So you want to be a project manager?
March 13, 2005 7:31 AM   Subscribe

I've recently decided that I want to change my career path from an IT technician to project management.

My company offers training for PMP certification, but it's a few months away at the very least. In the meantime, I want to cram my head with as much information about project management as possible. My problem is that the vast majority of information, at least on the internet, is pay-only. My question is two-part. First, are there any good free Project Management sites that provide basic training and information? Second, if you have a good recommendation for a book on Project Management, I would love to hear it.
posted by shawnj to Education (13 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
The Mythical Man-Month
posted by SPrintF at 7:48 AM on March 13, 2005

Best answer: Having started out as a software developer and then transforming myself into a Project Manager over the years, I can't really recommend the PMP certification. I haven't been through it myself, but I have worked with several people that have. Essentially, there's no substitute for real PM experience, and the PMP might give you a place to start, but it really won't give you a leg up on competition for jobs. It doesn't carry a lot of weight.

Depending on the types of projects you want to manage, I would recommend learning and getting certified on a specific methodologies, like Six Sigma, which does carry significant weight (if you want to do project management in financial services, etc.)

A good place to start reading up on approaches and best practices is the Project Management Institute's web site. There you'll be introduced to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (aka the "PMBOK"), and other issues of interest and training. The PMI started out being very focused on construction and mechanical engineering type project management, but it has become much more friendly to software development and IT project techniques in the past few years.

On Preview: SprintF's recommendation is essential reading for software and IT project managers.
posted by psmealey at 7:52 AM on March 13, 2005

Although the source may seem odd, it's free and it's not half bad. Informative overview.
I took project management as a specialty of Operations Research back in the day (70's). I'm not familiar with PMP certification requirements but theory has not changed much since the late 50's. Also a quick reference to the mechanics behind PERT/CPM.
Good luck - I hope others have better contributions.
posted by nj_subgenius at 7:54 AM on March 13, 2005

What SprintF said.

Brooks' book is a classic but it won't necessarily communicate the nuts and bolts of project management you'll need to know and use. But it's still a beaut and no doubt down the street at your library.
posted by nj_subgenius at 8:01 AM on March 13, 2005

Steve McConnell, Rapid Development
Steve McConnell, Software Project Survival Guide
Alistair Cockburn, Writing Effective Use Cases.

Also read books on the requirements process - there are a few of them out there.
posted by matildaben at 9:33 AM on March 13, 2005

Project Management for Dummies is a fine place to start, seriously. It's a little basic, but if you're just starting or if you've largely been winging it to date, it'll get you oriented toward the formal methods, the right terminology, etc.
posted by kindall at 9:41 AM on March 13, 2005

Don't forget a copy of Peopleware. Or two copies: one for you and one for your boss. :)
posted by madman at 1:34 PM on March 13, 2005

I never did the certification process, but in general I have to say that this is an awesome career move. It's one of those rare cases where you can switch jobs and if you decide it wasn't right for you (which I did), you're better off when you switch back than if you never had.

My project managers love me because I understand where they're coming from and can explain my position in their own language. Since you're no doubt going to interview with PMs in any tech-related job in the future, having this experience to draw on is really helpful even if you end up doing it only for a short time.
posted by nev at 7:10 PM on March 13, 2005

Despite what Nev said are you sure you want to tar yourself with that brush?
posted by Samuel Farrow at 7:38 PM on March 13, 2005

I second Project Management for Dummies - good easy-to-understand place to start.
posted by Kololo at 11:39 PM on March 13, 2005

There's an XP PM book, called Planning XP. I also agree with the Mythical Man Month recommendations.

You should read the essays at Joel Spolsky's site, in particular "Painless Software Schedules".

Finally, although I can't say whether this is a widely held view of PM, I am totally persuaded by Eliyahu Goldratt's Theory of Constraints (TOC) approach. His "business novels" are dire, horrible works of fiction, but The Critical Chain is still worth ploughing through.

(I am not an IT project manager - I'm a developer and consultant, although like you, I'm thinking about making a move. However, I've worked with good project managers and bad, and TOC accords with my experience most closely).
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:21 AM on March 14, 2005 [1 favorite]

Just thought I'd chime in and mention: I'm a software guy who not too long ago moved from a web dev role to a role that was somewhere between project management and account manager. Overall, I didn't enjoy it -- it seemed like I went from thinking deeply about how to do a small set of things well, to having to think quickly (if shallowly) about how to move lots of little bits of information between people as fast as possible.

Now, I was overseeing a fairly large number of small projects for customers, rather than one large project internally, and I think that could make a huge difference. Building process and organization is more interesting and easier when it's with a persistent team than with a series of short-term clients. But I thought I'd add a cautionary tale: the work may be quite different than you think, and you might want to try it for a while before committing further resources to it.
posted by weston at 2:16 AM on March 14, 2005

Best answer: I must echo Weston's comments about PM as a career move. I started out as a coder many moons ago before finally being swayed to the dark side approximately ten years ago. I quickly found that initially I was well suited to the technical aspect of it, but that the 'management' part was troublesome. A book I was given by a colleague, "The One Minute Manager" put me on the road to understanding that the most troublesome thing about managing anything is the personability component. Dealing with people, managing their expectations, keeping them updated were (and continue to be to a certain extent) the most frustrating aspects of the job because as a technical person, I was looking at these tasks as 'time wasters' that were simply obstacles to actually completing the project successfully. Eventually (after much stress) I came to realize that being a PM wasn't just about specifications and risk management, etc.., but was also about interfacing other people with the project.

If you're in IT, it's most probably because you enjoy problem solving. Being a PM will stretch your problem solving skills in ways you never imagined (such as trying to figure out a way to let the CEO know that his underfunding and understaffing of the project is dooming it to failure, without making him feel that you're 'blaming' him...).
posted by Lactoso at 6:04 AM on March 14, 2005 [2 favorites]

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