From Developer to Project Manager
I recently received a question from a visitor to my site. This person was looking for tips on how to make the transition from a developer to a project manager. Here is the note in its entirety.
Good morning, Marios. I did a search this morning and was led to your site. I live not far from you, in Stamford, and have been an independent consultant for 20 years. During that time, my expertise has been application development and I've done long-term work with a small number of clients.
While Lotus Notes development has paid the bills for many years now, the last system on which I worked is going into maintenance mode and I've been cut loose. I find myself at a crossroads as I no longer consider Notes development a viable profession. For a number of reasons, I am seriously considering moving away from development completely and towards project management and would be interested in your perspective as to how I might do this without starting at the beginning. I hope you're not laughing your head off now. 🙂
If you have the time to speak with me, I am interested in your perspective.
The switch from developer to project manager is not an easy one. Your resume probably screams developer which is what people will key in to.
I made the switch from a developer a couple of years ago. I had toyed with the idea for quite some time before an opportunity appeared which made things easy for me. This opportunity allowed me to go back to a previous employer where I had previously been a developer. This company was willing to give me a shot at the PM role because they already knew me. I'm not sure I would've been able to make the switch otherwise without starting at a more junior level.
The first thing I would do in your position is examine your resume. Rather than focusing on the technologies and other developer-type items, I would take a broader look at the work you did, the companies you worked for, and the teams you were a part of. Discuss the projects, the benefits, and the obstacles. Indicate how you added value beyond writing code. Also, if you can show progression from a junior developer to senior developer to team lead that would be good. You'll be able to hold on to some of the technical stuff while showing a gradual shift in responsibility. Few are going to believe you went from a developer to a senior project manager in a month.
You'll need to do something similar in preparation for interviews. You're probably used to answering technical questions, but as a PM you'll get softer questions like what process do you follow, are you formal in your methodologies, how do you deal with an unreasonable client, have you ever had a project fail…
I hope the above helps a bit. Good luck!