A Good Project Manager is Hard to Find: Here’s How to Become One
Touro GST Professor and Project Management expert Bill Muskopf explains what it takes to succeed in this
challenging and rewarding field By Elizabeth Laura Nelson
In the IT world, the demand for qualified Project Managers has never been higher—and for many companies, finding one is no easy task.
“There simply aren’t enough properly trained Project Managers in the world,” says Touro Graduate School of Technology Professor Bill Muskopf (MSPM, PMP®, Certified ITIL Expert, Certified Agile Practitioner, and Certified Risk Professional). His popular courses in Project Management and IT Fundamentals—among others—aim to change that, one student at a time.
If you’ve ever wondered whether a degree in Project Management might be right for you (or just wondered what Project Management actually is), keep reading to find out what goes into becoming a successful project manager—and how Touro GST can help.
Understand what Project Management means
The term “project management” seems, on the face of it, fairly self-explanatory. But what does being a Project Manager actually entail, on a day-to-day basis?
“In general, project management is the ability to take a complex project andbreak it down into its components,” explains Muskopf. He gives the example of the Ancient Egyptians building the pyramids: not only did they need stone, and workers to put the stone together, they needed people to plan how to put the stones together, cranes to lift the blocks of stone, wood to build the cranes, and rope to pull the stones. Then they had to feed all of the workers.
“The project manager is not responsible for moving the stones or weaving the ropes or building the wood cranes,” he says. “Theproject manager is the person in the background who's making sure that the wood is there when it's needed, that there is enough rope, that people are fed, and that there’s enough food for next week, and the week after that. It’s the coordination of makingeverything happen.”
In the IT world, project management often means making sure there’s a network architect to build the network, there are developers with the right skills to develop applications, and that data experts are ensuring there’s enough storage for deliverables to work properly.
“When you’re talking about IT, project management can quickly become very complex,” says Muskopf. “Say you have a cloud computing solution that also has onsite equipment that needs to be connected. What software do you use to connect them? And how do you get the right vendors involved to provide the right network switches? The project manager is there to to coordinate all of those extremely intricate things.”
Build strong people skills
There’s more to project management than being able to break down big projects into small parts, knowing which vendors to contact, and coordinating tasks. You need great people skills, as well.
“Project management is people management,” says Muskopf. “Even if you're managing your resources well—for example, the trucks are being rented in order to move equipment, you know how much time you have to put a certain system in place, and whatever pieces you’re managing are all coming together—what you’re really doing is managing the people thatare are handling those activities.”
Teamwork, trust, and leadership are key in project management, according to Muskopf. “You need to be able to build a strong team, have a lot of trust in them, and lead them properly so the project is successful.”
Being able to delegate is essential, as well. “One of the complications of being a Project Manager is that you’re responsible for making sure all of these activities happen, but you can’t do them yourself,” says Muskopf. “Because if you’re doing them yourself, then you’re redundant, right? You have to make things happen without jumping in and doing any of those particular things yourself.”
Learn how to juggle
How are you at juggling? As a Project Manager, you’ll have many opportunities to practice this skill—and you’ll need to excel at it.
“One important knowledge area for project management is called “integration management.” says Muskopf. “I call it being a juggler, because you’re coordinating finances, resources, scheduling, risk management, contractswith different vendors, and the contract between you and your customer. At the same time, you’re monitoring the overall scope of the project and the deliverables that you need to deliver, making sure you're producing a quality product.”
Juggling all of these different factors, says Muskopf, is the biggest challenge for any Project Manager. The courses he teaches take students through a progression of all the necessary knowledge, best practices, and industry standards that they will need to succeed as a Project Manager.
“The key is to put reasonable, achievable goals and processes in place,” says Muskopf.
From Muskopf’s point of view, the difference between a just-okay Project Manager and a truly excellent one is the ability to step back and see how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together.
“There are lots of people who are trained in a very specific practice, and they don’t take the time to learn how to coordinate things outside of that concentration,” he explains. “For example, networking architects tend to work with other networking architects. They get to know networking really, really well—and that’s important. It’s essential to have a network that’s built properly. But if that networking architect doesn’t understand how the servers work with their network, or how software plays into it, their perspective can become very myopic.”
As a Project Manager, it’s essential to be able to see the bigger picture; the specific area of IT expertise that brought someone into the fieldis only one piece of a whole project.
“I encourage anyone in the IT field, even if they don’t ultimately want to become a Project Manager, to learn the fundamentals of project management, because it gives you a much bigger picture of what goes on in the IT world, and how projects come together,” says Muskopf.
Get the right degree
“I’ve done a lot of hiring and career training for a lot of different people in the IT Project Management world,” says Muskopf, “and I can tell you that the Master's degree from Touro Graduate School of Technology is phenomenally valuable.”
Having a Master’s degree in Project Management, he goes on to say, opens up a person’s career prospects dramatically. “It says a world about that candidate’s abilities. Pair that degree with a CAPM or PMP®certification, and it shows that not only do you understand the language of project management, but you understand the processes. That’s valuable. It tells me you’ve taken the time to become an expert in a career path that is very sought after in the IT world today.”
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