Project Management Part 2

Brida Audio
Brida Audio
Project Management Part 2

In the second conversation on Project Management, Igor, together with Ritesh and Frank, provides some concrete career advice.

Frank Ladies and gentlemen, we are live. Igor, off you go. It’s all yours.

Igor Okay. Thank you for being here again. Listen to my talk.

Frank You’re welcome.

Igor Again, let’s try to make it a chat because that’s, in my understanding, the best way to learn. And I’m also interested in learning your experience, both Frank and Ritesh. And a good start, I think, is to remember what we saw last week. So we talked about definition, which is kind of boring, but it’s a necessary step. So we understand what we are talking about. Like, we have this common knowledge of what is project management.

As I said last week, and I repeat again, my goal here is not to give you a lecture on project management because the real world is very different from a lecture. And most of the things you see about project management on the Internet, like, they are not useless. They are useful, but they most of the time are applicable in very specific circumstances. And maybe they are not useful for us at this moment.

Today, I want to be a little bit more practical. I want to talk about project management as a career, which is an important topic because my journey and the journey of many people I know who work with project management is very unusual.

And I believe that’s the case for most of the people entering project management. And that’s it. That’s it. Thank you again for being here.

Okay. I’ll look to my notes.

When it comes to the project management, something we have to consider is that when we talk about pay range. So, for instance, if you Google how the salary of a senior project management in the United States looks like, you get an answer like between $45,000 per year to $300,000 a year.

So, it’s a big range. It’s a considerable range, right? Do any of you have a guess why it varies so much? Do you guys have a sense why? So, we are talking about senior project management. So, someone experienced it in project management. They can earn in the United States something between $45,000 to $300,000. So, any guess why?

Ritesh In my opinion, I see that it depends on the domain as well as the person who is leading a project, what kind of project he’s leading. And level of expertise, I can say, because of that, there’s a lot of variation in the pay.

Igor So, you are saying that the type of project, it’s what influenced the pay. Is that what you said?

Ritesh Yeah. So, if a person who is leading a project related to a very technical background is required, that’s why the knowledge will come with the experience and that experience will cost a lot. It can be.

Igor kay. Good point. Any guess, Frank?

Frank To carry on from where Ritesh started, yes. The domain, so I think some people in the IT or in the artificial intelligence business, they will now have projects. They will be working on projects, leading projects on the top end of your scale, maybe even higher, because it is a highly, highly specialized field.

Where I come from, so first of all, I actually have to recalibrate my brain a little bit and say, from my understanding, the role of a project manager as a standalone career is relatively new. For the simple reason that where I used to be involved in, these were gigantic corporations and they had projects within this organization.

So, for instance, when I was working with what was then Daimler-Kreisler, which is now Mercedes-Benz, I was involved in a project setting up a brown site truck factory in Korea. And the project manager of this person was a person who had been working for the company for X amount of years, so he was recruited from within the organization. And his salary might have been adjusted a little bit to adapt to the new responsibility, but he wasn’t a project manager per se. He was just basically someone who was trying to get this thing off the ground. And therefore, the salary would be at the lower end of the scale.

So, I think where it comes from is probably a combination of both that if you have a large corporation, they will have project managers at the lower end of the scale, because they are just within the salary range.

But if you have a person whose job title is project manager, and he will work from project to project in different fields, in different stages of a project, then, of course, his salary will be different because he’s a standalone unit.

Igor Yeah, good points. Yeah, so both of you are right. And maybe a good way to explain why this range exists, like from a real world perspective, is to tell like two real stories, right?

So, imagine that person, let’s call him John, right? He has experience with marketing. He has done multiple projects regarding marketing. He’s very experienced in running ads, SEO, referral marketing, et cetera. So, you have this person who has like this huge marketing knowledge, right? And he joins that company to bring the results, to bring growth to the company. And to bring growth, he has to manage projects, right?

So, this person quickly sees he has the technical knowledge. He can move the need away faster because he knows what are important, how to operationalize things. The attention of the team should be focused, choose the right tool. He has like the knowledge to make decisions faster and more accurate, right?

This is the person A. Now, imagine this person B, let’s call him Mark. He joins the same company. He has the same challenge, right? So, his job is to make the company grow through marketing. And he’s a good project manager, but he doesn’t have the technical knowledge to do that. Imagine for a second how the routine of this person looks like. Like, if he doesn’t have the technical knowledge, right? If he doesn’t have the experience, the background to make decisions fast, imagine how his role looks like in a company, right?

I imagine when I think about that, I imagine this person being honestly, and remember, here we are talking about the real world. We are not talking about like what PMI say your career look like. This person will be a secretary.

And there’s no harm in being a secretary, but a person who doesn’t have the technical knowledge to move things because it requires technical technology, it’s, at the end of the day, it’s a secretary.

And secretaries, they don’t get a lot of money because what they do are very replicable. Like, what they do can be replaced by other people, can be replaced by tools, can be replaced by artificial intelligence. So yeah, they get less money. So that’s why their range is so huge because the technical knowledge is very important and it ranges a lot across different professionals.

So as Frank suggested, and this is a very important lesson for anyone willing to enter project management, is project management is like an add-on. It’s not the main skill you should have. Project management should be a way to boost your career and your knowledge to make things happen, but shouldn’t be your main skill. Otherwise, you’re going to be very limited. And the person be, like Mark, as I suggested, very likely, and I have seen it happen many times.

I see it happening now, like in the company I work, in freelancing gigs I get, like I see it all the time for, to where I look, I see this kind of professional. They have good willing, they are good people, they are organized, but they don’t have the technical knowledge to move things. So what they do, they follow up, they organize spreadsheets, they create reports, not most of the times reports that doesn’t help that much because they don’t have the technical context about things.

So if you are looking to enter project management, you should understand that. You need a skill, like a specialization, and project management should be an add-on, like something that underlies your specialization. Otherwise, you will be a secretary. So does it make sense, like can both of you think of this, like let’s use both examples.

So in your experience, being it like the actual experience or in the past, can you relate to this, like do you know people who are very good at a technical skill and can move things and they also can manage projects and they do better because they have this technical skill?

And have you guys met this kind of person who cannot move things because doesn’t have the technical knowledge to move, so what he does or what she does is just follow up, organize a spreadsheet, acting as a secretary?

I will start with Ritesh.

Ritesh Yeah, so I have seen people, like I’m not talking about the project manager, but I’m talking about the development team and all the things. So I have seen people who are leads, we call it leads. They are only for managing the people. They don’t have technical knowledge and they always try to get something from the team and the team says that, no, it cannot happen.

So they have to accept because they don’t have a technical knowledge and they say that, yeah, fine, my team is not accepting and all. But if you have a technical knowledge, then you can argue with them that how it is not possible. And we have seen such cases in our project that sometimes the lead says that it cannot be done. And then we analyze when the people from the trial, the product team and the development team, then the design team, they come together and say that they analyze the things.

And then finally, it is an easy thing, but the lead is not able to decide and give the perfect solution for that.

Igor So I completely agree with you that, yeah, those people are only for managing people and they will not have, they can’t run a successful project in such a manner that if you don’t have technical knowledge. Yeah, and before you say something, Frank, I want to go back to what Ritesh said because that’s a very important phenomenon that’s going on now. But I just want to add before Frank shares his opinion on that is that in our experience, is this person respected? Like, imagine a leader who manages a bunch of programmers, and this lead doesn’t know anything about programming. Like, what do you think? Is there respect to this person?

Ritesh To be honest, he is not respected. He is a part of the team. Then you say that as a colleague and as a co-worker, you can say yes. But at the heart level, you say that no, this person is not fit for that. But because you are just doing, managing people, you are saying to do something and it happens a lot in Indian culture, in Indian work environment. I see that people are only hired for managing people. They don’t have any knowledge better than managing people, asking them and making sure that they will do, extrovert them to work. So that is, but they don’t get respect, really.

Frank Yeah. I can think of two cases of two people that I worked with. One person used to be a product controller with Mercedes. So he had incredible detailed knowledge of the product itself, of Mercedes cars. So the top end of the, I think it was the equivalent of the C class or even the S class. So it was like the really expensive version of the product range. But he also had an incredible knowledge of costs and cost management and controlling these costs and matching them to the product. He left Mercedes, not on the best of terms.

And we sat down for a while and my job was to prepare him for job interviews in English, et cetera, et cetera. And he was veering towards what in Germany is called interim management.

So what you get is you look for, a company will look for a person who can take on an aspect of the company and clear it, tidy it up, change it, do something with it and make it work again. And so this would be a project. And you’re looking at a daily rate. So it’s here that it’s not an annual salary, but these people are freelancers. They are self-employed and they will charge a daily rate of anywhere between 1,800 euros per day to two and a half thousand euros per day. Yeah. Multiply that by month and you come to your annual salary, you’re moving towards the top end of the scale.

So basically these are people who will work in companies for a specific duration with a specific goal. Whether that is a project in the true sense of the word, probably not.

But to carry on with this discussion, are they respected? Yes and no. They are respected by the senior management of the company. They are probably not respected by the junior staff. The second case is with another company that I worked with.

It was called Bombardier Transportation. So they were responsible for building locomotives throughout the world. It was at the time a Canadian company, so they had two divisions, the railway division and the probably heard of it, Bombardier airplanes, aircraft. And I worked in the railway side of it. And this guy, he started as a technical engineer, so he knew a locomotive down to the last screw.

And he had laser vision and he was not respected. He was actually feared because he could sit in senior meetings and take somebody apart because of a small detail that he had picked up and nobody else could pick up.

He rose through the ranks and then left and now he runs his own company based in Switzerland So he’s really risen up. He’s got his own company with two or three partners in Switzerland. And his job is also to buy companies, re-engineer them, to revive them and then to get them off the ground again.

So these are projects which, and of course this is the beauty of a project, can be anything you want to define it as. And the skill set then to confirm what your story is, the basic premise is that somebody has technical knowledge.

So they have a knowledge, in my case, they have a knowledge of finance and costs and cost management attached to a product. And they will know how to squeeze costs or make a division profitable or something like that. It is a short term process. They have to manage the team. They have to fit in with the corporate culture. But they can be more effective because they are not actually embedded in the culture.

They’re just sort of like stuck on like a leech. They suck everything that’s bad out and throw it away and inject goodness. And with that, they have much more authority and power to get something done. And whether they like, whether they are respected or liked is actually not really important because they have a job to do. And when the job is done, the contract is finished. And depending on their reputation, they don’t have to look for another job. They’re actually queuing outside his door waiting for him to do something.

So there you have the technical as well as the special skill that we talked about last week to what we classified as the art of project management. They can just do it somehow and it gets done.

Igor Yeah. And let’s take in consideration that management, like so understanding accounting, understanding costs, like that’s a technical skill. So, yeah. And this conversation is important because there’s like for the past, let’s say, four years, maybe five years, there is this delusion of a non-technical product slash project manager.

That’s a delusion. Because what happened is you have a bunch of technical people and you need someone to manage them, right? But it’s hard enough to get a tech. Let’s talk about programming, but it applies to other industries.

So let’s imagine you have like five, let’s say, Python programmers, right? And you need someone to manage them because their job is to code, right? They are not managing the team. Each one is working on this thing. But it’s hard enough to find a Python programmer. It’s way harder, maybe almost impossible, to find a Python programmer who are willing and have the profile to manage a team, right?

So what was the brilliant solution? Let’s hire no technical product managers. And I haven’t seen it work. Like, I have worked with many project managers in past projects. I still want to see a non-technical product manager, like, being able to move things. To be fair, there are a few that can do the job well, but that’s because they learn very fast. But this kind of non-technical product or project manager who doesn’t have the technical knowledge, is not learning, are not willing to learn fast, and think that just by following up, like, organizing all the tests in Trello, moving from doing to do column, that’s a failure.

And it’s hard to see. Like, one of the last projects I had before selling my agency in Brazil was, like, this huge company in Brazil who managed, they had a huge game, like a lottery game. And they would sell, like, millions every day. So it was a huge company with a very complex environment because it was very technical.

And I remember entering the room, like, I was the service provider, right? So, my role was just to see marketing. But I remember entering my room in which their non-technical product manager was trying to, how can I say, was trying to, like, put accountability on the technical team for a specific feature. And it was, like, it was louder. It was very hard to see this non-technical product manager. Very nice guy, by the way. Like, extremely nice person. Like, very empathetic, very kind.

He couldn’t navigate the conversation because he didn’t understand what was the problem. He didn’t understand how to solve. He had no idea how long it would take, what the results were needed. And that, I have this in my mind because I can see very clearly those types of product manager, right? So I see three types.

And that’s important for anyone willing to start as a product manager. And then I share my story. So you have, like, a project manager who have a specialization. I think that that’s the way the path you should seek because you’re going to get more opportunities.

You’re going to be more successful in your career. You’re going to be more respected. You’re going to be able to make things happen, right? And it’s way easier to get a job if you have a specialization. You have the project manager that has no underlying skill, that they don’t have a specialization, but they know project management, right? At least the theory. Maybe they have a little bit of experience, but they don’t have, like, this core skill. This is very hard to get a job, like, very hard.

Maybe you’re going to get a job in a huge company, like, a very big company in which you have, like, the HR people making bad hiring decisions. So I don’t recommend this path because it will be harder to get a job and your life will be very hard. At the minimum, your life, like, your career will be unsatisfying because you’re going to be a secretary and not a project manager.

And also you have the third type, which is they exist and maybe they are the majority, right? You have those people within companies that they are project managers, so they have the knowledge of project management, and they don’t have a core technical skill, but they know how to navigate the company, right? It happens in huge companies. So you have this person that they can manage projects and they can get results, not because they know the technical skill related to the project, but because they know the company very well. So they know how to network, they know how to fight for resources, they know how to sell because they understand the company very well.

So we have this third type, which is Frank mentioned this example of someone coming from within the company. It happens a lot in huge corporations. So you have this person that they are not particularly good in any technical skills, but they know how to navigate the company. They know the hierarchy, they have the right contacts. And then they can make things happen. It’s a path, of course, but it’s a little bit unpredictable. You don’t have much control over it.

And I think it’s very risky. I have seen in the pandemic, especially in the pandemic, because I still had my agents. So I had contact with at least 50 clients when I had my agency in 2020, right, when the pandemic hit. And I have seen people with over 25 years of experience being fired, and they were good employees. They had careers of over 25 years. They got fired because of the economic crisis, and they couldn’t get the job.

So imagine someone with an MBA, like very qualified with a lot of certifications, but they couldn’t get a job because they were very good at the job they had because they knew how to navigate the company, not because they knew a valued skill in the marketplace.

So that’s dangerous, and it’s unpredictable. So those are the three types of project management I see, like paths I see.

And that’s why I recommend the first one. So it’s good if you want to start your career in project management. I’ll give some tips in the end, like more practical tips. But consider that the best way, at least in my opinion, is to have a career skill, and then your project management is like the differential I add on and not the main thing.

Frank And I think, just to throw this thought in, and I think, can you really become a project manager at the tender age of 30 plus if you don’t have the core skills and the experience to support the core skills?

Yeah. Maybe there are just maybe too many pipe dreams on the market that people looking for quick wins and instant money and just add water, press a button, plug and play, and everything works. I think we need, from my perspective, we need to maybe slow down a little bit and just do some basic bread and butter work, learn how things work.

Networking and finding your way through a company is part of it. But you can’t really do that unless you know what you’re talking about. If someone knows everything there is to know about costs and cost management, he’s going to have an easier task at the end of the day than someone who’s just, excuse my French, bullshitting his way through the day.

Igor Yeah, I agree. And to be clear, there are phases in the economy that bullshit has a higher degree of acceptance. So don’t be mistaken that that’s the rule of thumb because it’s not. A lot of people can bullshit their way through things, but it’s very specific for the moments in the economy. Although I am 32 years old, probably Frank has more data on that, but you have those moments in the economy in which everything is inflated and almost every bullshit is accepted, right?

So think about two years ago, everyone talk about NFTs, which is a huge, like, I understand the technology, I understand the value, but come on, like, buying APES figure for hundreds of thousands of dollars, that’s bullshit, right? And the economy allowed for that, right? But the chart lives most of the time. So keep in mind, if you see bullshit happen, it doesn’t mean it’s like a rule of thumb. It’s just this variation in the matrix, this glitch in the matrix.

Frank We had the first bullshit phase with the first dot-com bubble when the internet started taking off and everybody was selling pipe dreams and then the bubbles burst. We’re just coming out of the second bubble now, where things like NFTs, I mean, I remember watching one marketing expert on YouTube.

She was expelling NFTs like they were nobody’s business, thinking, what’s she talking about? I don’t even understand the concept. And I remember you, Igor, posting something on LinkedIn back in November 22 when ChatGPT started and you said, let’s say the first of November, the number of experts who know about artificial intelligence and chatbots, zero. The second of November, the number of experts who know about chatbots, 10,000.

So overnight, nobody knows everything, but you have 10,000 experts claiming that and the University of YouTube is full of these people.

Igor Oh, yeah. I remember. Do you guys remember when Facebook launched the threads, social media threads?

Okay. No joke. I’m not exaggerating. It really happened. So in the same day, in the following morning, I remember seeing it like I was in Brazil.

 I opened my phone. Okay. Instagram sent me a notification that now we have threads. Okay, cool. So everyone were talking about threads this night. No joke. The next morning, I was making breakfast and I was browsing Instagram. I saw an ad and the ad promised to teach you how to make money with thread as expert and they would send you to the landing page and the landing page full of bullshit that we know, right?

Frank, you know, I have done that in threads. I am successful. You see what people tell about my product. And it’s less than 12 hours. No one knows shit about threads. That was everything working 100%.

And people are selling like, what’s the trending name? They have a, man, I have to remember, but this group of people like Mind Master, something like that, they are selling master classes on threads, you know.

Frank I mean, you have it now with artificial intelligence. Yeah. The core message, and I think this is really important. I am speaking, I am showing my age here, but I think this is really important. What is your goal? Do you want to make a lot of money? Which is not going to work.

Or are you going to have a decent foundation and still make a lot of money, but probably be more respected and happy doing that because deep down you know that you are not selling bullshit. That you are actually doing something valuable, that you are contributing to the organization and you are contributing in a serious way to the gross domestic product of your country. Which is what people forget. And this is, I mean, I am just surprised by the amount of instant money versions. But what I am also interested in observing now is that a lot of these people are actually dropping out of the system because they are burning out. Facebook is manipulating the algorithms, not Facebook, YouTube is manipulating the algorithms. They are putting more and more pressure. So the bubble there is beginning to burst because it is just not sustainable. There is no foundation on which to build that.

Igor Yeah, it is definitely not. Especially working for marketing, I have seen people having these quick wins and then they think that that is a rule and they fail and it is sad. I know lots of people, I am not a friend of them, but I know dozens of people who got very depressed for instance because they got this quick boost of money.

They thought they got it. They understood the word. They understood how the word works. And then suddenly they just realized it was a little bit of luck, a little bit of momentum, right?

Okay, but I have to leave at exactly five minutes. So just to finish, I want to just explain what I see like a good path for entering project management. Or if you get a job like if you want to pursue a raise or something like that, which is what I did, right?

So I have the core skill of marketing and I am like this technical type of marketing, right? So I don’t have anything against those type of like the creative kind of marketing, but I am more technical, like I like numbers, etc. And what I did, so I sold my marketing agency and then I didn’t know what to do for a while. I was like doing talkers in Brazil, doing workshops, like doing nothing.

I was six months in Brazil kind of, I don’t know what I’m going to do, right? And Frank was part of this process, by the way, if you remember well. So and then like being the person I am, I just started to think what would be the next step.

And I don’t know exactly what triggered my interest, but I got through PMI, which is the Project Management Institute.

Oh, first I did a Coursera course on project management by Google because I wanted to understand, okay, what it is. I always heard about project management, but I didn’t quite understand what’s the role of project management. Then after doing this course on Coursera, I got the certification and I got in a LinkedIn group in which people would share their certificate, the Google certificate.

But I noticed that some people would share this PMI certificate, which is like the PMP certificate, and people like made a big deal of that. And then I searched about this type of certificate and I just realized, and I still think it is, if you want to call yourself a project manager, like if you want to be taken seriously by the market, you should have the certification.

It’s called the PMP. It’s not the easy you have. It seemed like I was back in high school because I would have to memorize those things that I will never remember again. It’s not a pleasant process, but the certification opens a lot of doors. And I did that. I went through that. I passed the certification.

And then I started to approach people of companies I kind of admired because I had this mindset, okay, I will have to work again because I just cannot not work. And then I started to approach a lot of people.

And the certification opened a lot of doors because I would call myself, like my sales pitch was I am a project manager with a lot of experience in marketing, sales, and growth.

That was my sales pitch. And I was able to support that because I have the PMP certificate and it opened a lot of doors. I exchanged messages with a bunch of people. I got a few interviews and I got hired in the end.

But that’s for people who are considering to enter project management or asking a raise, I recommend this certification.

And then you need the sales pitch. And the sales pitch is pretty much what we talked about today. So you need a core skill and project management is like the add-on. It shouldn’t be the main thing. You still can get jobs like being a project manager by itself. Like it’s not impossible.

But as I said, you will probably get it in small companies and your life will be very hard. You will be a secretary, which is fine as well. It’s better than having no job. But it’s not the career you are thinking of that you’re going to lead big teams, you’re going to be respected. And it’s not going to happen probably.

Do you guys have questions? I felt like I talked more this time compared to last time. But now we have three minutes. I just want to hear your thoughts, answer questions and know what you both think.

Ritesh I was relating your talk and I can see that it’s very, very important to have the core knowledge skill. And then you can add this certification or this project management skill. And this is the best way. And I’m not looking that higher. But in the process and maybe in future, if I have my skills, whatever I do, it grows and then it can move towards the direction.

Especially I’m looking for the product analyst or some kind of career path and that can lead. Because I see that in our organization or any organization that you can’t directly jump to that role. If you are going through the path, then you have to become one step here to become closer to that role. And then you can the next time you can have preparation, more preparation.

And then you can say that I have skills and I have done a little bit and then they will add. So, yeah, definitely that skill is very, very important in any knowledge. Because the project management is only you are managing people with your core skill also.

Frank I can second all of that. And I’m probably the living example of this because my actual core skill is hotel management. That’s where I started from. And I worked in hotels, very complex operations, a lot of people skills.

I left that retrained as a language trainer and I progressed from there. So, the message that I’m saying here is yes, you have to have a core skill but nothing is linear. You can actually branch out.

And that’s if you manage to combine a core skill with experience from different fields, with different factors, with different everything. And then you go down the world of project management with the certification. I think that’s an unbeatable combination.

So, Igor, thank you very much for illuminating this to say that we can be good project managers as long as the foundation exists. You build your foundation and then everything else is possible.

Igor Yeah, there is this saying that you don’t really understand something if you cannot explain it. And I feel like I’m understanding it better by explaining. So, thank you for listening to me.

Ritesh It’s very good. It’s very kind of both of you. Yeah, and it really shows that level of knowledge you have in this area. I was really happy to know all those things. And the message from Frank and his inputs, it is really helpful to know all this. Thank you once again for taking this up and explaining us.

Igor Thank you, man.

Frank We meet next time and carry on with your thoughts, Igor.