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How to be a master project manager

If you want a career where there are endless jobs, then become a project manager. Pretty much every industry uses project managers.

Being a project manager just means that you make sure that things are getting done. You manage resources, timelines and budgets to make sure projects are progressing. These projects can be almost anything. A new fighter jet, new software, a new high rise building. Whatever a business needs to accomplish you will facilitate the development and completion of the this project.

At this moment there are thousands if not millions of open project management jobs. Demand for this role will continue to grow.

Project management is often a stepping stone up the corporate ladder. A project manager sees lots of different resources. They have to multitask. They see the different operations of a business. They must communicate. They must be proactive.

I'm not going to sugarcoat anything. I have been working in this role now for 4 years. Some projects are wonderful. Some projects are difficult.

It is really fun to see your project come to life. You will help create something that did not exist before. You will get to see people using your creation.

Creation can be difficult. You will be an organizer of people. People with specific skills: designers, programmers, builders, accountants, individual workers. Your job is coordinate all of these people.

I am not going to sugarcoat anything. This role involves dealing with people of all different personalities. Dealing with people can be difficult and stressful. You have to set clear expectations and hold individuals accountable. That mostly just comes down to communication.

Verbal and written communication is key.

It is an exciting field to be a part of. It can be stressful at times. But it can also be rewarding when you see a project/program come alive in the world and see people getting value out of something that you created.

    1. Learn the business

    Every single business is unique. Even if a business has competition the way they operate is always a little bit different.

    What product or service do they provide?

    Learn it inside and out. Or learn as much as possible about the business.
    Who are the key players? What resources are available to you?

    2. Get your toolbox together

    A project manager uses a lot of different tools.
    - Email
    - Agenda documentation
    - Project Plan

    Just to name a few.

    Before you begin your project make sure that you have all the tools you need to be effective moving the project forward and communicating with all the stake holders.

    3. The Project Plan

    Sometimes this is really useful. Sometimes it is just a necessary evil.

    Every project I have worked on I have created a project plan in the beginning. The client wants to know the direction they are heading in.

    But the truth is that most of the time the project will deviate from the plan and you just have to roll with the punches. You need to know what success looks like and when you have reached the end of the project.

    But often the path toward that ending will be a little bit different for each project.

    Sometimes the client does not provide information in a timely manner. Sometimes the end result of a project is not what was expected in the beginning of the project.

    4. Keep track of your projects

    At some point in your career you will want to be promoted. You will need to prove your worth to your corporate overlords.

    Keep track of every project that you work on. Even if the project is not a success. Each project you will learn a little bit more.

    Every project that you work on as a resource or a manager is a building block in your 'career'. If you want to be certified you will need these hours. It will keep you motivated to keep completing more projects the more you keep track of your projects.

    5. Communication

    Your job is to communicate.

    Tell people what to do.
    Tell people when you need it done.
    Ask people their progress.
    Dispense information to clients.
    Dispense information to your boss.

    Most of your job is communicating. 3 groups of people. Bosses, workers, clients.

    Communicating back and forth between all of these groups is important. You keep the wheel of expectation moving. If a project is slowing down everyone needs to know and take necessary action.

    And then through all of this communication you need to be a problem solver. You solve the problem in front of you or you find the person that can solve the problem.

    6. The Agenda

    I have been in trouble because of this one before.

    Every single meeting should have an agenda. I know that it is a lot of paperwork. But people love it.

    Send out your agenda before the meeting begins and let the stakeholders know what will be covered during the meeting.

    Use the agenda during the meeting to drive the meeting forward.

    Send a recap email of the meeting and attach the Agenda and notes from the meeting to the email.

    Then save the meeting agenda in the shared project folder.

    The agenda should also be tied to the project plan. The agenda items should come from the project plan and drive toward the end goal.

    7. Problem solving

    As a project manager you will be a creative person. You are creating something that never existed before. Speed bumps are going to arise. That is to be expected. Elon Musk crashed a few rockets before he successfully took astronauts to the Space Station.

    When a you run into a blocker, remember that you have resources. Sometimes you may be able to solve the problem by yourself. A lot of times you will not. That is ok. Remember that you have resources.

    Reach out to the different resources in your network. Organize meetings with the different resources that you have to come up with a solution. And if the problem is truly a major blocker communicate this information with your managers.

    Nothing is ever perfect. Perfection means different things to different people. Every client would like things to be a little bit different for their process.

    8. Facilitating resources

    People are your resources:
    - Designers
    - Workers
    - Programmers
    - Account Managers
    - Salespeople

    There are a of people that you will communicate with and give task to. Your job is not to manage other people. They are not your direct reports.

    Your job is to communicate. Communicate your needs. Ask for updates. Find out if there are any blockers.

    Keep the ball rolling.

    9. Obstacles

    You will hit walls. Remember that you are creating something that did not exist before.

    Overcome those obstacles.

    10. Files

    People love files.

    I personally do not care much for tearsheets, To Do lists, How-To documents, etc. But people working at companies love files. There are a lot of jobs out there designed just to manage/create/store/organize/delete/change files.

    As a project manager your file system is your best friend.

    Lets pretend, although this really happened to me, that you created a software from scratch. You created different programs within the software, you make the software in different languages. You made lots of changes based on feedback.

    And then you launch the software. Except you did not create files/documents. You thought that that launching the software was the most important thing. And it is important.

    But so are the files. You need to document what work you did. People need to see that you did the work. They need to see the progress you have made and the work that you have put it.

    One day those people will leave the company and stop using that software and the work will be passed along to someone else. If you have a library of files you can say: Here you go. Read and then do.

    11. The handoff

    Every project should come to end.

    The day will come where Twitter goes live and you handoff the project to account managers, users, developers etc.

    And then you move on the next project.

    The problem:
    You have worked on this project for weeks, months, years. You are a smarty pants. You know how everything works.

    Those other people are new and do not know what to do and they do not want to learn. That will want to hold on to you. Keep you as a second brain that they can lean on. But that is not possible. It is part of your job to move on to the next project waiting in the pipeline.

    Create a handoff plan.

    Bring in people as early as possible so the 'handoff;' is invisible. As the project goes along you do less and less and they do more and more. Until you disappear.

    The disappearing act is part of the project, a natural evolution.
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