Why I chose to become a project manager

The original title of this post was “Why I became a project manager”. But I noticed it implied happenstance. It just happened. And that is not true. I chose to become a project manager. Through many decisions along my career I always chose a path that kept me tied to this profession.

Why? Because I like to get things done. It’s as easy as that.

I’ve been involved in technology project management for over 20 years. I started at a time when this role was ill defined in the technology industry. Salespeople managed projects. Engineers managed projects. Product trainers managed projects. The concept of a dedicated, professional project manager was foreign to many people. But there were some who took up the cause. I admired them. Why? Because they got things done.

Project managers are a rare breed. We are often responsible for getting things done but are rarely given the authority or resources to do it right. We have to beg, borrow, and steal resources, and we have to lead. We have to deliver results. We have to communicate with everyone who has a stake in the project and keep them informed. We have to escalate issues, we have to manage scope, and we have to demonstrate an uncanny ability to negotiate, navigate the rough political waters, and drop the hammer when necessary while maintaining good relations with everyone.

It’s a tough job. Not everyone is cut out to be a project manager. You need superior organizational and communications skills, you need to be able to juggle multiple conflicting priorities, and you need to keep your cool under pressure. Your authority comes from your ability to lead others and convince them you’ve got what it takes to get the job done. It’s all about getting the job done.

Despite the challenges, project managers are driven by the need to complete their project on time and under budget. The satisfaction that comes from a post implementation review where everything went well is great, but rare. Something always goes awry. What separates a good project manager from a great one is how they handle change. A change in scope, a realized risk, or a change in environment that challenges the project. These are common. Project managers that rise to the occasion and steer their projects true are not.

I’ve had the privilege of witnessing great project managers throughout my career, and my desire to be like them drives me to constantly challenge myself, learn new skills, and strive to be the best project manager I can be. I’ve learned through the years that great project managers strive to deliver results to their key stakeholders. It is the pursuit of this greatness that fuels my desire to keep working at this, to keep getting better.

Project managers are truly special people, especially in a technology environment which requires a steady hand and leadership to ensure technology delivers clear business results. I am humbled and grateful for the opportunity to be in their company.

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