Looking into the brain of a Project Manager

I get mails from my blog readers- all interesting questions and thank you for taking the time to do it.

This one was however different, the reader emailed me saying that as a "software developer" he wants to know how Project Managers do the trick and sends me a list of questions.
I decided to post it here to make sure he has more help than I can give him alone- plunging into the minds of Project Managers.

Reader asks:
  • How do you select/choose the best possible candidate of your technical team? Do you have some sort of criteria / selection process which you may want to share?
  • How do you ensure that each person on your project team is highly motivated?
  • How do you cope when one (or some) of your project(s) is/are
    getting way behind schedules and upper management is pinching you on
    the matter?
  • How do you decide on the methodology with which to apply on your project?
  • Best advice (or something learned) ever from a person on your project team?
Helping someone learn is great and he seems sincere in his efforts at least. Take your pick Project Managers and please help him out!

(Picture: Google Images)

Earning PDU through your blog

You are into project management and you blog, how cool would it be if you can get some PDU's from your blog?

Do you think it will bring your blog some additional recognition, make it more fun to write now that you are getting something measurable from your blog?

I saw a tweet from Dina and thought "wow", this couldn't be better. Read on, if this interests you and be sure to let your opinion out there in the comment section.

Steppingintopm: I read through Twitter that you are thinking of getting PDU's in exchange of project management blogs - can you please elaborate on the idea and how you thought of it?

Dina: Well, I can't really take credit for the idea. I think the first record of the idea on twitter came from Vincent Birlouez who asked the question "does publishing a blog bring PDUs?" And then, Kelvin Zhao replied: According to this I think blogging can earn PDUs. So, that's when I got in on the conversation. I'm always looking for cost effective ways to earn PDU's, I mean I'd love to go to interesting classes and seminars, boot-camp like training, etc. But, that all costs money and that's not always easy to come by. There's a whole category of Self Directed Learning in the PMI handbook that lists the ways a PMP can earn credits independently or working with a group. So, blogging about project management is not specifically stated in the list of activities that can qualify for PDUs, but it just seems to make sense that being an active participant in PM blogging (and even other PM networking sites, PMs on twitter group, etc) should qualify for PDUs in the same way. I think it's really about changing for the times, these modes of communicating and information sharing didn't exist 10 years ago or whenever the last time the rules of earning a PDU were discussed. We can all benefit from joining in on the project management discussions in the social media world, so why not earn PDUs at the same time?

Steppingintopm: What do you think should be the basics of a project management blog to be able to earn the PDU?
Dina: I think if the blog post discusses any relevant topic in project management and shows some thought and research was done in preparation of the post, this should qualify. I don't know if a minimum word count is necessary, but in the same way that any article written is submitted to PMI for approval, maybe the blog post(s) could also be submitted. I would love to see some type of peer review board for blog posts rather than having PMI make the decision. Maybe a little survey at the bottom of the post asking if the post should qualify for a PDU (or two).

Steppingintopm: How did you get into the project management?
Dina: I was a web programmer for 5-6 years before I got into project management. In the fall of 2003 I interviewed at an interactive agency for a programmer position and got turned down. I got called back a few months later when a project management role opened up. I figured, why not? Give it a try and see how it goes. I learned a lot from my almost 5 years there, a lot of trial and error. Right when I got my PMP in the beginning of 2008, I started doing a lot of 'pleasure' reading about web & software project management and just got hooked! I felt that I had a good deal of experience and now I wanted to learn from the 'experts' about how to make myself a better project manager. Now I'm the lead project manager of the interactive services department of a tech PR firm and one of my main responsibilities is improving the processes and implementing new ones. It's a great challenge to have.

Steppingintopm: Three tips that you would like to share with aspiring project manager's?
1. Find a good mentor - It was a few years before I was able to find mentors, and ultimately the books and PM social networks I've found have served in that role. But, the earlier you can find a mentor, the better.

2. Read...a lot - The PMP is a nice title and all, but what I really got out of the process was introduction to many very interesting project management topics which I then did my own independent research & reading on after my PMP boot camp was over. Had I only started reading years earlier, I would have had real knowledge and lessons learned to apply to all the questions and challenges I had while I was learning through trial & error.

3. Don't get discouraged- Project management is an ongoing challenge, there's always something new coming out of left field. The short, simple and straightforward projects can almost get boring after a while. It's better to have something more complex that takes serious focus to keep going and complete successfully. So, don't get frustrated if things don't always go right in those complicated projects, there's always a lesson to be learned from it.

Steppingintopm: Thanks Dina

Dina Garfinkel is a Web / Interactive Project Manager who lives in Brooklyn, New York with her husband and two daughters. She enjoys writing about the parallels between project management and parenting, on her blog The Critical Chain and can also be found on twitter .

You can see more on earning PDU here as well.

(Picture Courtesy: google Images)

Getting job in the new economy

Alec is one my favorite Project Managers whom I really enjoy talking to. The economy has made us all aware of our jobs more than ever. So, are there things that we can do to keep us prepared for the next move, the next job, the next strategy- I ask Alec.

Hi Alec, glad to have you back at Stepping into PM. Do you think that with the changing times job hunting has become a new game?

Hi Soma. It’s always great to speak with you. Your question reminds me of a comment a friend of mine made recently. He is a Broadway actor here in New York. For anyone not familiar first-hand with the acting profession, it is a world characterized by many people going to many auditions and chasing relatively few jobs. His comment was, “Now everyone is experiencing what it is like to be an actor.”

What are the three most important things to keep in mind while looking for a job ?

Professional career coaches have always de-emphasized job boards and want ads. This is even more important in today’s economy. I’d go so far as to say if a person looking for a job is spending more than 1 hour a day answering ads and perusing job boards, they are using their time much less efficiently than they could. Three suggestions:

  1. Treat your search like a full-time job. If you’re a project manager, handle it as if you were just handed a major initiative for your client. Spend at least 7 hours a day on your project. If you can’t work at home, find someplace else to go. Here in the States, Starbucks is filled right now with people conducting job campaigns 9 am – 5pm.
  2. Know what distinguishes you from everyone else out there. Are you crystal-clear on what Richard Koch http://is.gd/tcfh calls your 20% spike – those things that you can easily do better than most others? If not, spend some time figuring these out. This is not the time to apply for any job. There’s too much competition for each position. To have a chance, you must focus only on those positions which tightly correspond to your best skills.
  3. You must reach out to others. Sending out resumes randomly won’t work. You must talk to people, message them, seek them out, befriend them, and seek to serve them without focusing on what they can do for you.

Does networking really come in handy while doing so?

Some people think of networking as trying to get someone else to do something for them. This is called “using”. It won’t work. A better type of networking is developing long-term, mutually beneficial relationships. If you seek to serve, to help, to give to others, you are on the right track.

So, lets say I'm looking for my next step to move into project management, what should I be doing to get the job in today's economy?

While the long-term employment prospects for project managers continue to be good, it may be a little hard going at the moment. My belief is that a new project manager will be more likely to find a position in today’s economy through their existing contacts, that is, those people they’ve worked with before and can vouch for them. Go after the jobs which haven’t yet been advertised. Prepare a portfolio of documents, plans, anything you have which can show you know what you’re doing.

Where do you think "social media" is coming in these days in the job search scenario? There are so many recruiters in Twitter, hundreds of candidates who would like to network- what is the right thing to do?

Twitter has now become, "The next big thing". All the media outlets, marketers and others are getting on board. Some recruiters on twitter will be of extreme help to job seekers. Other recruiters are making big promises with little evidence to back them up. The best advice is just to get out there and start using social media. If you have questions, ask the people you meet online. There are many, many generous and helpful people around.

Thanks Alec

Prepare for PMI certifications with slides

If you are getting ready for your certifications, I thought this slideshow is amazing and will help you out. You can either view the slides or even take a print out and have it by your desk.

So you have decided to become a project manager

Hurray! So you have decided to become a project manager and looking for a job to get your foot in?

You have tried calling up recruiters, sending resumes and browsing through the job sites 4 hours a day and yet nothing? No calls, no emails for job interview and just when you are feeling all down and want to hide yourself in the gloom of the television screen- I have some news for you.

Yes and its good. The traditional job finding days are gone. Today, knowing the right person is all you need. Social media has made it pretty easy for all of us and thats great news.

So, stop goofing around the job sites and start meeting people. Online and offline .

Here’s what you can do-

· Plan – You should know what you want. List out your goals and stick it up right in your mind, soul and your board/wall in front of your desk. Seeing it often will help you remind yourself of your goal. Don’t trash your dreams in some over stuffed “new year resolutions” kit. Remember your plan this time is here to stay.

· Find you- Google search yourself; see what it comes up with. Now you know what people will see when they do it; you will be much better prepared to face the questions/interviews and better make sure the right content shows up.

· Where are you- Are you in the right place? Are you on the social networks? If you would like to be a project manager, are you following the ones in the profession in Twitter, PPMNG, Linkedin or their blogs/sites? Following allows you to understand the profession better, get real situation knowledge that can only help you grow.

· Brand building- Why should someone hire you? What do you bring to the table that no one else has?

Once you have answered these, you know your value. It’s not enough knowing them; it is equally important to let people know about it. Once you have chalked it out try doing something about it. Define yourself through your e-book, blog, social media profiles, and status messages and don’t sound mechanical while doing it. Be genuine, be nice, help others learn. Meet Dan Schawbel and learn from his self branding methods

· Blog- Haven’t we talked about this before? If you’re still thinking about starting a blog, please do so. When I started it; little did I know how much I will learn through this experience and meet so many wonderful people? Just commit to the cause of blogging and hold on to it. Write at least once a week and read other blogs on the same topic. You will not only learn faster, you get to know so much more from people in the industry that you can’t find in books.

If you have noticed, you can see I started reviewing project management software recently. Someone with 5 years of experience can do it better than me but I’m learning through it. Downloading free versions doesn’t cost me anything, but I can learn by trying them out, may be one new software a month. See what Alec (Satin) is doing with his blog.

· Be Bold- Doing videos (coming soon) was a bold decision. Don't hold back on some ideas that you have been eyeing for a long time. I’ve not done videos before and yes, I’m nervous of how things will turn out. I still wanted to do it because 1) I want to and 2) it will help me evolve better in trying to communicate to people. Remember, project management is about working with people and getting your ideas/scope transmitted.

My podcasts will help me be more focused on the clarity since they will be 5-7 mints videos. It will also help me critic myself and see what interviewers will see me as and get feedback from my readers, mentors and well wishers and improve. See what Jamie did to get interviewed by CNN

· Have fun – Enjoy what you do. We all have our problems and think no one has ever faced a situation like me. Wrong!

Grab this moment and start something new, something positive that you will enjoy and learn at the same time. New challenges are good for you, it speeds up your learning process, increases your focus and gets you a job or better contacts.

If you would like to know how social media can get you a job, read some of my favorite post here:

You can also let me know how you got your current job- was it through someone you knew or was it through job portals? Leave comments or better message me at twitter

Times are changing so should you; get your social media account today!

Rational Plan- project management software reviewed

RationalPlan is one of those software’s that you will- like coffee love instantly.

Simply starting out with the software will give you a fair idea about how you will create the entire plan for the project. Like MS project it guides you through the steps. If you are used to planning software’s- this one has a very short learning curve.

Incase you haven’t used one before, please don’t step back. This might be a great opportunity for you dear newbie to learn what planning software’s look like and learn using them for FREE. Download the free version and you get the opportunity to play around with the software and know what Project Managers deal with everyday.

The left navigation bar can be used to navigate among the pages for detailed planning. It includes:

  • Project (Info, notes and links, calendar, assumptions and constraints, Risks)
  • Planning (create Work Break Structure, schedule task, define resources, assign resources, levelresources, define additional)
  • Controlling (update task completion)

One of the best feature is that after assigning resources and allocating them work, you can actually email them about it from right there. I loved it!

You can also navigate within multiple projects the same time by using the drop down projects list feature.

After the final creation of the project and inserting the data, you can click on any of the formats to view the Work Break Structure, Resource View, Task Sheet, Resource Sheet, Client Table etc available on the upper right hand corner.

Having used MS Project and Basecamp, I loved the easiness and the flow of the software and will use it for my future project planning venture. I’ve also heard about Workbench and will try my hands at it as well along with 5pmweb because it looks really fun! So, wait up for those as well

So, here you go Tiberiu (from RationalPlan) and thank you for inviting me to review it.

Picture Courtesy: RationalPlan screenshots

(Disclosure: the opinions regarding the software are entirely mine)

Videos on stepping into project management

I'm celebrating my bday today and am thankful for the way my life has shaped up.

This blog has been a wonderful way to learn more and connect with people who have become a part of my life. So, I wanted to do something very special today, something that I haven't done before.

I finally decided that I'll start with videos. Now, the reason I started this blog was to pen down my journey on trying to become a project manager- as days go by I realise that perhaps I've in a way stopped focussing on the initial days or how you can decide to become a project manager. The video/s will be more focussed on the jitters, the decision making and what you should do about it. Of course I'll still be writing regularly and the videos get posted once in a while. 

Hoping to connect with you all friends and thank you for reading my blog- it makes my day!