Monday, 15 July 2013

Careers in IT Beyond Development and System Admin - Project Management

There is no doubt that the for those looking to switch their career paths, the world of IT, or information technology, can provide an attractive option because of the basic fact that the world's demand for IT solutions is only going to increase. Whether it's the production of computing devices and software for the personal retail market or the creation and maintenance of IT infrastructures within the enterprise space, the demand keeps rising as we become more and more dependent on technology to underpin every aspect of our personal and professional lives.

When many people think of IT careers they may well think of writing code for software programs, or maintaining the hardware on which those programs run, however, there are a myriad of essential jobs which don't require you to touch a line of code or tinker with a server. The following piece highlights some of the primary but alternative skill areas that anyone looking to kickstart a career in IT should investigate.

Project Management

Perhaps the most salient example of an IT career beyond development is project management. Every IT project, for example the deployment of a new in-house administration system, the building of a new website or the release of a software package, requires the guiding hand of a Project Manager to:
  • bring all of the project members (developers, network administrators, testers, marketers) and other stakeholders (clients, company boards) together in collaboration
  • keep communication flowing
  • scope and plan the project - including project objectives, scheduling and defined completion criteria
  • track and report the progress of the project
  • manage risk
  • determine the methodologies and tools that the project will employ to meet its stated aims
Project Managers (PMs) are often required to become familiar with a variety of different technologies between projects however, they rarely need to be hands on with creating IT elements themselves. It is therefore beneficial to have experience in IT, but any suitable individual with the ability to learn quickly and build a good team around them - i.e., good interpersonal and other soft skills - will be able to succeed. It is often a lone role within a project team and therefore requires that the individual is capable of working effectively on their own as well as within a team; with the skills to organise (and lead) both themselves and their team. In short, it requires a multi faceted skill set incorporating and combining soft skills with a strong technical awareness.

One attractive benefit of a Project Management role is that the skills employed are largely transferable, especially between different areas of IT such as software developments and systems deployment, but also beyond the IT sphere into other areas of business. Often the only limiting factor will be the individual's ability to pick up the specifics of their project's subject matter, as mentioned above.

There are a number of other similar roles, which can take on the title of project management, but where some of the responsibilities and levels of control are diluted, including project administrators and facilitators. Sometimes these may work alongside a project manager and can present an opportunity to gain valuable experience about what the role can entail.

The next installment in this series of articles will look at =testing/quality assurance roles in relation to both software and hardware.

© Stuart Mitchell 2013

To find out more about training and qualifying to become a project manager you can check out this organisation offering ISEB (British Computing Society) examinations in London.

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