PM Career Development Plans

We are wireless and on the go - more than ever.

We have apps guiding us through our daily schedules, reminding us to drink water, even our fridge can now order food when we are running low on something.

This increase in smart solutions has led to an insane amount of unknown territories we are yet to explore as developers, and as end-users to those solutions.

Another increase happened within the IT industry - the need for project and product managers. The job market is suddenly oversaturated with the need for people with organizational skills, with (or without) technical knowledge, who can manage people, processes and workaround strategies well enough to deliver on promised.

Here’s the kicker, though.

Not everyone working as a PM or PdM is actually good. They don’t necessarily have the training, or aptitude to cover everything there is to know to handle a project or product well.

So, you’ve found yourself in a PM role in IT, or are looking to pivot your career? Let’s talk about the most important things to cover - your competencies and skills.

No alt text provided for this image

So, what are the differences between skills and competencies?

Skills are specific, learned abilities that you need to perform your job well. Examples, depending on the specific role, ranging from coding to writing tenders. However, there is a difference between hard skills and soft skills. A hard skill is a technical, quantifiable skill that you demonstrate through your qualifications and experiences, while a soft skill is a non-technical skill. An example of a hard skill, then, maybe computer programming or proficiency in a foreign language, whereas a soft skill may be time management or verbal communication.

Competencies, on the other hand, are your knowledge and behaviours that make you successful in a job, for example, strategic planning and data-based decisions.

It is also important to understand that at each stage of your career, different skills and competencies will be important to ensure your success to the next step in your career development.

At the start of your career, for example, you should focus on building technical skills and expertise. As your career progresses, you are likely to move away from certain day-to-day tasks, and instead towards projects in other areas of your chosen field.

These later stages of your career are where such competencies as the ability to influence, negotiate and strategise will need to be developed. But at the same time, you will also need to ensure you do not neglect the harder technical skills that you require to continue thriving in your profession.

Having the right mentor and career strategy, you can navigate your career plan just like you would a project.

No alt text provided for this image

Let's be a bit more specific and name some the important Project Management skills and competencies:

  • Leadership
  • Communication
  • Planning
  • Scheduling
  • Time management
  • Task management
  • Risk mitigation
  • Decision-making
  • Quality management
  • Critical thinking

To paraphrase Mike Tyson’s famous quote:

“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

Don’t worry if you feel like you don’t have a plan, or that your plan has been “punched” - you can always dust yourself off and try again. So, let’s give you some insight into how we at Product Pixie approach competencies and skills.

Apart from (surprise!) having a template full of skills and competencies, we put a lot of emphasis on giving a person time to self-evaluate. This means that you set aside some time to, for yourself and by yourself, go through our list of skills and competencies, write down where you see yourself and we take it from there.

There are always things we have trouble working on, whether it’s because our projects’ budgets don’t have room for us to grow as PMs, or there exists a lack of knowledge in-house to support you in your effort to expand or strengthen your skills.

What we do in these situations is use the self-evaluation and make a “Career Development Plan”, within which you have clear and concise goals that you can focus on, some bigger, some smaller. These can be short term or long term goals, depending on how much of your time you can invest in any of them.

No alt text provided for this image

How about we take a specific example?

A junior PM wants to become a mid-PM, but all they seem to be doing is working and working and it's not going anywhere.

Let's take a look at what we consider tiers within the skills and competencies of a junior PM, and how they can build those skills and competencies to push their career further.

Skill: Business analysis

Analytical approach, delivering the right info to the right people.

Junior:

Defines work:

• Analysing the requirement: what are inputs, what is the end-goal

• Defines what (and not the how) needs to get done

Documents client requirements, updates documentation and, with the help of a mentor, recognizes client requirements that could be developed for the project.

Mid:

Defines work clearly:

• Analysing the requirement: what are inputs, what is the end-goal

• Defines what (and not the how) needs to get done

• understands and defines the business case and reports it to the team

• recognizes the type of work that needs to get done and independently gives the work to the right people.

Documents client requirements, updating documentation and independently recognizes client requirements that could be developed for the project. Checks technical feasibility of the requirement. Prepares task backlog for the project.

Clearly set priorities, according to the client's needs and pain points.

Has the ability to negotiate with the client and the team whenever necessary to create an optimal solution for the product/project.

We can apply the same for competencies, for example:

Independence

Being able to start and finish a task in the right way, ending in a positive outcome, with limited help from senior colleagues.

Junior:

Resolves tasks with help and advice from senior colleagues. Estimates are given by senior colleagues, whereas setting priorities and setting up timelines is not done independently by the Junior PM.

Mid:

Independently solves tasks they've encountered before. When faced with new tasks, they ask for help and advice from senior colleagues, who provide them with a timeline split for larger tasks, and a prioritized list of work, while the Mid PM works independently on breaking down individual smaller tasks and sets priorities for them.

No alt text provided for this image

Mentorship, especially when starting out, is critical. You want to get good practices under your belt because it’s easy to get things wrong on your first try, and let’s be very clear - there is nothing, absolutely nothing wrong with making mistakes or failing at something.

But you want someone to give you support in those times especially since it’s easy to repeat a mistake if you don’t have a good example for comparison.

All in all, being at the start of your career is daunting, but it offers up an entire smorgasbord of opportunities for you as well. If you find yourself lost while sauntering between different processes that don’t make sense to you, give us a call, we’d love to talk to you and set you on your right path.

xoxo,

Product Pixie