Technical Project Management Guide | How to Become a Technical Project Manager (Step-by-Step)
Project managers have transformed the way companies plan and execute projects. They are innovators, strong communicators, data-driven facilitators and problem solvers who lead and inspire others.
If you’ve considered exploring an exciting career in technical project management, this comprehensive guide will help you learn what it takes to become a successful technical project manager including tools and software, skills and certifications that will add value to your existing professional experience.
What Is Technical Project Management?
involve managing the communication of both technical and non-technical stakeholders. As a project manager, you play an important role in leading a project through initiation, planning, execution, monitoring, controlling and completion. Taken altogether, this is known as the project life cycle.
In addition to these responsibilities, a technical project manager must possess high-level technological knowledge and expertise in order to succeed in the role, as they are instrumental in managing IT or IT-related projects.
How Do You Become a Tech Project Manager?
Regardless of your professional path or current role, experience in other jobs will help you on your quest to become a technical project manager. In fact, many technical project managers have previous career experience in operations management, business analytics and software engineering. Here are a few steps that will help you in your journey toward gaining technical project management experience.
Step 1: Determine Whether the Path Is for You
Before you begin your technical project management journey, take some time to explore and identify if this career is right for you. Read the stories of other technical project managers, conduct informational interviews with industry professionals to gain insider insights or seek out volunteer projects that will increase your exposure to technical projects.
Step 2: Research Your Educational Options
Now that you have an idea of how technical project management works in the real world, it’s time to explore your educational options that will help you gain the skills you need to break into the industry. As you explore learning opportunities, identify which ones support your career goals by positioning you for success as you work to advance in your current career or seek new opportunities.
Learning through a tech PM boot camp program or online course can provide you with a strong foundation to pivot your career and lead technical projects. Through these hands-on programs, you will be able to develop in-demand leadership and business management skills that are an integral part of technical project management.
Step 3: Get Certified
Once you’ve gained the hard skills and hands-on experience through a boot camp or online course, it’s time to pursue project management certifications. Certifications show that you not only have project management business acumen, but also have specialized technical skills beyond the typical scope.
Any technical project management professional can benefit from adding one of these certifications to their list of credentials. Some recommended certifications include:
- Agile Certified Practitioner (ACP) — Project Management Institute
- Certified Scrum Master (CSM) — Scrum Alliance
- Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) — Project Management Institute
- Professional in Business Analysis (PBA) — Project Management Institute
- Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP) — AXELOS Global Best Practice
- Professional Scrum Master™ Level I — Scrum.org
Step 4: Secure a Professional Role
The final step of becoming a technical project manager is to secure a job opportunity in the field. Tap into your professional network for job referrals, attend industry events and keep working on independent projects to keep your skills up-to-date. Target roles that will allow you to combine your previous experience with your new technical skills and push you closer to your professional goals.
What Is the Role of a Technical Project Manager?
Technical project managers tend to be the lead technical subject matter expert within their organization. Their industry expertise is leveraged to improve various aspects of planning and resource management when it involves both technical and non-technical projects.
Technical project managers should be proficient in technical and business project management tools, including GANTT charts and scheduling software, agile methodology tools and project management and communication software. According to Monday.com, technical project managers typically take on a combination of project management tasks in their day-to-day work including, brainstorming, planning, scheduling and designating project tasks, executing the project phases, managing the project budget, communicating with stakeholders and collaborating with department heads.
To be an effective technical project manager, you must be able to optimize your communication skills and manage the technical complexities and resources throughout the duration of a project.
What Are the Skills a Project Manager Requires?
Software project management roles are expected to grow 21% through 2028 with skills such as Scrum and the SDLC in high demand.
Scrum is a lean structure for communicating, designing and promoting complex products, with a focus on programming development. Work is done in short cycles called sprints, and are supported by daily team meetings where members discuss current tasks and roadblocks.
Agile methodology promotes continuous iteration of both testing and development throughout the project life cycle, letting you develop products via short cycles of work that allow for rapid production and constant iterations.
Software development focuses on mechanisms that help computer programmers develop computer programs. For project managers, the aim of the software development process is to create high-quality software on time and within budget. Having knowledge of this process is a high-demand skill for those interested in IT and technical project management roles.
JIRA is a web-based project management tool that gives project managers the ability to manage multiple teams, projects and workflows more efficiently. It works well for sizable teams and organizations, where employees and managers work on individual components of a large-scale project, and may sometimes overlook certain necessary tasks.
How do you get better at what you do or improve a product outcome? You align company resources with a common problem or project.
- Meeting Facilitation
- Technical Documentation
- Gantt Charts
- Release and Sprint Planning
- Project Charter Creation
- Documenting and Tracking Lessons Learned
Here the outcomes and benefits are identified, defined and controlled. This piece is critical for project managers outsourcing activity. If not done effectively the consequences can negatively impact both customers and providers. In addition, wasted time on conflicts and back-tracking on decisions or goals should be avoided. The goal is to break down actionable tasks to meet said commitments to get the job done and keep morale high.
- Work Breakdown Structures
- Requirements Elicitation and Documentation
How well do you manage day-to-day tasks to solidify a product or project successfully while also remaining fiscally responsible? Operations management involves planning and controlling the use of company resources to produce quality outcomes.
- Resource Budgeting
- Cost Tracking
- Stakeholder Communication Planning
- Stakeholder Engagement
The moral here is to be proactive — rather than reactive — whenever possible by preventing or mitigating risks that have the potential to impact the desired outcomes of a particular project. Through risk management you will identify, analyze, evaluate, treat, monitor and review potential threats to the project’s success. If project risks aren’t identified, avoided or rectified, your project may end up over budget, delayed or even brought to a complete standstill.
- Risk Register Creation and Maintenance
- Risk Analysis
Leadership focuses less on tasks and more on people. Here, you’ll need to be aware and mindful, generate a sense of urgency when needed, know how to motivate teams individually, build cohesion and facilitate collaboration. This takes strong communication to give team members all the needed information and resources to do their parts for the larger goal at hand.
- Team Building
- Conflict Management
What Tools and Software Do Tech Project Managers Need to Master?
Asana is a project management platform to help you plan, organize and manage your team’s work from start to finish, and also acts as a collaboration tool. Coordinate team tasks, share feedback, files and status updates to keep everyone aligned. Plus, Asana gives you a complete view of work so teams tackle the right tasks at the right time.
Slack aims to create opportunities for interaction between individuals, groups, colleagues or customers. It’s a workplace communication tool that can help project managers bring teams, files and tools together for deeper collaboration.
The Trello system is built on the Japanese “kanban” management principle, which involves consistent monitoring of all production phases. It is a great tool for standard projects and is convenient for both command directives and individual assignments.
Wrike is a digital work management tool that lets users track and coordinate projects. It helps drive faster decisions and accelerate projects with automation, real-time visibility, customizable dashboards and reports.
Another popular tool, Smartsheet acts as an alternative project management tool that goes beyond traditional spreadsheet functionality and focuses on collaborative aspects of project management.
Technology Project Management Roles
Project Management Spectrum
According to industry research, technical project management roles tend to fall on a spectrum:
Generalist ← → Specialist
Many people in the field, particularly those who work on lean teams or run a small business, become generalist technical project managers. They take on a variety of disparate responsibilities, from planning, organizing, task management, risk analysis and documentation. Others specialize in one vertical that requires a high level of expertise, like Salesforce Engineer, SAP Project Manager or Senior Agile Coach, as a few examples.
Technical project managers may also follow a coordinator or lead-type trajectory.
Coordinator ← → Lead
Some technical project managers follow a coordinator path where they manage the administrative tasks in planning and strategy pieces. They are focused on specific stages of execution. Others prefer the big-picture leadership side of the field. These types spend their days overseeing the process from planning to completion to maximize results, figuring out how to make those resources generate more value for the company.
Keep in mind, project management roles are not set in stone and will vary based on company size and team makeup, project scope or definition of tasks within a given job title. Here are a few roles that may interest technical project managers:
- Project Coordinator: Oversees a project’s development, including timeline, schedule, cost and technical aspects while also managing its execution to meet client or customer goals and objectives.
- Project Scheduler: Implements and oversees project schedules with high-level organization skills to collaborate with project managers and technical experts.
- Technical Project Manager: Manages the project lifecycle including, scoping, project planning, resource planning, project kick-off, execution, tracking, deployment and stabilization.
- Agile Project Manager: Has a deep understanding and experience with a variety of agile approaches to navigate pain points in both technical and business solutions with teams and stakeholders. Responsible for managing the overall planning, execution and delivery of assigned projects.
- Senior Project Manager: Leads, scopes, plans and executes client-facing, large-scale implementations and proof of concepts while cross-collaborating with internal teams. Manages the day-to-day operations of projects by gaining alignment on the scope, schedule, assumptions and price for projects to drive deliverables and meet expectations with quality outcomes.
- Director, Technical Program Management: Provides technical program management and oversight from initiation and planning through implementation, launch and post-launch support. Provides technical leadership and guidance to team members to reach initiatives and goals.
Ready to prepare for a new career in just 18 weeks? Learn more about Berkeley Technology Project Management Boot Camp to find out how you can gain the skills needed to break into the field.
Who Can Become a Tech Project Manager?
In short, anyone with an interest and determination to become a technical project manager can find a way into the field.
Find ways to translate your skills to technical project management roles and the industry you are applying to. Show employers how versatile your skills are and how they apply in a variety of ways. Here are a few transferable skills that you can leverage toward becoming a technical project manager:
Active Listening: Practice active listening to gain insight and truly understand the needs or message of all project stakeholders.
Critical Thinking: Make prompt, informed and fact-based decisions for the good of the project in order to find value.
Organization: Technical project managers are the ones who often focus on agenda, schedules, frameworks and methodologies, as well as communicating tasks, updates, progress and blockers.
Problem Solving: Assess issues from different vantage points and formulate the best solution in addressing specific challenges.
Self-Motivation: The technology project manager should be the person with the highest level of commitment and motivation to see it through from start to finish.
Relationship Building: Establish a collaborative culture where people with unique personalities and skills happily work together towards a unified goal.
Teamwork: Ensures effective outcomes with accountability and meeting realistic deadlines to complete a project.
Strong Business Communication: Use the right language, tone and storytelling techniques when communicating, describing or explaining issues over email, chat, reports, presentations and other forms and channels of communication.
Most importantly, identify the most in-demand skills of technical project managers and find ways to develop those skills in your current work environment.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Tech Project Manager?
Timing is everything and whether you are just getting started in your career, advancing or upskilling, your growth in technical project management is dependent on you. Berkeley Tech Project Management Boot Camp is an 18-week program that can help accelerate your knowledge surrounding technical project management.