From Project Manager to IT Leader

One thing that I’ve heard often is that a project manager role is a good thing for your career and will help your ascent up the ladder to more responsibility.

I’m wondering how often this actually occurs. I’ve met a lot of Project Managers who have been PM’s for years and have had very little chance to be promoted.  Now, some of these people are perfectly happy being PM’s and don’t want to do anything else…but others are struggling with moving into higher responsibility positions.

I’ve got a good friend who’s looking to make the transition into a leadership role (she’s hoping for a Director or VP spot) and she asked for my thoughts on what she needs to do to make herself more appealing for a more senior role.

I couldn’t really answer the question…surprising I know! :)  She’s a great PM but an even better leader.  She understands business and technology and is a perfect candidate for a a senior leadership role but she’s found that companies are passing her over for advancement.  I took a look at her resume…everything looked great.    She’s personable and interviews well.  She has peer reviews and recommendations from current and previous managers…everything is the way it should…except she can’t land a job in a more senior role.

I’ve mentioned to her that she might want to start looking elsewhere because it seems as if her managers don’t want to promote her because she is skilled at what she does and they don’t want to lose a good PM.  I’ve seen this happen other places…people aren’t given a chance to move into a management role because they are ‘too good at what they do’.   Of course, that’s absolutely the wrong thing to say and do…if you have good people and they have the right skill sets to be a manager, you should move them into that role.

Does anyone have any ideas for those PM’s who can’t seem to get promoted?

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  • Bill McLaughlin

    I’ve been in different leadership roles for 6 years or so but I have PM roots. I think the biggest difference is the people management skills and experience. These skills and experiences don’t necessarily get flexed or honed when your focus is delivering a project. Also, I built them up over time. First managing a small team, then a big team, then a team of managers who managed teams. Jumping into a Director of VP role without the build up of people management skills is risky in my opinion. I would have failed had I not had the opportunity to build these up with roles of increasing size and complexity. My advice is to take a manager job with people/team management responsibilities and go from there. Your PM skills translate really well too! Good luck!

  • http://ericbrown.com Eric D. Brown

    Hi Bill.

    Thanks for the comment. You’ve got some great insight there.

    I agree…the ‘soft’ skills required for managing people are absolutely necessary for a successful transition into leadership position.

    Thanks again!

  • http://www.garydrumm.com Gary Drumm

    I’ve had similar situations in my own career. I came up through the tech ranks and worked my way into to management and finally executive management by building my skills, constantly reading and staying on top of technology, and performing above and beyond the call on many occasions.

    I have, quite literally done EXACTLY what you outline here. I simply moved on to another organization, taking on a bigger roll than the previous organization. Now, I’ve reached a plateau, which is why I’m currently working on my PMP and ITIL cerifications.

    I’d say set a goal, then do what you need to do to reach that goal. For my, my objective is to be CIO or COO of a technology company within the next 10 years. So I research what companies are looking for in those positions, learn it, apply it, do it, and then go get it!

  • http://ericbrown.com Eric D. Brown

    Hi Gary,

    Thanks for the feedback. Great points…many things that my friend is currently doing. I’ll let her know that she’s on the right road!