Project Management Career Path and Technical Skills Project management career path – photo taken by deanj via Flickr. A member of the pmStudent community reached out to me for help in deciding where she should concentrate her efforts to become a great project manager. I will share my thoughts and welcome feedback from you all. “I’m wondering if it’s better to be a programmer first, and then become a technical specialist (or maybe another way). It would be better to gain more experience in the IT team as a programmer and then to become a team leader. Then, try to find a job as a programmer in a large IT company OR to gain PM experience in a small company with small projects. First, thank you for reaching out to me with your question. I admire your ability to formulate a plan to achieve your career goals. There are many opinions on this topic, and it all depends on the type of projects you plan on working on. I agree with Bill Duncan’s comments here at that technically skilled and knowledgeable PMs can be fine on smaller projects where they are equally apt to make technical decisions as managerial decisions. As their projects become more complex and/or managerially complex, their technical skills will be a disadvantage as well as a benefit. “I’ve seen many, many more PMs get into trouble because they didn’t have the wisdom to listen to the technical leads.” A technical PM who believes they know more than the technical leads or takes on technical decisions that are not necessary is one of the most dangerous aspects of a project. This can work well for small projects, but it can lead to serious consequences if too much power and knowledge is concentrated in one person. The PM should be able to understand technical issues at a high-level but not enough to make daily technical decisions. The PM should be as focused as possible on communication and management. An online?MBA (, or similar master?s degree, can be beneficial for project managers. Effective communication is key. In your case, I would:

  • Continue to work as a member the project team
  • Ask your project manager (and other project managers) what you can do for them.
  • Ask questions and show interest in the work of project managers. As long as you’re not demanding or annoying, most people will be happy to help!
  • To gain valuable experience and to build relationships with mentors, you must be willing to give up your time.
  • Think about your team’s work from both a technical and managerial perspective.

Leave a comment below to start a discussion!