any means necessary." (Research Scientist; 2013)

Career: 10 years of experience, currently based in Mississippi, male
School: Studied Computer Science at Mississippi State University in Mississippi; completed Bachelor degree in 2003

"Microsoft Excel In The Workplace...
I was surprised that I had to use Excel a lot in my job" (Process Engineer; 2013)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in Delaware, male
School: Studied Chemical Engineering at University Of Delaware in Delaware; completed Bachelor degree in 2012

"People Management Trickier Than Tech Issues...
I was surprised at how much more difficult it is to solve people problems than technical problems. Most technical problems are solved by someone proficient just disappearing and doing it. Most people problems are solved by a long painful grind, if they are solved at all. By people problems, I don't mean that certain people have difficult personalities to work with -- rather, that it is difficult to motivate and coordinate people to meet goals that they may not understand or agree with until they see the end result." (Microprocessor Architect; 2013)

Career: 8 years of experience, currently based in Oregon, male
School: Studied Computer Engineering at North Carolina State University in North Carolina; completed Master degree in 2011

"I was surprised how much interpersonal involvement IT project management requires. In previous IT-related jobs, I primarily worked as an individual, now I find myself devoting much of my day to meetings. This was a pleasant surprise as the job provides a nice blend between individual and cross-functional teamwork." (Technology Project Manager; 2013)

Career: 5 years of experience, currently based in Pennsylvania, male
School: Studied Business Administration at University Of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania; completed Bachelor degree in 2006

"I was surprised to know that after joining the company , I had to go to an induction programme which teaches working in teams ,knowing about various cultures across the world , brushing up and evaulation of various technologies and another level of training programme if we didn't clear the tests. I just thought working in IT meant working heads down on computer all day." (IT Project Manager; 2013)

Career: 10 years of experience, currently based in Virginia, male
School: Studied Computer Science & Engineering at St Patrick's High School in Virginia; completed Bachelor degree in 2003

"Surprised at the amount of political games that are played within an organization. I never thought it was as bad as many portrayed it but to get ahead you definitely have to no someone or be willing to kiss some ass or more..." (IT Project Manager; 2013)

Career: 11 years of experience, currently based in Pennsylvania, male
School: Studied CIS at Alvernia in Pennsylvania; completed Bachelor degree in 2003

Best & Worst Things About This Career

Project Manager: "The best part of my job is that I get to work with a large group of people and develop relationships throughout a project's life cycle. Additionally, it is very rewarding to be able to manage and implement a project successfully, on time, and on budget. One downside to the career is that I can be placed under very tight deadlines, which makes it difficult to follow as closely to the proper process as I should. This can lead to issues later." (2011)

Information Technology Project Leader: "The best part of my job is the autonomy. As my work is special projects based, I have few operational duties (for example, I don't have to answer support questions, or fix broken computers) and have much flexibility in my schedule and choice of working style. For example, I can work from home occasionally or make my own decision about which order I'll do tasks for a day. The worst part of my job is dealing with our staffing levels. Accomplishing projects on schedule has been difficult since most coworkers are assigned to multiple projects and need to multi-task." (2011)

Migration Manager: "The best part about the job is collaborating with other members of the team. I work with people from all over the world and it has helped me gain a greater appreciation of the talents and cultures of people from other countries. They help me to see things in various ways and take on different tasks in ways I would have never considered before. I find that many people feel the same way and will frequently ask for my thoughts on things they are working on. We frequently find there are more similarities among people than one might think. My coworkers from India get nagged at from their families just as much as the coworkers in the US. The worst part about my job is trying to maintain a healthy diet while traveling. We frequently work until 9:00 at night, which means dinner is very late and healthy choices are not always an option. We frequently try to take breaks during lunch to walk, but this does not happen with the level of frequency we would like." (2011)

Project Manager: "My job is very fast-paced and exciting. I am faced with making major decisions every day and managing a team of people to make things happen. This is very appealing to me and I like the satisfaction I get when a project is complete. The worst part of my job is the stress level that comes with it. It is difficult to turn it off when I leave the office. It is also difficult as a Project Manager because my team members do not work for me directly. This can make it difficult especially with non-performing members." (2010)

Product Manager: "Sometimes you have to review the same information over and over and this can be tedious. In any job the most difficult aspect is working with a variety of people with a variety of talents and temperaments. Sometimes you get people who have personality problems and do not work with the team. These people require extra energy and attention. Sometimes you have to work for people who are not as knowledgeable or as good at sensing market potential and you have to either get them to support you or find a way to keep them from impeding the product's success." (2010)

Project Manager In Financial Services Company: "The best part of the job is working with the dedicated and smart people who band together to accomplish a defined goal. The worst part is that changing business priorities often have an impact on resources assigned to the project. This means the project team is always in flux. You are constantly adding new people to the team, bringing them up to speed and re-adjusting the group dynamics." (2010)

Senior Engineer And Project Manager: "The best parts of the job are the technology and my co-workers. Worst is my boss who owns the company and is a tyrant, control freak and abusive micro-manager , who tends to focus on the really petty and trivial stuff and maintains a broad array of detailed and useless rules. He has no internet access, treats people abusively, and puts even professionals on the time clock. Once when I was late for work due to a car accident, he forced me to take the time as a vacation day." (2010)

Career Background

Project Manager

  Job Tasks
  Work Environment
  How to Prepare for the Job
  Job Outlook

Career Tips

"How To Become An Effective IT Project Manager...
If you want to be an effective IT manager, take the time to learn some of the trades that will be necessary for the successful completion of your projects. For instance, spend some time in customer service, spend time with engineering, spend time with technical support, spend time with change management. Knowledge of these areas of IT will help you in putting together effective and successful project plans." (IT Project Manager; 2014)

"Networking With Computer And IT Can Provide Opportunities Both Locally And Globally...
Keep networking to search out those with upward mobility. This will help keep you refreshed and aware of new areas of specialties" (Sales Consultant; 2013)

"Developing Skills For Success...
Focus on problem sets and try to do as many practice problems in textbooks as possible. The skills you develop will help you with future classes and in the workplace." (Process Engineer; 2013)

"High Performance Computing And Management Courses Very Useful...
I would focus on areas related to high performance computing and cloud/grid computing if I had to take courses again. Additionally, I would recommend a few classes on management and accounting. More and more of my job involves planning and reviewing bids for our high performance computing facilities, and developing solutions that our users can take advantage of from remote locations." (Research Scientist; 2013)

"Learn To Adapt To Change...
Take as many different courses as possible and learn to be adaptable when faced with change." (New Systems Implementation Manager; 2013)

"Communication Skills Is A Difference Maker...
Learn effective communication skills, in particular persuasive writing and speaking. These are complex skills that need significant practice to be effective. Communication proficiency is a key separator between good workers and mediocre workers." (Microprocessor Architect; 2013)

"Broad Tech And Soft Skills...
It is important to be well-rounded, both technologically and personally. While you may specialize in one area of technology, a working knowledge of various platforms and technologies will benefit you greatly. Also, do not solely focus on IT-related knowledge and skills, soft skills such as relationship management, writing skills, etc. are vital to make the most of your contributions." (Technology Project Manager; 2013)

"Take Journalism...
I would recommend a class or two in journalism as well, as their major requirements." (Project Manager; 2013)

"Avoid Becoming Outdated...
You can choose to be in IT and make a good living only if you can upgrade yourself with latest technical trends in the market. Once a technology is outdated , your career will come to a stand still. So keeping yourself updated is really important." (IT Project Manager; 2013)

"Network And Be Creative...
I would suggest taking courses in project management to learn the techniques you will need in the field. This will position you into a situation where you only need to learn the specifics of the company you are working for, rather than the entire project management process. I would also advise someone going into the project management field to learn from other people in the field. Network and find out what they have found success with and what didn't work well. Finally, I would suggest to constantly think outside of the box. There are many times where creative solutions help to make the process run more smoothly." (Project Manager; 2011)

"Soft Skills Required...
Know your field --Being organized and having project management knowledge is helpful, but having a background or education in a particular field is equally as useful. Work on your "soft skills"-- people skills like communication, presentation, and negotiation. You will need these skills to get your project done on time. Advocate for as much involvement in the project as early as possible. Get involved during the initial phases and stay involved until the end. Tat sense of continuity will make the job much easier and help the project to succeed." (Information Technology Project Leader; 2011)

"Tips For Project Managers...
Pay attention in school, especially during math and english class. Become an avid reader. Not only does this build intellect, but it increases your ability to articulate and communicate effectively. Knowledge is power and promotes self-confidence, which is a must in any line of work. When presenting ideas to senior management, you must get to the point without seeming either arrogant or meek. Never stop learning, even after graduation. Take advantage of as much education as you can. Many companies offer continuing education which should be taken advantage of whenever possible. Never take a job if your heart is not in it, even if it pays well. Seek a career that provides not only monetary wealth but spiritual wealth. If you only go for the money you will find you spend too much of it trying to stay happy, and you end up being no further ahead in the end." (Migration Manager; 2011)

"Are You Good At Juggling...
Make sure you are a person who can handle many tasks at the same time, and you like to organize and plan things. If you are, take some basic project management classes to get exposure to the methodology, which is very important. The Project Management Institute is a good resource and provides a methodology that is used by most companies. You might consider becoming a project analyst first. Project analysts assist project managers and help them produce all the project documentation that is involved." (Project Manager; 2010)

"Essential Skills...
It is as important to learn people skills and to have a good strong ego. Product management is a very public role and sometimes you are a target. You also have to make commitments that sometimes cannot be kept because you are on a team. You need to learn how to manage and motivate other people, including introverts, angry people or people who just are not doing their jobs for one reason or another. Also having an MBA is invaluable for understanding businesses." (Product Manager; 2010)

"Like Being A Parent...
As a project manager, you are solely responsible for the success of the project. If it's not a success you have no one to blame but yourself. Being a good project manager is like being a parent. You need to provide guidance and direction and let your children -- your collaborators -- learn. You can't do everything yourself or the child will not learn. You need to trust people to do their jobs. You need strong leadership skills to be a good project manager. Start be a leader today in your school or community. It will pay off in the long run." (Project Manager In Financial Services Company; 2010)

"Scout Out A Good Work Environment...
Keep your skills current and avoid control freaks like the plague. Look for places that will treat you with respect, that value your ideas and input, and that do not play politics. Learn your discipline thoroughly and never stop learning. Remember Moore's law." (Senior Engineer And Project Manager; 2010)