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#11. Career path of a manager and a few tips

The reason I went into the details of the company setup in the previous article is that I wanted to show a few other roles as well, which are a logical extension of the project manager's career development.
The classic project manager career path is junior-mid-senior project manager, then program manager, then senior program manager, and then portfolio manager.
The role of a senior project manager implies that he has 4-5 years of relevant work experience. The role of a senior program manager implies eight years or more.
Of course, in both cases, the manager will not have a question about his career - acquaintances will do their job, and s/he will begin to move from company to company. Positions will be called differently, but in general, the list of duties will be very similar.
So why, then, do we need this article?
The truth is that in practice, every second project manager will not become a program manager.
5 out of 10 program managers will not become senior program managers.
9 out of 10 program managers will not become portfolio managers.
The reason is rather banal. There are far more project and program managers in the world than there are companies of this size to have senior program managers and portfolio managers on their staff.
In the CIS and the countries of the Middle East, the situation is even sadder. There are literally a few large companies where a project manager could run through the entire career ladder.
What to do?
The year is 2022, and I have worked in IT for over 16 years (I am rewriting this article from scratch, as the rest of the articles were composed of notes from 2013-2017y). In many companies I have worked for, project managers have typically chosen one of four options:
Firstly, they can broaden their business and operations knowledge to become a small outsourcing company's COO (Chief Operating Officer). This is often the most convenient option, as the senior project manager already has a good understanding of how the company works and can easily manage a small staff of around 15 people.
Secondly, they can further develop their business, finance, and legal knowledge and open their own small outsourcing company. Essentially, becoming an entrepreneur. I have seen this happen more than ten times. Often the company is made up of friends and former colleagues - 5 to 10 people. They can then get project orders from UpWork or a similar platform.
In some cases, the company can be built on top of a new, long-run project that comes from one of the previous customers with who the project manager worked in the past.
Thirdly, they can expand their knowledge of sales, marketing, product releases, and psychology and transition into product management. This is a particularly sought-after role due to there being far fewer qualified product managers than project managers. In 2020, I wrote an article that detailed the role of product management and the skills needed to do it. This article was widely circulated, and I even got an invitation to a podcast to talk about product management. Why I'm saying, this is not to show off but to emphasize that the article is worth your time.
The last option available is to stay as a project manager. This is the most likely choice for most project managers, as salaries are increasing and they don't need to learn any new skills. However, this option can lead to a lack of motivation, as the skills and knowledge don't develop.
There are about 50 people in the company where I work now. We have two project managers and two product managers.
Our product manager has been working as a project manager for more than three years.
Our other product manager (me) has been working as a project manager for over five years. (To be fair, I'll add that I also oversee the company's operations.)
One of our project managers is a technical project manager. This is an intermediate role that we created between mid and senior project managers. In fact, due to the size of our company and the projects we work on, it is not practical for us to create the roles of "senior project manager" or "program manager".
As for our project manager, he is more likely to become an operations director than a program manager.
That's probably all about the career. Now, assuming you are taking your first steps in management, I would like to give you some top tips.
There are no stupid questions.
A manager's crucial responsibility is to seek the answers to a wide range of questions continuously. No matter what you're told, never stray away from the habit of questioning - and if you haven't already, it's time to start.
It's important to ask questions when you don't comprehend something. If someone is irritated by that, it could be a sign to look elsewhere. Those who have answers but don't share them are misusing their knowledge. Responsible people will be glad to help and put away their awards and certificates. Try to find companies where people will be happy if you asked questions.
You can't be the best manager in the world, but you can always strive to become the best within your current abilities.
Make the most of the knowledge you have now and create a plan for your professional development. Make use of Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) to store and structure the things you learn. Don't be arrogant, but make strong-willed decisions and lead your team. Remind yourself that knowledge is infinite and your learning curve is endless.
Say "I understand" only when you really understand.
It's okay if you didn't understand something. To learn more, ask questions, do research, and read. If you want to check what you know, try writing an article or explaining it to someone.
Every day is an opportunity to become a better version of yourself.
I remind myself of this with this phrase written on a glass board in my home.
Don't let anything stop you from growing. Establish the habit of learning something new (self-development, professional development) every day. Fill your time with activities that make you better. Don't stick to autopilot routines like being on social media and YouTube. Use your free time to read a book or take a break from work.
I use a 14" laptop at work and have a small portable monitor next to it. I divide the add-on screen into two parts, a book on the left and MS Word on the right to take notes. Every time I have extra time, I move my eyes to the portable monitor and read. This helps me read for at least an additional hour a day, which makes me very happy.
Work and study can be a single process.
It is not essential to follow trends by rushing to classes early or late, then returning home exhausted. We can teach ourselves to manage our work, study, and personal lives. We can reduce our time spent on the Internet, chats, and videos and use it to develop our knowledge and skills.
We can love a company very much, but this doesn't mean we will like working in it
If a company is ruining our career development, then no matter how cute the office is, how delicious the cookies are served in the kitchen, and how fabulous our colleagues are, this thing needs to be stopped.
You may be surprised to see how many people work in gigantic IT companies and do nothing useful while still getting paid.
Senior is a mindset, not a position
You will meet a lot of different specialists, but never let a high-profile position confuse you.
With the right mindset and understanding of your strengths and weaknesses, as well as highly developed communication skills, you can surpass the coolest “seniors” in many ways, even in the first year of your career.
Think big
There are so many clothing stores, dating sites, and cool companies out there - they are just a drop in the ocean. Our brains can achieve incredible feats. Don't settle for a job just for the money, seminars, and the feeling of being an expert.
What else to learn
  • Mortimer Adler - How to read books?
  • Jim Camp - Start with "No"
  • James Clear - Atomic Habits
  • Andrew Stellman - understanding Agile
  • Chris Voss - No Compromises
  • Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi - Flow
Courses and topics to research
  • PMI-ACP courses on Udemy;
  • Google Project Manager course from Google;
  • William Goldratt - Theory of Constraints;
  • The most popular programming languages and in what cases they are used;
  • Who is a frontend, backend, and full-stack developer;
  • What is the difference between juniors, mids, and seniors when talking about software engineers, QAs, project managers, and product managers;
  • Continuous Integration - Continuous Delivery (Ci-CD);
  • The cost of development of a mobile app in your local market, as well as in Europe, USA, and MENA regions;
  • What is MVP, and how the products are being released.
That's all.
Share knowledge and keep it simple. Great knowledge is a great responsibility; therefore, while gaining knowledge, use it as it should be for an ordinary person, without show-offs and pathos. Tame your ego.
Thank you