"When you took a project management job, it was an internal job transfer, right?"
I stared at the screen of my phone when I got that text message because I honestly was unsure how to even respond. The person who sent me this question has known me for half of my life, but in that one sentence – that one question – I was reminded how little she has asked me about things like my job and how much she has guessed based on ….based on, I’m not sure what.
What made this even worse? I think she was trying to use me as an example of how to break into project management to a friend who has a degree in something like geology, and is now trying to figure out what non-academic jobs it transfers to. In talking to him, she thought of me and how I got into project management.
Wow. And, uhm….no.
How do I, in text, explain that first off, I had a computer science degree and went into the technology field after college — I didn’t enter technology with a degree that didn’t match. The barrier that would have caused was not applicable in my situation. Then, I would have to explain how project management was viewed as a skill – just like troubleshooting hardware – that we were all expected to have as part of our jobs. And if you were a manager, you were expected to be able to manage large scale projects along with your day job. We did not employ anyone who had a full-time job as project manager.
After laying the groundwork, I’d then have to explain how the two contract roles I took were titled Project Manager, but they were actually an IT consultant role with project management as part of it. I had to be an IT person first and foremost because the skill I brought to the table was my experience with technology and software…..oh yeah, and once we got the technology and all sorted out, I would need to make it happen. My last job, while strictly a project manager, was not my desired role. I only took that one because the job market sucked, and I needed the job and money – so took it.
Lastly, I’d have to make sure she realized that I am not a project manager now – but a development manager. Sure, I may manage a project as part of my skill set – but again, secondary focus to what my job is.
After staring at the screen a bit more as I’m thinking about all of the things, I responded to a few work emails as I mulled over about how to respond. In the end, I simply wrote:
"I’m not the best example of how to get into project management given I only got into it directly after the job market went to shit. Before that, it was always something my IT jobs expected I had as a skill set just like my current job does. If he wants to do project management, tell him to look into getting a PMP."
A few minutes after I sent this, her response was, "oh…"
While I hope that "oh" is code for, "oh shit, my assumptions about your career and how you got the skills was really wrong – maybe I should talk to you more about things so that when I’m using you and your experience to provide career advice that I actually know if it is applicable to the situation my friends are in."
Sadly, I think the "oh" was more that she was now going to have to figure out how to be the expert without my help or her own misinformation.
Guess that’s the sad situation you find yourself in when you assume instead of really know someone.
I think she should really be saddened more about how little she really does know about me – even though we have been "friends" for half of our lives.