Sunday, February 3, 2008

Making The Transition From Developer to PM

Every time I publish a job posting to hire a Project Manager, I receive applications from candidates who are working as developers. These individuals are seeking to transition laterally into a new role. With interactive Project Managers being harder to come by, I've decided to consider how a developer could bring value to a project management role. In this entry, I'll share my personal point of view on the good and bad of this substantial transition.

The Bad: I've been witness to more than one developer migrating into a PM role. The greatest challenge they will face is self-created - many 'outsiders' underestimate the complexity and stress of the job. As a result, their indoctrination into project management is clouded by immediate disenchantment and anxiety. Renowned author, Seth Godin, speaks about a concept called The Dip in a book he published. The basic premise is that anything worth achieving is worth working through - particularly in the harder times, when many people tend to give up. Project management is a career that can be trying, but if you're able to stick with it when it gets tough, the rewards on the other side of the challenges will be worth the effort. Developers moving into project management must remember that - give it time and put in the effort. In the long run, it will pay off.

The Good: Transitioning from developer to Project Manager is not entirely a bad decision. In fact, there are some distinct benefits with this scenario:
- An understanding of the full technical development process.
- A good grasp on how client requirements can be achieved technically.
- Better judgment relating to time estimates for technical work effort.
- You speak in developer 'language', making for improved communication with those resources.
- An outside perspective always sheds light on how things may be done differently (better).
- A methodical, logical developer who relies on thorough documentation may find some of these qualities translate well as a Project Manager.

The landscape of the interactive space is changing very rapidly. More work is being outsourced off-shore, and as a result, technical work may diminish, but the need to project management will only increase. If you are a developer considering making a move to project management, due diligence is required to understand the reality of the job. If you work with Project Managers, pay closer attention to their responsibilities and contributions - ask them questions - most will be happy to give you some insight. Also consider the short and long-term advantages of such a move. It is a big decision that needs to be planned out and assessed.

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