Why not?

A realization came to me — an inkling of insight and inspiration of which I do not want to let go. It was spurred by a set of questions I was asked to answer recently, related to work/a job. The question, “How technical does a technical project manager need to be?” discussed in my previous post was one of them.

Here’s the deal, I should have done it 5 years ago, should have done it 20 years ago, but the best time to start something you haven’t started is … today. I am learning to code and I am starting with Python.

Motivation? A few things I know about what I want:

  • I thrive/work best, enjoy most a small, tight, collaborative, and trusting team — working on/producing something good — something that makes a difference.
  • I have been working as an application development manager for the past eight+ years, so I understand the language of software, and the process of development, and I have experience from years past with writing code — Thus my 0.1 starting point.
  • If flow/focus/lost track of time is an indicator of personal work enjoyment, as it is often said, then — though I have felt such in the graphic production of newspapers, I have felt it most, many, many years ago, in the writing and analysis of code.
  • I want work/a job/a means of revenue allowing a “walk-about” life-style. i.e. I don’t want to necessarily work in an office, I want to work wherever I want; I don’t want to work ‘for’ but rather ‘with;’ I want to serve / to assist in solving someone/some people’s problem.
  • In a word, I want “freedom”– and fulfillment … I guess that’s two words, but you get the picture!

I think I’ll write code.

And damn, did you know that Python is named after Monty Python? How can you argue with that??

How technical does a technical project manager need to be?

I was asked this question recently. Below is my unedited response — What do you think? Do you agree? Did I miss the mark? Feedback on this is welcome!

The skills that make a project manager good, in my opinion, are listening; an ability to connect and interact collaboratively with others; an ability to understand issues & situations quickly; the ability to clarify, to get to the simplest level possible on an issue; the ability to prioritize — or facilitate prioritizing — to communicate those priorities both to business and to your team; the willingness to reach out for knowledge or help; the willingness to look to and depend upon the expertise of your team; the awareness required to know, or know when to ask, when a team member needs help or learning; the wherewithal to find resources in support of the needs of your team; and the ability to make a decision and defend it when required. My experience says possessing those skills can allow an individual to manage a technical project, a production project, even a construction project.

There is depth of knowledge and complexity within any project or industry — I would argue that it is definitely an advantage, as a Technical Project Manager, to be technically adept, to have experience working with, understanding, and learning the processes and tools of the technology, in this case, application development. But lack of these need not be an obstacle to a well-skilled and experienced project manager, as listening, learning, and individual interactions are, in my opinion, the primary requirements for success.

For my part, I happen to have the technical acumen and experience. But I have been willing, and successful, in coaching the non-technical in project facilitation around technical projects, for instance, online course development. My Project Facilitators have no idea how the technical work gets done in the development of an online course, but they are very good at working with the team on goals, impediments, and moving the project forward. I don’t think their being experienced in the intricacies of instructional technology would mark any improvement in their performance. Likely, it could be an obstacle, as they might spend more time debating approach then facilitating solutions for those who are experienced in the technology!