Getting Started in Project Management

A Dice Talent Community

By Cathlynn Carman

I’ve been asked several times how I got started in Project Management. The answer is: In a somewhat roundabout way.

I’ve always been a planner and an organizer. But my training was in Journalism, Marketing and Design. I worked for a few years at those, for printing and advertising companies. Because I worked for a few smaller firms, I was also expected to take on some level of task management and work directly with clients.

After a few years I realized that while I liked what I did, I enjoyed meeting with people and organizing things much more. So I looked for ways to move that direction, and found a few positions that allowed me to get some experience with both design and management.

When I entered the advertising world, I made my switch almost immediately. That was about 14 years ago. I spent the first part of my career in advertising, managing interactive media groups and projects. While I enjoyed advertising and marketing, it wasn’t until I made the leap to IT Project Management that I found my home.

Getting Experience

I was able to get experience over time. As I look back, I realize that I really have always been managing: Early on, I was able to manage my own tasks and days, and that taught me the basics of time management. If you work for a smaller company, you may already be doing some form of project management. If not, you may be able to find opportunities easily. Sometimes, all you have to do is ask.

If you work for a larger company, try to reach out for additional or new exposure to management tasks or projects. Many project managers start as project coordinators get experience that way. Some are naturals and fall right into a specific entry position that gives them great hands-on experience.

Certifications by Organization

Many colleges and universities will have coursework specifically for project management. You may even be able to specify a “track” of work or industry. Construction or IT management are typical focuses that usually require some knowledge in those areas to be successful. Some higher education institutes will have online classes for working individuals that need additional options. But remember, if you have a degree already and are changing careers, then the certifications you can obtain are not specific to the type of degree, just that you have one.

There are several options for certifications. The Project Management Institue (PMI.org) has several certifications available and do require a college degree. Each specific certification will also require several items to be completed; a level of experience that an individual must be able to record and validate if required, a course to prepare for a final examination to complete the certification, minimal pass score to pass the certification exam. Each certification also requires a set number of hours of continuing work or education to maintain the document.

  • CAPM
  • PMP
  • PMI-RMP – Risk Management Professional
  • PgPMP – Program Management Professional
  • PMI-SP
  • PMI-ACP – New Agile Certified Practitioner

There are several other options for certifications. You may also obtain Six Sigma or ITIL or ISO certifications.

Examples of skills important for a good project manager are:

  • Ability to meet time lines: one must be able meet certain deadlines or dates.
  •  Communication: The project manager has to be able to communicate with all sorts of resources, not only on this team but also with clients. Some project managers need to have presentation abilities as well when leading meetings with executive management.
  •  Leadership: The project manager has to convey a sense of authority as well as leadership so his team knows who to go to when problems start to arise.
  •  Proactive: a project manager must be proactive; he/she must be able to anticipate problems and deal with them before a minor problem becomes a major problem
  •  Interpersonal skills: since a project manager will be in constant contact with team members, he or she must be able to build a trusting work environment where positive team synergy is at optimum level and social lofting is at a minimal.
  •  Problem Solving: In any project problems will arise, a project manager must be able to creatively solve problems ranging from cost, scope, and time restraints. As well as solving problems involving personnel

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