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.

The E-Mail

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.

My Reply

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!

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1 Comment

  1. Hi Marios,

    I am interested in making the switch the other way, I have been a 5pm for 5 years, and have a lot of technical knowledge, I regularly code in c# / javascript / html css and have just completed a c++ evening course and have built my first iphone application. I have a degree in Multimedia.

    I assume the options are 1) Take a pay cut and go into a junior role 2) Re train by completing a masters 3).

    Do you have any advice?

    Many thanks,


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