The Truth about Transitioning Techies to Project Management (3 of 5)

Did We Learn?

Suddenly there was an awareness of project management as a discipline and recognition that many techies were accidental project managers.  Along with this came project management certification and thoughts that the role is really a profession (a point that is still under debate).

We now have an alternative career path for our shining techie stars; or do we? I contend, in many of organizations the transition of techie to project manager is an even worse scenario than their transition to manager.  Why?

  • A project manager’s role is one of a leader, where people follow him and his vision, versus a functional manager’s push to get results. Progress happened in spite of what most functional managers did, whereas progress happens because of what the project manager does. This leadership role requires a more extensive set of interpersonal skills.
  • Most organizations don’t have a career path beyond a level (or two) for project managers and in some cases these positions are at a lower salary level than functional managers, and with less authority; so career prospects are no better than remaining a techie.

In addition to the hurdles encountered in the techie to functional manager transition (see previous post) the techie to project manager transition comes with a couple more:

  • Project Management Foundation Skills: The techie is suddenly faced with learning a body of knowledge that is the foundation of project management. The foremost being the Project Management Institute’s A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge.
  • Leading in a Matrix Organization without Direct Reports: In addition to further heightening the need for interpersonal skills, they are required to operate with no clear organizational boundaries and ambiguous reporting requirements.

I think we have done a greater disservice to our techies because we have put more and higher hurdles on the track; a track that may lead nowhere.  Do we have alternatives?

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