I came to a realization this week that I have been “bad mouthing” my profession. Much of what I’ve been writing lately about project management has focused on the negative stuff, the dark under-belly of the profession known only by battle hardened veterans who live to tell the tales. Actually, it’s been kind of fun to write about the bad stuff like: project politics, cranky sponsors, distracted team members, conniving stakeholders, and poorly written business cases. Some readers have thanked me for the “tough love” approach that they feel I bring. Others have asked if I am looking to scare people away from entering the field. One reader keeps calling me “snarky,” which is a term I’d like to see expunged from the English language. My intent is not to be tough or scary, and certainly never “snarky.” Rather, I have been looking for a voice that readers find interesting, informative and a little provoking.
So this post is going to be different. I want to talk about the great things there are in being a project manager; the reasons why you want to enter this field. If you’re lucky enough to be in this profession, then this will have a familiar ring. If you’re not, then maybe you should give it try and see for yourself.
The 6 things to LOVE about being a project manager are:
- You are always learning. No two projects are the same. Depending on your skills, you might work on a business change project one day and an ERP implementation the next. Each project has its own set of challenges, which forces you to constantly change and make adjustments to your approach. Plus, you are learning about more than just structure and processes – sometimes, you get to learn about cool stuff like: technology, new markets, products, services and customers. A project manager’s world is ever changing, growing and evolving – it’s a great ride!
- Work with all sorts of interesting people. You might have a small project with a team from your office, or a larger global project with your team dispersed across the world. In either case, you are working to complete something with others. It’s like group time back in grade school. Instead of sitting there studying hour after hour by yourself – you get to interact with others, and if you do it right, the collaborative effort can lead to the creation of something better than what you could produce by yourself. Plus, you get to meet some really smart people who bring different perspectives and experiences to your project. I love the diversity of working with a global team – it brings out the best in me. If you like working with others to create something new, then project work might be for you.
- Be a mini CEO. I’ve always thought that project management work is a great training ground for future CEO’s. You see, project managers have a lot of responsibilities, face all sorts of pressure, and have to work with a wide variety of stakeholders and customers. Plus, they have to deliver promised results within a defined set of financial projections. Wow, a project manager faces most of the same issues as a CEO – but, of course, on a smaller scale and with less pay.
- There is never a dull moment. The ever changing nature of project work is always challenging. A project manager usually has dozens of daily issues and tasks to follow, multiple team members to interact with, a presentation or two (or more) each week to give to sponsors, stakeholders or customers, and a hundred other worries to resolve. There is usually not a lot of free time to kick-back and reflect on what you are doing. This type of constant activity is not for everyone, but if repetitive, mundane, procedure driven work seems boring to you, then maybe you should try project management.
- You get to interface with Customers. Don’t believe what your sales people say – working directly with customers and helping find solutions that make them happy is great fun. Sure some can be demanding, unpredictable and a little crazy at times, but there is nothing better then being able to create a new solution that satisfies or delights a paying customer. It’s the magic of business – finding solutions that make you and your company money is the ultimate motivator.
- Receive recognition. I started my career in Operations Management. It was good work and I met some really smart people. At the end of day, if everything worked and there were no glitches, you got a pat on the head and told that you were doing your job. It was simply hard to exceed expectations or get recognition. Project managers’ that deliver initiatives on-time, on-budget, and within scope (let’s not forget quality also) get celebratory parties, senior management accolades, press conferences, speaking engagements – all sorts of positive PR. Actually, they are just doing their job, but because they create something new, or something better, the perceived value to an organization is extreme.
So, for all you newbies out there, did I paint a picture of a career you might find interesting? For you battled hardened project veterans, have I done justice to our beloved profession? Project management work is interesting, challenging and always changing. It might not be for everyone, but I think most will benefit from the discipline, learning and relationship building that is inherent to the profession.
Project management is a great way to learn about business, people and technology. But, mostly you get to learn about yourself (written without an ounce of snark!).
What do you love about project management? I’d like to hear your thoughts.