I recently received a few email questions on what it takes to get into the field of Interactive Project Management. My advice, if you are in high school/university/college and are interested in being a project manager for an interactive production company (examples: agency, production house, web developers, marketing company or communications department) is to tackle it head on with a multi-faceted approach:
college or university can be good as long as you can find courses specific enough to directly help you out. I am not against a rich classical education to broaden horizons – but specific practical training is REALLY good for starting PM’s. You should be focusing on communications (mediation, written, oral & presentation skills, how to communicate good and bad news effectively), technology (networking, web technologies), business (marketing, business administration, some accounting) and specific software (Adobe products, dev environments).
Associations and Community
PMI is one of the really good resources for you. There are local chapters all over the place. Track yours down today and attend meetings or volunteer on their board – often these associations have their fingers on the pulse of local workshops and training that is PMI accredited as well. The PMP designation is much respected (I’ve got mine!) and is a great place to monitor the latest in best practice project management thinking – I can’t recommend it enough. In future posts I will be going on and on about PMI so stay tuned.
get into a shop as an intern (paid or not) and prove your worth if you can’t immediately get hired in a PM role. Be a contributor. Have a positive attitude. I’ve hired interns on as full timers before when they demonstrate drive, talent and a good attitude towards constructive criticism.
get into the thick of things as fast and often as you can stand (especially big or complex projects can knock the stuffing out of you, requiring some rest/rebound periods). The best way to become a superstar project manager is to have a lot of frames or reference from other projects. You’ll find your best modes of operating and have solutions from other projects that you bring to bear on your current situations.
Remember, the best Interactive PM’s:
- Are well-versed in technological terminology
- Can handle themselves in tense moments where information overload is common
- Have enough experience to know their way around technical project conference calls and meetings – knowing when to lead and when to ask questions
- Know how to talk to developers or designers in their own language
- Are generalists, but know a few production things so well you could actually step into a production role (this is consequently the best way to protect yourself in a recession economy too!)
- Are great communicators – knowing when to change modes – being a diplomat, leaders, or team-player when needed.
- Pay attention to detail – particularly detail related to timing, quality and project scope