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Career Path: How to Become a Program Manager

Companies that engage in developing programs consisting of several interconnected projects need a skilled Program Manager to ensure business objectives are met. In this role, Program Managers are tasked with overseeing individual projects while assessing the program’s strategy and how it will affect the business. It is a career that continues to be in-demand with businesses in every industry, as Program Managers design the blueprint for programs, implement the projects that make up the program and make sure all the various pieces are in place to make the program and the business a su...more

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How a Software Engineer Should Answer the “Tell Me About Yourself” Interview Question

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Career Path: How to Become a Program Manager

Companies that engage in developing programs consisting of several interconnected projects need a skilled Program Manager to ensure business objectives are met. In this role, Program Managers are tasked with overseeing individual projects while assessing the program’s strategy and how it will affect the business. It is a career that continues to be in-demand with businesses in every industry, as Program Managers design the blueprint for programs, implement the projects that make up the program and make sure all the various pieces are in place to make the program and the business a success.

Getting Through the Door

Entering the world of Program Management takes a vast amount of education and experience, as there are various hurdles an aspiring Program Manager needs to clear to be considered by most companies. Some things a hiring manager may look for when considering a Program Manager’s background include:

  • Experience with a role in project management
  • Business-savvy is a plus
  • Having a grasp on basic computer programming may be necessary (more than that if working for an IT company of course)
  • Being highly-organized and capable of multi-tasking
  • Strong interpersonal skills
  • A visionary who can see how individual parts make up the whole

It is also important for the Program Manager to assess the field that interests them most, i.e. information tech, healthcare, education, non-profits, etc. and see what individual requirements are likely needed for an entry-level Program Manager in that field.

Degrees and Experience

Many Program Managers have a degree in business administration, computer science, communications or related field. Depending on the industry the Program Manager enters and the size of the company they intend to work for, they may need an advanced degree. There are also programs that offer certification as a Program Manager, which is beneficial to gaining key insights and skills and may be required by some employers.

Typically, when a Program Manager is hired, they must have demonstrated their experience in certain areas. Many came from a project management background, so they understand how to lead a team towards accomplishing goals as well as understand who to prioritize tasks and mentor struggling team members. These are all key to gaining a role as Program Manager. Having an aptitude for business processes and subsets including planning, budgeting, assessing and organizing, are traits that will also help the candidate gain entry in a Program Manager role.

Working as a Junior Level Program Manager

Program Managers at the junior level have already demonstrated their ability to guide various teams at once. They continuously visualize the program as a whole and how each individual project must evolve in order to meet program goals. They are both creative and strategic – designing how projects will transpire to make the program a success and quickly coming up with solutions if any fissures are detected. Junior level Program Managers are also adept with documenting the various stages of each project and comfortable presenting their findings to their managers and stakeholders.

Moving up the Ranks

Program Management is a competitive and complex field, but with the right amount of perseverance and dedication, a Program Manager can surely ascend the career ladder. To prove their capabilities as a leader and their increasing ability to multi-task, Program Managers may ask to handle more projects at once, overseeing several project managers and project teams at any given moment. Others standout by taking extra time to connect with their project managers and project team members, earning a reputation as a Program Manager who truly excels at fostering effective communication. Many Program Managers take additional education courses, training and certifications, proving that they want to keep their Program Management skills sharp and attuned to emerging industry trends.

Advance Your Career: How to Become a Senior Program Manager

To attain a senior level of Program Management, many Program Managers need a portfolio stuffed with successful projects and programs that they designed, oversaw and championed to completion. They must be willing to take on more responsibilities and thrive at each to stand out from their colleagues. As mentioned, taking opportunities to increase your knowledge base is beneficial, so will showing your willingness to mentor and guide junior contemporaries. Effectively displaying that you not only surpass your assigned duties but go the extra mile to amass more responsibilities and complete them with a professional deftness will put you on the road to senior-status in no time.

Study the Core Fields

The role of Program Management is complex and comprised of various interlocking fields. Understanding these and how they relate to your position is a great way to better define and refine your duties and goals. These core fields include human resources (HR) as Program Managers often have a hand in hiring and training junior colleagues and project team members. For IT Program Managers, the ability to understand various tech tools, including Python, C++ and JavaScript coding languages, the Agile methodology for programming and Photoshop for editing and creating graphics, is essential. Budgeting is another core field, so having taken accounting courses will help prepare you for defining and following a budget for the whole program as well as for individual projects.

Invest in Yourself

…and reap the rewards of a long and respected career. Program Managers can become a greater asset to their company by taking on responsibilities outside of the workplace, including attaining additional certification as a Program Manager or another aspect of business, attend training sessions related to Program Management and/or your industry and locate conferences and seminars related to your role and industry, which will not only help you gain key insight to the present and future of the field, but can also help you network and meet professionals who may have a hand in your future accomplishments.

Don’t Stop at Program Management

Program Managers can evolve and improve their skill sets by understanding the careers around them that are similar. Business analysts gather the supplies necessary to get a project started within an organization and work closely with Program Managers. Product managers are like Program Managers except they help create and define all aspects of new products within a business from start to deployment. Risk analysts undertake a deep study and assessment as to how planned projects and programs may benefit or hurt a business. Taking the time to research roles like these of your colleagues can help spark your passion for your own career or perhaps interest you in another.

Program Manager Job Description

Program Managers take the helm in designing, planning and overseeing the successful completion of a program and the various projects that define the program in their organization. They layout the program’s strategy, communicate its objectives and analyze how it will impact the company. Program Managers ensure long-term organizational objectives are met and that strategic benefits and business growth are achieved at the completion of a program.

The role of Program Manager continues to be relied upon across all different sectors as they have singular and essential skills. These business-savvy professionals need to be just as savvy at communicating goals, leading teams and juggling multiple projects to ensure a program’s success. It is a role that is at one logical and creative, instinctive and strategic at all times.

What We Need Your Help With

  • Meet business objectives by successfully designing, implementing and guiding programs to completion.
  • Overseeing project managers and their project teams.
  • Creating fast and effective solutions when issues arise.
  • Documenting all aspects of work and presenting progress to managers and stakeholders.
  • Keeping apprised of advances in the field that can make programs more fruitful and work more efficient.
  • Evaluating the capabilities of individual team members.

We Look For

  • A natural leader who ensures colleague success
  • Basic IT skills (more advanced skills may be needed if for a tech role)
  • An excellent communicator who can explain program goals to those in different roles and change their jargon accordingly.
  • An aptitude for budgeting, scheduling and assigning tasks

These Would Also Be Nice

  • Excellent organizational skills
  • Thriving under pressure
  • Capable of multi-tasking
  • A visionary who is both creative and strategic

Senior Program Manager Career Paths: Where to Go from Here

Achieving a senior level of your career as a Program Manager is a feat to be proud of. Professionals at this level have many years of experience as a Program Manager as well as prior years of experience in a similar field. Senior Program Managers can easily stay where they are and enjoy many more years at the senior level. Others may take this opportunity to move on to another field in which their skills translate.

Program Managers who move to another field often do so in such positions as a high-ranking business analyst, the program director who assigns tasks to the Program Managers, or they may head a particular department, such as accounting, marketing or human resources.

Those who remain as Senior Program Manager will have the chance to mentor and guide junior colleagues, see the successful completion of countless projects and programs and witness advances in the field they perhaps never imagined possible.

"Agile Methodologies" or "Agile" are ways of describing an iterative approach to software development. Often adopted as an alternative to waterfall and other traditional sequential development practices. It is meant to help teams work quickly to i...

C++

C++ is an object-oriented language derived from C, and invented by Bjarne Stroustrup, while working at AT&T's Bell Labs. It is widely used for systems-level programming, and building applications on Windows and various Unix operating systems (Lin...

C

C is a widely used low-level, static-typed, compiled computer language known for its efficiency. Developed in the late sixties, C has become one of the most widely used languages of all time. It provides direct access to memory and due to its de...

Python is an object-oriented programming language notable for its clarity, power and flexibility. Python is an interpreted language, meaning that an interpreter reads and runs the code directly, rather than compiling down into static lower level c...

Java is a statically-typed, cross-platform language. It is concurrent, class-based, and object-oriented. It has minimal implementation dependencies and compiled Java code can run on all platforms that support Java without the need for recompilat...

Adobe Photoshop is the mode widely used photo editing and image manipulation application in the world. It is used by designers and hobbyists worldwide to design products, advertising, applications, websites, art, and more.

Top industries hiring Program Managers

eCommerce

The retail landscape has changed dramatically over the past few decades. Retail was once a brick-and-mortar industry, comprised of small, independently owned-and-operated businesses and large chain stores with multiple outposts throughout the c...

Education

The education industry involves working in an environment that implements and teaches various skills and applicable material. Formal education typically involves various levels of education, including preschool, primary, secondary, tertiary, vo...

Electronics

The Electronics Industry has grown into a global industry with a value of billions of dollars. Most commonly when referring to the electronics industry it is understood the industry is consumer electronics which produces items used in everyday lif...

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