Plus download my list of common IT terms with easy-to-understand descriptions.
I have not always worked in IT. Yet I managed to move into IT project management with no previous IT experience. If you have ever wondered how you might do the same, my story might be helpful.
Many years ago, I held a position as a project coordinator in city government. Though things move slowly in city government, I enjoyed my work. I managed contracts, budgets, and grants, and coordinated activities for a couple of construction projects we were funding. I enjoyed this work and it seemed to come naturally: planning, coordinating, executing projects, managing budgets and vendors, pulling teams together and making things happen.
After I’d been working as a project coordinator for several years, I learned from a co-worker that his wife was going to take the PMP exam. I’d never heard of it, but immediately got excited. You mean this is a CAREER PATH? Awesome – I love this stuff! I decided to investigate more about the PMP certification and project management as a career.
I discovered I was already doing a good bit of project management in my current position. Yet there was more that I could learn, and I threw myself in wholeheartedly, studying the various processes, activities, and deliverables.
At the time I was engaged to be married and I put our wedding plans into a Gantt chart which I posted on my wall. I built budgets in Excel. I had regular “project review meetings” with my fiancé. Project management was in my blood.
My fiancé, who is a software developer, humored me. One day, he asked, “Have you considered IT project management? You’re really good at this and you like it. You could take all your skills and make a lot more money than you make now.”
I had not considered IT project management as an option, since I had no technical background
I had never even thought of IT project management. My degrees are political science and sociology. Limiting thoughts immediately surfaced:
- I can’t do that.
- No one will take me seriously.
- How can I possibly lead projects to success if I don’t know what the team is talking about?
My fiancé, who had been in the IT world for a decade, insisted that my project management skills were transferrable to the IT world. I simply needed to understand the IT world more, which I could learn, but being able to write code was not necessary. I decided he was right – that I could do this.
Here’s what I did:
Got my PMP
This is not critical, but it gave me the confidence to make the move. In addition, many companies require the certification. I know many outstanding project managers who do not have their PMP certification, but if you are trying to change careers, it can be an advantage.
Learned the Language
I spent hours talking with my husband about software development and reading as much as I could get my hands on about IT terms and activities. Learning the language helped immensely.
Prepared for the Interview
I prepared answers for interview questions and practiced with friends (just as one would do for any interview). I studied the job description and researched the company so I could talk about how my skills could benefit them. This preparation gave me more confidence going into the interview.
I brought samples of my work. I pointed out how my skills would benefit the company. I asked questions about the projects underway as well as the direction of the company (they were a local start-up). I showed genuine interest and an eagerness to bring my skills to the team. The preparation allowed me to be relaxed and more confident.
Got the job
Fortunately for me, they were eager to move quickly. It was an infrastructure company, not software development, but I was still thrilled to be moving into IT and that all my hard work paid off. I was also ready to keep interviewing if this turned out to be only practice for the next job interview. I was ready to experience “no” to get me closer to “yes” down the road.
Was Honest with the Team
Once I got the job, I did not pretend to know everything. I was open about the fact that I was new to IT, but had strong project management experience. The team was fantastic and helped me gain a clear understanding of the activities needed to build out the work breakdown structure. I showed them that I was dedicated and serious about the success of the team. At the end of each day, I researched what I’d been exposed to in order to gain more in-depth knowledge.
Since then I have gone on to work for the past 15 years in IT, and I still love it. The projects are challenging and fun. Technologies change and it never gets boring. Teams are made up of so many different personalities, and I love working with software developers.
For those interested in making the switch, I’ve compiled a list of common IT terms, with descriptions that are intended to be easily understood by non-technical people. I’ve added it as a download with this post. Some of the terms are not specific to IT project management, but apply in other areas.
If you have an interest in making the move to software development project management, where are you in that journey? What’s holding you back? If you’ve recently made the move, what challenges do you face? What do you need to learn? Share in the comments – I’d love to know!
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