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How to Switch from Programmer to Project Manager

If you are reading this, you have probably been exploring the idea of becoming a Project Manager.

First and foremost, you need to understand what this role entails exactly, as well as its importance for an organization. The Project Manager is definitely one of the key people in a company, regardless of the industry specifics. It is someone who performs a large number of tasks simultaneously, such as drafting and agreeing on technical specifications, assigning tasks to the team, distributing the workload and motivating for wins, ensuring the achievement of quality and deadlines within the project budget, managing the priority of tasks, identifying and managing risks, maintaining project documentation, building relationships with clients, hold meetings, and much more than that.

Second, you must understand that taking on the job of Project Manager does not represent career advancement, instead, it is more of a horizontal (or lateral) move towards a different role altogether. A good programmer or software developer earns no worse than a Project Manager and usually does not find it difficult to get employed. There are literally hundreds of thousands of vacancies for the role of Software Engineer.

However, if you enjoy connecting with people all around the world, building teams, and pushing them towards positive results, plus you have an affinity towards operational and strategic management, as well as budgeting and finance, then you have a good chance of achieving success as a Project Manager.

If you think that the previous paragraph defines you accurately and that you are ready to give project management a try, you should know about some of the intricacies and specifics of this profession, which we will try to explain in this article:

Responsibility

By definition, a Project Manager is someone who enjoys taking more responsibility every single day. Try taking on more responsibility and initiative at your current job, to see how it makes you feel and to understand whether this approach suits your personality. Start with yourself: prioritize your tasks, learn to write a backlog for the week, or practice creating a Gantt chart and performing a risk analysis for an ongoing project. Discuss development options with your manager or mentor – perhaps you can change your role with your current employer.

Create Your Pet Project

It can be anything, as long as it is within your area of interest and lets you apply your skills. This exercise is useful because it lets you test out your project management approach and evaluate your own abilities realistically. But do not be discouraged if you cannot use all of your skills for this small project – the whole experience is what matters here. This pet project does not require the involvement of other people – instead, you need to concentrate on learning how to write requirements, assess risks, and master other hard skills. The most important thing here is to manage the project in a conscious manner and to try to use the professional tools and approaches that you have learned along the way.

Volunteer

Even though there are many volunteer organizations operating around the world, most of them experience a lack of competent management. This is a great opportunity not only to broaden your horizons but also to take the initiative, without risking what you have going on at your current workplace. Find a volunteer movement that you like and try to help organize it. You can join an existing project, or you can even start your own initiative. There are volunteering opportunities in the professional world as well – you can contribute to organizing conferences and meetups – in addition to project experience, you will gain useful contacts and recommendations.

Study And Get Certified

Pay extra attention to other people’s experiences and you will quickly discover that it will help you make fewer beginner’s mistakes. We recommend starting with short lectures or courses from actual Project Managers, preferably the ones that are free of charge. This will help you save time on the buildup and quickly start learning.

You can then explore further in the preferred direction, with the courses and mentors that suit you best. Or, alternatively, you may come to the conclusion that a particular field or area is not of interest to you. This is just as well – understanding what is wrong early on, is as important as understanding what is right.

You can then proceed to advance your studies to the ultimate level, which is the PMP (Project Management Professional) Certificate – the key to your future career.

Let us get to the bottom line – it is impossible to become a Project Manager simply by reading a couple of books and enrolling in a few online courses – you need a lot of real hands-on experience to get the gist of the job. Furthermore, it is crucial that you work on yourself as well, by improving your habits, discipline, and whole modus operandi. Believe in yourself, work hard to achieve your goals and you will definitely succeed!

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