How to Get into Tech: A Guide for Aspiring Project Managers

How to Get into Tech: A Guide for Aspiring Project Managers

career change Apr 01, 2024

Are you thinking about changing your career or starting a new one but aren't sure how to get into tech without prior experience?

Because of the industry's rapid evolution, companies are always seeking individuals who can strengthen their business, and some may not even require industry experience. Among many opportunities, project management stands out.

In this article, we'll explore how to get into tech, focusing on becoming a project manager.

 

Understanding the Tech Industry

The tech industry is a broad field that includes three key sectors: software, hardware, and services.

In software, tech companies develop applications, operating systems, and platforms that have become integral to personal and professional life. Hardware focuses on the physical components of technology, from smartphones and computers to servers and networking equipment. The services sector, meanwhile, includes cloud computing, IT support, and consulting, offering solutions that power and maintain the digital infrastructure of many businesses.

Major players here range from well-known giants like Apple, Microsoft, Google, and IBM, to innovative startups that continually reshape the industry with fresh perspectives and breakthrough technologies. These companies have a significant influence on the global economy and societal trends.

Latest technology trends, such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, the Internet of Things (IoT), and blockchain, are changing how businesses operate and how people interact with the world. They enable smarter, more efficient ways of working and creating new markets and opportunities.

And in this dynamic setting, project management takes on a critical role.

 

Project Management in Tech

Project management in the tech industry involves overseeing and guiding technology-based projects from inception to completion. This includes planning, executing, monitoring, controlling, and closing projects that typically involve software development, hardware installations, network upgrades, or implementing IT services.

A project manager in the tech field ensures that the project’s goals align with the company's strategic objectives and are delivered on time, within scope, and budget.

 

Essential Skills and Tools for Tech Project Managers

  1. Skills
    • Technical Acumen: A strong understanding of the project's technical aspects is very important. This doesn't necessarily mean being an expert in coding or engineering but having enough tech skills to make informed decisions and lead the team effectively.
    • Strategic Planning: The ability to develop a clear plan, including defining project scope, setting milestones, and allocating resources.
    • Agile and Adaptive Management: Many tech projects use Agile methodologies, requiring project managers to be adaptable, flexible, and able to work in iterative environments.
    • Stakeholder Management: Engaging and communicating effectively with stakeholders, including team members, company leadership, clients, and vendors, to ensure everyone is aligned with the project's objectives.
  2. Tools:
    • Project Management Software: Tools like Jira, Trello, or Asana are often used to track progress, manage tasks, and facilitate team collaboration.
    • Version Control Systems: Knowledge of systems like Git is beneficial for managing changes in software development projects.
    • Communication Tools: Proficiency with communication and collaboration tools like Slack, Microsoft Teams, or Zoom is needed for coordinating with remote or distributed teams.

Tech Project Management vs Traditional Project Management

While there are similarities, tech project management differs from traditional project management in several key aspects:

  1. Pace and Flexibility: Tech projects often operate faster and require more flexibility than traditional industry PM roles. Agile methodologies are more prevalent in tech, contrasting with the more rigid, linear approaches often found in traditional.
  2. Technical Complexity: Tech projects typically involve higher technical complexity and innovation. This requires project managers to have a deeper understanding of the technology involved and its potential impact.
  3. Team Dynamics: Managing a tech team requires a good understanding of technical roles and how different roles may benefit and complement each other.

 

Educational Route

Starting a career in tech project management involves self-taught skills and experience in entry level positions, as well as formal and informal education, certifications and more.

Formal Education vs Self-Taught Skills

Formal education, such as a bachelor’s degree in computer science, information technology, or business administration with a focus in IT, provides a structured and comprehensive learning path.

These programs often cover various topics, from technical subjects to management theories, and are recognized by hiring managers as formal education. Formal education can benefit your career a ton, but it isn't at all a requirement.

Conversely, the tech industry values self-taught skills, especially hard skills like programming, network management, and software development. You can prove your tech or technical project management (TPM) skills through experience and certifications you've received from 3rd party institutions.

Relevant Degrees, Certifications, and Online Courses

  1. Degrees: Degrees in Computer Science, Information Systems, or Business Administration with a concentration in IT or project management are beneficial.
  2. Certifications: Professional certifications like Project Management Professional (PMP), Certified ScrumMaster (CSM), or PRINCE2 offer specialized knowledge and are often recognized in the industry.
  3. Online Courses: Platforms such as Coursera, Udemy, and LinkedIn Learning offer courses in project management, software development, and other relevant tech topics. These courses range from beginner to advanced levels, allowing for tailored learning.

The Value of Continuous Learning

New technologies and methodologies are emerging regularly. This is why continuous learning is beneficial and necessary for tech professionals. Keeping up-to-date with the latest trends and advancements is essential for staying relevant and effective in your role.

This could involve regularly attending workshops, webinars, and industry conferences, as well as engaging with professional networks and communities. The commitment to lifelong learning is a key differentiator in such a competitive field.

 

Gaining Relevant Experience

Gaining practical experience is another important step in starting a career in tech project management.

Here are some effective ways to gain this experience:

  1. Internships: An internship in a tech company is a great way to gain hands-on experience and industry knowledge in the tech industry. It provides a glimpse into the workings of tech projects and offers a practical learning environment. Internships can sometimes lead to full-time positions or, at the very least, provide valuable contacts and references.
  2. Volunteering: Offering your skills to non-profits or community projects can be an excellent way to gain valuable experience. It's also an opportunity to work on real-world problems, which can be a talking point in interviews and on your resume. Volunteering may be more common to gain PM experience, but it is rare to gain IT experience volunteering.
  3. Personal Projects: Developing your own freelance projects or contributing to open-source projects can demonstrate your initiative, creativity, and technical capability. These projects can be included in your portfolio to showcase your skills and experience to potential employers.
  4. Non-Technical PM Roles: If you have experience in a project manager role, in a non-technical industry, you can still use this experience to validate your leadership and managerial skills in a more technical PM role too.

The Significance of Networking and Mentorship

Networking is vital in the tech industry. Attending industry meetups, conferences, and seminars can help you connect with professionals in the field. Engaging in online tech communities and forums can also expand your network.

Mentorship is equally important. A mentor with a tech background can provide guidance, and career advice, and introduce you to their professional network.

 

Landing Your First Role in Technical Project Management

Securing your first tech job requires a strategic approach, from crafting an impressive resume and portfolio to excelling in interviews and effectively utilizing job search platforms.

Create a Compelling Resume and Portfolio

  1. Resume: Your resume should clearly articulate your project management and technical skills. Highlight specific accomplishments in past projects or roles, quantifying results wherever possible (e.g., 'Led a team of 5 in developing a mobile app that increased customer engagement by 30%'). Tailor your resume for each application to align with the job's requirements.
  2. Portfolio: A portfolio is a powerful tool for showcasing your project management abilities and technical knowledge. Include detailed descriptions of projects you've worked on in your entry level positions, specifying your role, the technologies used, and the outcome. If possible, incorporate testimonials from supervisors or team members. For digital or software projects, provide links or screenshots.

Prepare for Technical Project Management Interviews

  1. Understand the Role: Research the company and the specific role you're applying for. Understand the technologies they work with and the types of projects they manage.
  2. Behavioral Questions: Be prepared to answer behavioral questions that explore your experience and approach. Practice articulating your experiences with challenges, team leadership, deadlines, and budget management.
  3. Technical Understanding: Even if you're not in a purely technical role, understanding the basic technical aspects relevant to the projects you'll manage is essential. Be prepared to discuss how you've collaborated with technical teams in the past.

Strategies for Job Searching and Leveraging Online Platforms

You can use job boards and company websites to search for tech jobs. Regularly check platforms such as Indeed, Glassdoor, and LinkedIn for new postings. Also, visit the careers section of companies you're interested in, as they may list openings there first.

You can also use LinkedIn to connect with industry professionals who have a successful career. Make sure to engage in relevant groups and discussions to increase your visibility.

After submitting your applications or completing interviews, don't hesitate to send a polite follow-up email. This shows your enthusiasm for the role and keeps you at the forefront of the employer's mind.

 

Conclusion

The journey to finding your dream job can be both exciting and challenging. It's clear that a career in tech, especially project management, offers many opportunities for growth, innovation, and impact. And while the technical skills required are fundamental, it's the soft skills, like communication, adaptability, and teamwork, that often set apart successful tech professionals.

Remember that each skill you acquire, and each challenge you overcome, brings you one step closer to that dream role. The path may not always be linear, but with determination, continuous learning, and a readiness to evolve, the possibilities in the tech industry are limitless.

 

Take the First Step Toward Project Management Career

Whether you're already navigating the tech world or looking to make a significant industry switch, Better Career's Project Management Accelerator is your launchpad to success. This program is a comprehensive career transformation journey, carefully designed to expedite your path to becoming a project manager.

Inside the program, you’ll get:

  • Essential PM Skills
  • Step-by-Step Directions to a PM Job Offer
  • Live Coaching + Q & A with Melissa, Yuji, and Mattie
  • Project Manager Portfolio (stand out to employers!)
  • Interview & Negotiation Guide
  • Proven Tools, Templates, Scripts, Cheat Sheets (💯 time-saver)
  • Private Supportive Community
  • AI Resume Builder + PM Resume Templates
  • 100% Money-Back Guarantee

Are you ready to accelerate your job search and step confidently into the world of project management? Join Better Career's Project Management Accelerator today.

 

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