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Career Path: How to become an IT Project Manager

If you have a strong technical aptitude and solid leadership skills, a career as an IT Project Manager might be perfect for you. Jobs are possible with software designing firms, governmental agencies, healthcare organizations, finance companies and automotive corporations. The technology industry continues to grow which means the outlook for IT Project Managers looks very favorable.

In this role, you must be prepared to manage both people and projects. Thus, organizational skills, time management and the ability to communicate with everyone from clients to board members ar...more

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Career Path: How to become an IT Project Manager

If you have a strong technical aptitude and solid leadership skills, a career as an IT Project Manager might be perfect for you. Jobs are possible with software designing firms, governmental agencies, healthcare organizations, finance companies and automotive corporations. The technology industry continues to grow which means the outlook for IT Project Managers looks very favorable.

In this role, you must be prepared to manage both people and projects. Thus, organizational skills, time management and the ability to communicate with everyone from clients to board members are crucial to your success. Because you will oversee technical projects such as system upgrades, tracking bugs, software development and testing, a thorough understanding of computer systems is just as important.

How to Become an IT Project Manager

A minimum of a Bachelor of Science degree in computer science, engineering, system analysis or business management is required for most entry-level IT Project Management jobs. Your coursework should include classes in risk management, personnel, accounting, public speaking and quality management. Computer training in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Database Management and Project Management software such as Jira, Trello or Smartsheet is also important.

Many colleges and universities offer graduate-level programs in Project Management. These are ideal for individuals looking to advance or move into the field from other business or technology positions. In lieu of graduate-level training, you might also pursue certification such as the Project Management Professional® (PMP) or the Certified Associate in Project Management® (CAPM) issued by the Project Management Institute®. Experience along with the ability to pass an extensive test with questions related to cost management, stakeholder management, scheduling and resource management is required.

Landing Your First Job

The appropriate education will be crucial to securing your first job in IT Project Management. You’ll need to have completed several courses in computer programming and systems analysis including coding, database management and reporting tools. Other skills employers will look for include the ability to solve problems, lead and train a team, ensure quality control and communicate with clients as well as senior level executives. Some also find it easy to start out in a related job such as a business analyst, IT project coordinator or software test manager; then apply for an IT Project Management job after gaining more experience.

On your resume, you’ll want to highlight transferable skills and business successes whether they were through paid or voluntary experiences. Some tasks you’ll want to mention include team leadership, problem-solving, communication, planning and analytical thinking.

In the first few years of your career, you will work under the direct and close supervision of a Senior IT Project Manager. Some of your duties might include setting schedules, budgeting, planning, managing timelines and documenting progress.

Working as a Junior IT Project Manager

After a year or two of experience, you may qualify for a junior level position. In this capacity, you will receive only moderate supervision and may even have the chance to take the lead on a few projects. Along with being involved in the day to day operations and project closing (that is ensuring all necessary project documents are completed and properly filed), you may act as the communication liaison for leadership by scheduling meetings, taking meeting minutes, drafting status reports and collecting data from clients.

Advancing Your Career: Getting Promoted to a Senior Level Position

Senior level IT Project Managers manage a team and provide guidance to junior level managers. As the senior on the team, you will take the lead on projects including delegating tasks and making sure the team stays within the allotted timeline and budget. Problem-solving, conflict resolution and both internal/external communications is also the responsibility of the Senior IT Project Manager. It is at this level that you can make a name for yourself in the industry by taking on a large IT project. Large projects can be complex because they often involve employees in various locations and with different skillsets. If you are able to successfully manage your team and deliver your project on time, you’ll have a great reputation in your organization and possibly the industry as a whole.

Along with 5 or more years of experience, a graduate level education or Project Management Institute certification is required. It is also important that you keep abreast of changes in the industry by participating in educational workshops, attending conferences and reading articles in professional publications like the PM World Journal, Project Manager Today and the Project Management Journal®.

IT Project Manager Job Description

The IT Project Manager supervises every aspect of a project from start to finish. This includes hiring and training a staff, determining business needs, delegating tasks and keeping records up-to-date. Along with meeting a deadline and ensuring its success, you will also draft a detailed plan, measure project success, establish a budget and negotiate contracts with third-party vendors.

In this role, you must work with both technical and non-technical employees. Consequently, you must be able to communicate the details of the projects to everyone including clients, other employees and stakeholders. Projects you might work on include computer security, network planning, site re-designs, software selection/purchases/installation and data transfer.

If you are working with a small business, you will wear many hats as the IT Project Manager. However, it is important to become strong in one or two areas of project management/technology in order to be most marketable for managerial roles. Some areas you might become an expert in include software estimation, risk management, web design or cloud computing.

Job Duties

  • Hire, mentor and train a team
  • Delegate tasks and coordinate schedules
  • Develop work plans and manage timelines
  • Product review/testing
  • Preparing budgets
  • System maintenance and disaster recovery
  • Purchasing equipment and supplies
  • Draft proposals
  • Identify risks
  • Completing status reports
  • Post project reviews
  • Evaluate project results

Typical Job Requirements

  • Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science, Informational Technology
  • Experience in a particular industry such as environmental services, finance, media or biotechnology
  • Extremely organized with the ability to manage multiple projects
  • Familiarity with a variety of software applications including
  • Knowledge of project management lifecycle
  • People management experience
  • Strong verbal and written communication skills
  • Detail oriented
  • Negotiation and conflict resolution skills
  • Self-starter, able to work independently
  • Strategic planning
  • Quality management

Other Desired Skills

  • Coding/programming languages
  • Inventory management
  • Network administration/operation
  • Familiarity with data privacy standards
  • Software lifecycle management
  • Document migration/consolidation
  • Tech start-up experience

As IT Project Manager, you will spend much of your day in meetings coming up with strategic plans and solving problems. Extensive travel might also be required. Jobs related to IT Project Management include software developer, business analyst, web designer and IT support analyst. A career in IT Project Management can be very exciting as no two projects are exactly the same. Additionally, various industries hire IT Project Managers which will give you the chance to build your resume by switching from one industry to another. In this career, you will never get bored as you will always be learning and acquiring new skills. If you are committed to this profession, you will receive a competitive salary and will have the opportunity to advance into managerial and executive level positions.

IT Project Manager Career Paths: Where to Go From Here

Once you’ve been in the field for over 10 years, you may be eligible for executive-level jobs in the technical arena. Depending on the organization, there are several possibilities. Those who excel in a technical project manager role might qualify for an upper management job such as that of Vice President of Information Technology or Chief Technology Officer. In this capacity, you would oversee all areas of technology for your employer. This includes making sound business decisions regarding the most profitable and safe use of technology in the workplace. Larger corporations may also have a Director or Chief Architect of IT on staff. If you’ve worked in software development or have specialized in computer security, a job as Senior Software Development Director, Vice President of Software Development or Chief Information Security Officer might be most suitable. To be competitive and a strong candidate for these executive-level jobs, an MBA or Masters in Business Administration will provide you with added skills in leadership, problem-solving, risk management and strategic thinking.

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