Technical Project Manager
A free video tutorial from Perry Underdown
Instructor, Director, Digital Transformation
4.4 instructor rating • 1 course • 11,423 students
Learn more from the full courseSix Figure Career Plan - Land Your Dream Job in Technology
Achieve a high paying & rewarding profession in Information Technology and start your path towards a six figure career!
06:49:33 of on-demand video • Updated April 2015
- Understand the immense six-figure career opportunities available in Information Technology
- Possess a strong foundation in the fundamentals of Information Technology and how IT integrates into our daily lives.
- Understand the core IT components and how they fit together. This foundation will lay the groundwork and help you choose your new career in Information Technology.
- Learn about the most profitable careers in Information Technology and how you can achieve them.
- Execute a well defined plan to achieve a lucrative new IT career in as little as six months.
English [Auto] OK welcome back my friends Perry here once more to talk about what I believe is probably one of my favorite jobs in information technology and that is the project manager the project manager. Now I want to be upfront the PM is not an easy job but it is a great job is a job that is challenging vast rewarding and actually pays really well. PMS especially you kind of grow a little bit. Really do. Clear six figures. They make a great living and also have a ton of upside in terms of potential promotion into senior management roles. It's very common for project managers who do well to get moved into like director level jobs within companies. So if you're starting to evaluate your career and trying to figure out what to do next but you don't really want to become a dev or a systems administrator. E I recommend really looking at the project manager it's a great role. It's lucrative and there is a lot of growth that you can achieve as a project manager. So the project manager or the technical project manager and that's an important distinction. There are a lot of project managers and project managers on engineering projects like Danzy that project managers for manufacturing. What we're talking about here are technical project managers those individuals who are really focused on managing information technology projects. Big surprise there right. But that's really what we're talking about. Technical project managers who are focused on things like software development projects implementation new data centers migrating content and applications to the cloud technical projects. That's what we're talking about today. And let me tell you these people are the backbone of every successful project. The PM is the one who makes sure that all of the resources and by resources I mean the developers the DA's the technology they take all the pieces and make sure they're all put together in such a way that they can achieve their goals and the goals are what we call requirements and that the project is delivered on time and on budget because that my friend is really how you're judged. Did you deliver the project on time on budget with all the functionality that was committed to. That's really what is viewed as success for a project manager. Now when beginning a new project you want that PM right there from the beginning. Because let me tell you if you don't have a good PM who understands the project the business the technologies it's going to get off to a bad start and the whole project will go poorly. In fact it's not uncommon to replace PMS. Maybe a third the way through the project because maybe there wasn't such a strong pm every time that happens. Projects have problems. So it's important have a good PM who really knows what they're doing. Early on in the project and the technical project manager they come from all kinds of backgrounds. They could be for example I know technical paeans and healthcare who come from nursing got tired of nursing got a little more experience information technology and now they're implementing things like healthcare of mission technology type platforms or maybe folks coming out of merchandising or manufacturing in retail and transition wanting something different and get in to information technology and become project managers. And one of the biggest drivers for that is technical project managers the bar to get in at least put yourself in the process is an insanely hard. There are definitely some pre-req but it's not like you know going back to school for four years you can do a lot more quickly but also there's a lot of growth and technical PMS as I mentioned make really good money. So one of the key success criteria for every technology project as I've said you got to a skilled technical PM at the helm. Now often if the project's really big you might have more than one technical PM You could have as many as ten with one providing overarching management of all the project managers. So if you see a project there's like six PMS on it that's not unusual but you know it's always great to have your own project. Also most bigger projects generally they'll have such a huge chunk that it will seem like it's its own project and technical problems require a very specific skill set to be successful. So now we talk a little bit about what you need to be a PM because to be honest you need a lot of different trades and they all have to play well together. So for example youve got to be a strong leader. You cant be a mousy person who likes to hide in the back and not raise their hand. Youve got to be someone who can step up and say you know what I got this and I'll take responsibility or I'll figure this out or all solve this problem. You've got to have strong leadership skills. If you want to be successful as a technical project manager next you don't have the ability to get up to speed on a variety of technical subject matter. That means you may never have had any exposure to human resource systems but maybe you get assigned to a project you better do your homework you better be able to get in there. Read up on the systems. Figure out what they do. Figure out you know who all the different players are that administer and take care of those systems. You've got to be a quick study. So you've got to be get up to speed quickly on most technology. You don't have to be the expert. You're not going to be a developer but you've got to be able to get in there and go oh I know what Microsoft Word does. I know what Microsoft sequel server does. So at least when people start talking about it you know what they're talking about you kind of have like oh yes I know I know what that is and you don't sound like an idiot because to be a leader you kind of have to have a pretty solid skill set to make things happen. But more importantly you want to know when you call B.S. on someone if someone's talking to you. You can be like wait and that doesn't sound right to me. And you've got to really do your homework to make sure that you're empowered to successfully lead a project. Got to see the big picture though being detail oriented is a trait and we'll talk about that more here in a bit. You can't be so myopic that you are unable to see the big picture at the end of the day. Every technology project is a big old puzzle with lots and lots of jigsaw puzzle pieces that the PM has to help put together and you've got to be able to step back as a PM and see that big picture in order to successfully complete that puzzle. You've got to set stick to and then re-evaluate project priorities. Now I know that seems like a conflict. But here's the thing. Before project starts you don't know what the outcomes are going to be. You don't know what problems you're going to have. You have a set of requirements that you gather from the business you're taking those requirements you sat down with your technology team you've figured out a series of steps that you're going to take to be successful. Right. Oh what happens Volle son something breaks or it doesn't work the way it does. Or maybe something is way too complicated based on your limited understanding of when you initially gather those requirements. But once you get into you're like whoa this is crazy town though you have to be rigid and you know stay within a budget and deliver the project on time. You also have to be very open and honest about what's working and not working. And that's almost more art than science. So it's just something you learn over time but you really have to be able to like stick to your guns when it's important. But be honest with yourself you're like there is no way when you get this time done on time and on budget and take a step back with the business and say hey you know maybe we should pull this from the project and focus our energy someplace else. OK. Great listening skills. This is so critical. Even though you're a strong leader you're there to listen as much as to speak. And you need to be able to ask good questions and be able to process those answers. So when you're trying to figure out what the business wants. Often the business doesn't know what it wants. That's the hard cold fact. They have an idea about specific outcomes but they don't maybe have an idea of the big picture and they don't know how those different outcomes are features that they want are going to impact one another or existing functionality within that business. You have to really listen and be able to cut process that and figure out. And then in a very straightforward fashion repeat back to the business. So if I understand you correctly you want a b c and d. Really that's one of those things that kind of comes the experience but it's super important. Okay. And you've got to build communicate clearly and that means both written and verbal You have to be able to sit down have a conversation. As I just said communicating clearly is as much listening as it is speaking. But you really do have to be a strong communicator and you have to have those strong written communication skills. There's a little saying in information technology project management if it's not written down. It didn't happen. It doesn't exist. That is absolutely true. Every meeting you go to whether that means you're sitting down at a coffee shop with a business member casually or you in a formal conference room presenting. You always have to communicate what was discussed. What was the outcome what are next steps. So as an example thank you so much everyone for meeting today. Today we discussed a b and c as a result. We agreed it's a team we're going to do one two and three and every single time you got to do that because people get confused. Everyone is so busy and there's so much information floating around that project managers job is to make sure that they are maintaining consensus and that there is no confusion in the way you do that is by writing everything down and communicating that out via email probably to the masses constantly so there's never any confusion. And that written communication though it doesn't have the war in peace. It needs to be concise bulleted. But but but. So they understand what you are trying to convey to them. Detail oriented. So he said you can't get stuck in the minutia to the big picture view but you've got to take care of the details too. And that's really the art of this is you have to know what to focus on and what not but being detail oriented and as well as being organized. These are the two things that crush a lot of project managers because if you think about personality traits individuals that are strong leaders and great communicators and go getters type-A personality they're not often detail oriented or organized. And so you have to know I actually are going to confess I am totally unorganized and only now that I'm 45 years old I've been doing this for 25 years whatever Do I really have my act together and know my process and how to be organized. But you have to understand like where are your strengths and your weaknesses. I often have people in my team who are much more organized than I am to help keep me on the path because I'm telling you nothing derails a project more than being unorganized and not paying attention to the details because folks get confused when folks are confused and things are organized. That's when the project goes off the rails. OK persuasive. Able to build consensus and drive an outcome while port Protech to productively managing stakeholders. All right. So I to tell you a secret and it's not pretty but it's 100 percent true. You will be selling your project even after the project's done successfully because these projects are super expensive. Some of these projects are multimillion dollars that you'll work on. And individuals who helped raise that funding or these projects are associated to the business to either drive revenue or drive efficiencies. You always have to be selling them. Wow this was such a great idea. This is a great project we're going to be super successful. Bam. So even when you get to the end of the project and if that project even if it was delivered on time and on budget if the perception from the business was that it wasn't successful or didn't deliver what it was supposed to. You failed even if you did everything you should have. So you as the project manager your project is your baby and you have to be the cheerleader you are the rah rah rah you are out there selling the love that is your project. And it's unfortunate but it's true. You are the one because at the end of the day as the project manager you will be judged and the buck will get passed to you and it will stop with you. So you've got to be that continual cheerleader for your project and you have to get other people excited and that means not just the business but the people on your team. Another sort of you know common fact it's not talked about developers SC system administrators all these guys myself included were all 80 we're all like looking for the next thing. We get bored easily. So if you're working on a long term project you got to keep your team excited. You've got to keep them fired up you have to show them they're making progress and that the business appreciates them in this prod products is going to make the whole company much better. And sometimes that's hard. I got to be honest with you sometimes that can be tough but it is absolutely critical as a project manager to constantly spread that love about your project. So you keep excitement you keep positivity moving forward and you can't be negative ever about your project and this next one the proficient at building and maintaining informal networks and those that one more time proficient at building and maintaining informal networks so important within a large organizations. Yet nothing is built in a vacuum. Every major project can touch all sorts of areas in different folks around especially in information technology and you're going to need a lot of help from a lot of people. But here's the stone cold reality. You're not going to know it when you're building your project plan. Things will get missed. There will be things you need. Let's say hypothetically you're building a web application and you need to get access outside the firewall so you have to go to the firewall administrator and say Hey Jane I really need to open this port on the firewall for me now. Eventually she has to do it if her request is put in and it gets approved. But it's kind of on her timeline potentially. Whereas if you need it right then like if something was missed danger girl she'll be like yeah I'll hook you up I'll take care of you I got you. That's the informal network the informal network make sure that you have a large group of individuals who like you and you like them and not only are they hooking you up you're hooking them up and it's super critical to have this because otherwise your project will get delayed because APM has to influence the success of the project. And again nothing is done in a vacuum and they're going to be a number of people who are going. You're going to need their help to be successful. And if you don't have those informal networks it's going to be so much harder to do that you just can't rely on process and bureaucracy to get things done. You have to rely on people liking you and wanting to help you out and that is a factor especially if you're just starting out in this game and you just go to college. I can't stress this enough to you you can't just simply live in a vacuum and do everything via e-mail. It's about happy hours. It's about going out to lunch getting coffees. It's about asking how your kids are doing. It's about going oh I know you like a particular bottle of wine. Hey on hooking you up with that. You got to build that love in your community as a project manager or your job is going be a lot harder. Positive and motivated. OK. If you are depressed in a Debbie Downer you will not be a good project manager. Let you know right now. You are the son of a witch which the project you are making sure that everyone is doing what they need to do and they are happy and it all stems with you and I'll tell you straight up if you have a project manager who is negative and a complainer and whines a lot. That project will fail straight up. I don't care how organized they are. I don't care how proficient they are how much experience they are if they're not positive. That project will fail a toxic project manager will make a toxic project. So for managers out there listening to this I'm telling you you find that PM who is fired up who's excited who's empowered and you know we all have our off days. Goodness knows. But that person's going to be professional enough to know how to handle that. So you really need happy positive fired up individuals to be project managers. If you have a negative person you're going have a negative project. And I've seen this time and time again.