How is it to be non-technical project manager among the technical developers?

When you are applying for the position of a project manager, you at least need to know the difference between PHP and JavaScript. However, in my case, I was unaware of it, so I had to learn a lot, day after day.

I must say that it is a quite common practice in the IT industry that PM is from the “outside world”. So, I am not the first and, of course, not the last one, and if you ask me how actually it is working, the answer will be “differently”.

You have to adapt to the circumstances, keep in mind different time – zones, and make everything possible to do the work on time. On the other hand, you should be polite and patient and, of course, positive. The IT industry is changing very fast, so you should be able to adapt to this change.

If you are not a technical specialist, you can meet the difficulties in the project management process. I would like to pay attention to the most common tough situations:

1. Not every technical term will be understandable for you, some might sound like Chinese or even harder. That is why, sometimes developers should explain to you simple things, using all their talents – including gestures and those difficult words.
Judging from my experience, all developers are passionate about what they are doing. So, if you ask them, for example, what is MySQL injections – please, be ready to listen to a long and intricate story :).

The IT industry could teach you many skills, which you will find surprisingly useful for your life, such as to be flexible, understanding, supportive, and passionate for everything new.

2. The lack of technical knowledge could lead to the difficulties in prioritizing:
For example, you can feel that this task is so easy, however it could be only the tip of the iceberg, so you can under/overestimate the importance of some task. Here, you should not forget that you are working in the team. It is important, not to be afraid of asking for the second or even for the third time.

Nevertheless, it is better to analyze your previous tasks beforehand, learn from your experience and use the gained knowledges. I would recommend you to compare the new tasks with the previous ones and check its estimates. With time, you will be sure in yourself and be able to prioritize correctly. Also, you will be able to help your team and give them the advices which you have needed in the very beginning. But, without a doubt – it will be a result of your work on yourself.

3. Also, in the beginning, it could be hard to be a “middle one” between your team and a client.
The good PM makes happy both – clients and team. To make this possible, you have to feel the team and understand the customer.
Moreover, we should remember that a lot of the clients are not technical specialists too, so you should better understand them. Very often, the information, that is transferred to the client, has to be changed to a simple language. Sometimes, you have to explain it more detailed than it was written by developer and every time you should give to the clients a reasonable explanation of all your doings.
Furthermore, there could always be different misunderstandings from the both sides, and in such cases you are the one, who should solve this problem.

4. If you are going to be a project manager, you should understand that you are responsible for the project, working environment and especially the team spirit. It is also a challenge for newbies to take these responsibilities, as you have to stop thinking just about yourself, but begin to associate your work with the team.
“There are no problems, just solutions” – that is how I see the main project managers’ aim. That is why, it is so crucial not to panic, and have splendid organizing skills (more importantly, to be able to organize yourself).
When some problems appear, you should not look for the guilty part, but try to find the most quick and appropriate way to solve them.

5. You have to lead the process, monitor and check the tasks updates. But do not forget that you are also a part of the team, so you should be able to delegate tasks, check the process without the officiousness, and be supportive. Friendly working environment will help you achieve the company’s aim faster.

To summarize, there are many difficulties that you can meet in the process. However, with the time it will be easier to overcome them. Be ready to discover new things, let them teach you, and someday you will understand that you are waiting for these new challenges and hard tasks. That is what the IT industry is about!

I hope this article will be useful for those who are deciding – “to be or not to be PM”. I am still on my way to become a great project manager, but I could say it is already an interesting journey.