Getting Started in Project Management

13 Oct 2008 - 07:17 PM under Career | Posted by PMStudent

I get many questions from people who want to enter into project management as a profession.? After all, this is pmStudent.? One of the most common questions is “how do I get started”?? I received an email from a reader today with this question, and so I would like to share some thoughts with everyone else, too.

Let me start off by saying that there are many, many ways that very successful project managers got their start.? There could be plenty of PMs out there who began by earning a business degree online and others who earned better degrees. I can tell you about my personal experiences and share some pointers.? This is all just my opinion, (just like the rest of everything I write!) so take it with some skepticism.

Experience First, Education Second

If you have to choose between formal project management education or real-world experience, go with the experience.? In reality, this is not an either-or choice however.? Go with both but always emphasize your opportunities to gain real-world experience.? The optimal in my humble opinion is if you can be in a position where your projects are small enough that you have the flexibility to try out new concepts you are learning in real time. Volunteer efforts are wonderful for this type of flexibility.

  • Volunteer at work, school, and non-profit organizations you may not even belong to yet
  • As you learn, apply the concepts
  • Seek a project management mentor by asking questions of project managers.? Take them out to coffee or lunch as a way to tap into their experience and build professional relationships.
  • If you are already part of a project team, start paying attention to what the project manager does.? Offer to assist them in any way, even if you find it menial, and ask lots of questions.

That said,

Education is Very Important

  • Read books and blogs (see links in the lower-right corner of the home page)
  • Listen to podcasts (PM Podcast, PM411, Controlling Chaos-archives only, PM Prepcast)
  • In particular you may find Episode 62 “How can I become a Project Manager” and Episode 65 “BS and MBA in Project Management” helpful podcasts.? I’m interviewed in episode 65.? Since that was recorded, I’ve decided to NOT pursue an MBA in project management.? I’ve earned my BS in Project Management and am focusing on gaining experience and getting my PMP very soon.? An advanced degree just didn’t pan out in the cost-benefit analysis for me at this point in my career.
  • Know the tools: there are tons of computer resources that go hand-in-hand with being a project manager. One such example is workforce management software, which lets you keep track of every tiny detail and stay on top of things during any project. Do some research online and find out what?s being used in the industry today.
  • Join PM organizations.? My experience so far is with the PMI.? Join your local chapter, and some SIGs that look interesting.? I can recommend the ISSIG in particular, they have a monthly webinar that is usually on topics that apply broadly to all project managers.
  • PMP Prep material can be very valuable even if you’re no where near ready to take the exam (as long as the material is geared to you understanding it, not memorizing it).? The best one I’ve found for this is the PM PrepCast? where I feel I learned a ton even if you set aside the PMP aspect of it.
  • Ask your management at work about helping you with a project management career track in the way of project management training, special assignments, etc.? It never hurts to ask!
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Young also made himself available to people such as Eppler (and, incidentally, to this author); that is, to individuals eager to learn from and commit to record Young s unique body of experience and knowledge.Young first had an opportunity to observe the moon s surface from lunar orbit when he served as Apollo 10 Command Module Pilot (CMP) in May 1969. He told Eppler that the transition from the sunlit part of the moon to the Earthlit part was sudden and that the eye adjusted almost immediately to the reduced light level. Features on the lunar surface remained almost as visible as they had been under direct sunlight, and it was even possible to pick out features within shadows in Earthlit areas.Young reported that the change from the Earthlit part of the moon to unlit portions of the Farside, out of reach of light from both Sun and Earth, was dramatic. Nothing could be seen of the moon s surface even at an orbital altitude of only a few tens of kilometers. 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Lunar landers approaching an outpost landing field from the east would have to contend with both direct solar glare and the absence of the handy size-gauging lander shadow. Sunset would occur on day 14, with a half-lit Earth shining high in the sky.On day 21 midnight at Sinus Medii full Earth would light the landscape. Seven days later, with a half-Earth high in the sky, the Sun would rise again in the east. Surface activity could thus take place at Sinus Medii without break for 24.5 days of the 28-day lunar day/night cycle; that is, from day nine after sunrise to day 5.5 after sunrise.At the center of the Farside, the situation would be very different. Starting 14 days after dawn, the Sun would set and the landscape would be lost in darkness. Only by using artificial lighting could astronauts find their way. Landings would be prohibited throughout Farside night except at prepared sites.Eppler also examined lighting on the east and west lunar limbs (that is, on the edges of Nearside at the equator) and at the moon s poles. In the case of the two limb sites, the Earth would have different phases at sunset than at Sinus Medii.The western limb would see sunset 14 days after local sunrise with a full Earth on the eastern horizon. The lighted fraction of the Earth would shrink as night progressed. Between day 23 and day 28 after sunrise at the western limb site, Earth would provide too little light for surface operations without artificial lights. It would become completely invisible at western limb sunrise.The eastern limb would experience sunset while Earth was new. It would thus become very dark immediately after sunset at an eastern limb site. Eppler expected that a fat crescent Earth, located just above the western horizon, would provide adequate lighting for surface operations starting on day 19 after local sunrise. On day 21, Earth would be half lit, and it would be full on day 28, when the Sun would once again rise in the east.The lunar poles would experience Earth phases similar to those at Sinus Medii. Earth would hover, bobbing and tilting slightly, near the southern horizon for north pole sites and near the northern horizon for south pole sites.The Sun, for its part, would circle the horizon at a polar site, never setting. Astronauts would need to note its position on the horizon and take care not to turn directly toward it without adequate eye protection. In addition, local mountains and crater rims would occasionally block the Sun or Earth and some areas mainly deep crater bottoms would lie in permanent shadow.References:Lighting Constraints on Lunar Surface Operations, NASA Technical Memorandum 4271, Dean B. Eppler, NASA Johnson Space Center, May 1991. Forever Young: A Life of Adventure in Air and Space, John W. Young with James R. Hansen, University Press of Florida, 2012.Related Beyond Apollo Posts:One-Way Space Man (1962)The Quest to Explore the Moon from Lunar Orbit (1967)Ludek Pesek s Ill-Starred Lunar Expedition (1964) I research and write about the history of space exploration and space technology with an emphasis on missions and programs planned but not flown (that is, the vast majority of them). My posts are based on more than 30 years of research into spaceflight history. I provide plenty of historical context. I also include lots of crunchy technical details to help the reader envision what might have been – and, in many cases, what might yet be. In the autumn of his life the late George McGovern, who as a
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