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6 Things I Didn’t Know About Being a Project Manager

Wait a moment, when did I become a project manager? The fact is, many project managers became so unintentionally. If you are finding yourself as a new project manager with a lot of questions, Elizabeth Harrin of A Girl’s Guide to Project Management shares 6 things that she did not know when becoming a project manager:

  1. It would always be different
  2. The technology would change
  3. There is no need to specialize (but I could if I wanted to)
  4. There is a complete vocabulary to learn
  5. It is a life skill
  6. No one would understand my job

Harrin notes that one attractive aspect of becoming a project manager is that there would be change and variety of work. It is important, however, to realize how much change there will actually be. In addition to the projects changing, technology will surely change as well. Harrin started as a project manager in 2000, and as we all know the developments in technology between then and now are too great to count. As the article notes, you may choose to specialize, but it is not necessary. What is necessary is learning new vocabulary by talking to colleagues, taking training courses, or simply developing a project. Harrin reminds us that project management is a life skill, so learning what you can when you can is highly beneficial. Finally, Harrin says she was surprised to learn that, when you are a project manager, many people simply will not know exactly what it is that you do:

The final thing I didn’t realise about being a project manager is that no one would understand what I do all day. And that’s not just family and friends. People at work (those who are not project managers) often don’t get what it is that I do. From the outside, project managers look like the people who tell everyone else what to do. That’s part of it (although there isn’t much ‘telling’, at least, not the way I do it). It is far more about relationship building to get things done, but doesn’t that sound like buzz words? My job is to make it easy for other people to do their jobs, and if that doesn’t sound like a non-job then I don’t know what does. I still struggle to explain what a project manager does, but I think big projects like the Olympics, the Jubilee and a Royal Wedding have perhaps made people a bit more aware about what managing a project is all about.
In short, one should expect the unexpected when diving into the world of project management. However, learning from Harrin’s past experience may make the move to project management a little less scary.

About Anne Grybowski

Anne is a former staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success, with a degree in Media Studies from Penn State University.

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