Technical Project Manager Discussion

bookshelf from http://www.emanueleferonato.com

Technical project management is a topic I am asked about often. People ask if they need technical skills to be an IT project manager, etc. My response is to say you need a basis of technical knowledge, a foundation, in whatever technology or industry you are trying to manage projects in.

I saw an interesting comment pop up recently on a post here titled “Project Management Career Path and Technical Skills“:

“I cant understand how people can lead the technical project without or less technical knowledge, by sucking management and techies? I have seen so many PM they ask project schedule from TL, during meeting they cant understand technical requirment, completly depend on TL. Any one can assign the task to subordinate when you have power. that’s not a skills, It’s just misusing the power and making dirty team environment. as we all know to get technical knowledge is hard, very few people can do it. and at last they f**k by people who have sucking skills. I have been PM with strong technical skills. of course any technical decision making with help of team. if you have technical knowledge you can activity participate in team meeting. share and get knowledge. team feel confidence cause they lead by really hardworking person. so as per my opinion there should be no any PM without technical skills. when technical CEO (steve jobs, Bill gates, Lary page ..) can lead billion $ company successfully, How PM become so busy in large project? there are many big company f**k by these called softskills people, I would say sucking skills people. so there must not be any non technical person in lead position. then IT world will be more motivated and productive. sorry for using some abused words but i feel they needed here.” – Dipak

It seems this more of a general comment on the topic, rather than a retort to the post itself or other comments. One can easily infer this individual has had some very negative experiences where a non-technical manager was put in charge of managing a technical project. Those situations can easily turn out badly, and some of those reasons are mentioned in the post and comments:

“You could NOT substitute someone with no technical expertise about our specific domain and have them be successful out of the gate….someone with a system engineering background may be able to get up to speed within a few months though.

At the same time, I have seen project managers on both the government and contractor side that hurt more than they help, because they are technical enough (or think they are) to step all over the toes of their lead engineers and developers. – Josh”

How would you respond to Dipak, or just on the topic of technical skills for project managers? Please leave your insight in the comments.

Image from http://www.emanueleferonato.com/2009/01/01/are-you-a-real-programmer/

You may also enjoy:

Original post

Leave a Comment

One Comment

Leave a Reply

Avatar photo Bill Brantley

I know that PMI gives the impression that any PMP can successfully manage any project without having specific subject matter expertise. But I am a firm believer that the best project managers are the ones who worked their way up through the field before becoming project managers. These PMs understand how things actually work in the field and know when they are asking for the completely possible and the impossible. I’ll be the first to admit that I am not the best web developer in the world but I do have enough experience to know what other developers are capable of and can see through the techno-doubletalk when a developer is trying to convince the non-techies that something is harder and will take longer than actually will.

I also agree with the comment that a barely-technical person can be a big hindrance also. A PM has got to know their limitations and listen to their team when they need to. As a team member I feel more confident with a PM who has some familiarity with the subject matter so we can hold a productive conversation. I also like a PM who is willing to learn from their team.