What is a project manager?
A project manager is a professional who organizes, plans, and executes projects while working within restraints like budgets and schedules. Project managers are in charge of leading teams, defining goals, communicating with stakeholders, and seeing a project through to its closure. Whether running a marketing campaign, constructing a building, developing a computer system, or launching a new product, the project manager is responsible for the success or failure of the project.
The project manager role is in demand in just about every industry. Let’s take a closer look at what project managers do, why you should consider a career in project management, and how you can get started.
What does a project manager do? Tasks and responsibilities
A project is typically divided into five different phases: initiation, planning, execution, and closure.
Throughout the life cycle of a project, the project manager is responsible for:
• Defining the scope of the project
• Staying on schedule
• Planning a project’s cost and sticking to a budget
• Managing project resources (including teams and workers)
• Documenting the progress of the project
• Communicating with stakeholders
• Assessing risks
• Leading quality assurance
The sheer variety of tasks means no two days on the job (or two projects) are quite the same. On any given day, you might be interviewing and hiring new talent, managing team meetings, reallocating resources to cover an unexpected expense, or updating stakeholders on the progress of the project.
Essential skills for project management
In this position, you play a key role in a company’s success. While many technical and workplace skills go into efficient project management, honing these five skills can help you build a foundation for success in the field:
• Leadership: You’ll be tasked with leading a team to achieve a goal.
• Communication: You’re often the first line of communication for team members, vendors, stakeholders, and customers.
• Organization: The ability to prioritize and multitask will keep projects running smoothly.
• Critical thinking: Analyzing and evaluating a situation critically helps prevent issues before they happen.
• A sense of humor: Approaching a project with a positive attitude can ease stress and energize your team.
Project management can be a challenging career, but you’ll never face those challenges alone. You’ll often work alongside team members and use software or online tools specifically designed to streamline the process. The specific project management software depends on the project or company but will often include the capability to track time and budgets, create plans and reports, manage invoices, and share calendars across multiple teams.
Project management methodologies
As you learn more about project planning, you may encounter terms like Agile, Scrum, or Waterfall. These refer to various methodologies—a set of guiding principles or strategies—for managing a project. Common approaches and methodologies include:
• XP (Extreme Programming)
• Six Sigma
Choosing a methodology (or a combination of methodologies) is one of the first decisions you’ll make as a project manager. Which you choose will depend on the industry and type of project.
For example, if you’re working in software development, you may choose to employ Agile techniques. Scrum, an approach to Agile management, uses daily team meetings and short (for example 30-day) “sprints” to develop projects quickly and efficiently. The Lean method, developed by Toyota in the 1970s, seeks to maximize value and minimize waste. It’s still commonly used in the manufacturing industry.
Why pursue a career in project management
Just about every company has projects. That means just about every company could use a project manager.
Whether you’re interested in construction, architecture, fashion, design, computer science, robotics, or something else entirely, chances are you’ll be able to use project management skills in your career. And since it’s such a versatile career, you can leverage these transferable skills to enhance your resume, no matter where your career takes you.