How in IT grow from a team leader to a project manager?

    Hello friends!

    According to the results of the article “ How do I become a project manager in IT, if before that I worked in a similar position, but not in IT? "There were questions, but what about Team Leads (TL) that are already working in IT? How do these Team Leads become project managers? This article will not intentionally mention the position of Tech Lead, which in my understanding is no different from Team Lead, in terms of growth from it in PM. Thus, TL abbreviation can be read by both Team Lead and Tech Lead.

    I must emphasize right away that there is not just a lot of material on this topic, but a lot of it, and putting it in one article is completely unrealistic. Moreover, meeting even a few articles is also an almost hopeless task. Literally every point, which will be discussed later, draws numerous trainings, a huge number of books, articles on the Internet, discussions with mentors and many, many, very many of your personal practice in working on yourself. And then repeat all the listed time-, power- and nerve-costs one more time.

    If, after reading this introduction, you still think that for some reason you still need to grow out of TL in Project Manager, and you are ready to invest time and energy in your development - welcome to read more. If you are not ready to invest in yourself and study, practice, study and practice again - there’s no point in reading further. Do not waste your time.

    To avoid some confusion, it’s worth mentioning that in this article I only analyze the “TL-> PM” option. I do not consider the option “Engineer-> TL” to reduce the volume of the article.

    How does TL become PM in everyday life? The main options are as follows:

    1. There is no one else. The team has grown and it is necessary to appoint someone, but there are no other candidates.
    2. The only one in the subject (knowledge holder). He knows almost everything about the technical side of the project.
    3. Multiple TLs, one position. Choose one of them.
    3. “Motivation” TL with a new job title. Your position was simply renamed, but you are doing the same thing as before. Motivation is a very controversial term in this case, therefore, in quotation marks.
    5. New PM vacancy (new or pilot project where PM is needed).
    6. TL already works as PM. Performs the functions that PM should do, i.e. already really ready to be PM.


    Having appeared in the role of PM, our Lead remained inside exactly the same person as before, that is, Lead (except for point 6 from the list above). All misconceptions about the role and functions of PM that PM should really fulfill - our Lead remained unchanged. What are these misconceptions?

    1. I am an excellent TL, helping my team, about 50% of my time writing code (if Lead is a group of developers) or doing testing (if Lead is a group of testers), or doing specifications and requirements (if Lead is a group of analysts). So in the role of PM will have to do about the same thing , only better, even better, faster. It’s like the next level in the skills that I already have.
    2. Since I am doing my job perfectly, the rest should also do their job at least "perfectly."
    3. I must understand everything that my subordinates can do, so that “in case of what” I would be able to do the work for any of them. Moreover, to understand at a level that exceeds the level of my subordinates.
    4. I’m a cool TL, and now I’ll do just a couple of new reports in addition to my usual duties - I can easily cope!
    5. PM gets a bigger salary, but works less - I want it too!
    6. PM should only make reports, sit in meetings and phoning with the customer - it's easy - I can handle it!

    Frankly (no one will know, except for yourself) - do you have at least one of these six errors?

    We often don’t even suspect how much it takes to be a PM! And we do not know this, not because we are stupid. Often this is simply because no one told us about this, and we remained captive to our misconceptions described above. But we ourselves are not capable of discovering this “brave new world”, because it’s completely different. And now it will become a little clearer why this is so.

    Career ladder

    Usually, in the minds of most IT employees, this ladder looks like this:

    In fact, it is completely different, more correctly, these are different career ladders:

    And since these are different ladders, then the skill set necessary for these stairs - different! I will say more, it is not just different, but completely different. In fact, this is a completely different profession . Have you changed a profession in your life at least once? Here is the transition between these stairs - about the same. You can estimate how much time it takes on average to master a new profession at least at the “average” level. Looking ahead, I’ll say - this is a few years at least.

    Moreover, the knowledge that helped you on the stairs number 1, on the second stairs will sometimesbother you. You risk falling into the trap of estimating deadlines - I myself, as a <developer | tester | analyst>, would have done this task in so many days, which means that my new subordinates will do it for exactly the same period. This is a serious mistake of novice executives who have grown out of TL!

    The second common mistake is the desire to "code." Yes, yes, it is coding (either testing, or working with requirements). Project Manager should never do this! It turns out that if you switch to the PM position and stop coding, your skills as a developer (tester, analyst) will drop. For six months of work at the PM position (ladder No. 2), your skills will slip from ladder No. 1, but not critical. In a year, it’s already critical and it will be very difficult to go back. Perhaps, but really difficult. And the return will require another six months or a year of reverse "addiction." Why might you want to come back? More on this later.

    Do not forget about six common misconceptions. If they were, then they have not gone away. And seriously stop you from being PM. Get rid of them as quickly as possible!

    Underwater rocks

    So, you are PM, grown from TL. What unexpected surprises do you encounter?

    1. Code . It is necessary to stop "writing code." Yes, again - stop doing it. Immediately. Otherwise, you are not PM.
    2. Knowledge . Your old knowledge as a specialist may interfere with you. It is difficult to realize this fact. Even harder to accept.
    3. Degradation . You are degrading as a specialist (ladder number 1).
    4. The authorities . You need an understanding of how to actuallythe customer / boss thinks (this is reporting on them, and correspondence / communication). You are now on the other side of the barricades, and understanding this side is imperative. Especially the customer. He suddenly ceases to be an enemy generating “strange” wishes, and becomes one whose position and whose look you need to find out and understand. Many PMs have not been able to achieve this skill for years.
    5. Not your own . You are no longer yours if you began to lead your colleagues. They suddenly stop sharing their experiences, opinions and situation with you in the project. After all, you have gained the power to reward and punish. And the word spoken incorrectly by them can lead to deprivation of the bonus or any other bad things for them. So they do not share.

    Along with such a serious blow to your picture of the world, there is a change in the zone of your responsibility. Now you are responsible not only for a part of the “code”, but also for people, for all delivery (time, quality, scope, customer satisfaction, etc.), sometimes also for a budget with salaries, and a contract.

    This is a radically different level of responsibility. Far not all are willing and able it to withstand. Especially if you wanted to be PM because of 4, 5 and 6 errors (see above). Just imagine - now you will be flying a hat not only for your own failure, but also for the failure of eachyour subordinate! If you have 10 subordinates, then this is 10 times more “flies over the head” than you had before. It is on this focus with responsibility that many turn back before it is too late, and until you have degraded as a specialist. And this degradation is inexorable. By the way, sitting one F on two chairs - will not work. Being a full-fledged PM, while professionally covering TL issues - will not lead to anything good. You will fail both directions, and with not a low risk for your entire career, and possibly for your health, which is not at all great.

    Does everyone need to be PMs?

    Remember the principle of Peter Laurence (Dr. Laurence Johnston Peter) or re-read the book of the same name.
    How to identify those who really needwho wants to become PM?
    Do they really want this? What does their behavior, facts, results say?

    TL must want and be able to become PM!

    If you are a managerand choose whether to upgrade your TL - think about whether he will be able to perform completely new responsibilities? Is he capable of doing this? Does he want to? His verbal statements alone are not enough. A TL must demonstrate by facts and actions what it wants and can (be able to) be PM. Entrust him with a pilot project, give him the opportunity to make mistakes, support him in “difficult turns” and, based on the results of the pilot project, discuss with TL the level of his readiness for a new role (rather than a position). And if the readiness is not yet 100%, then what is needed to become 100%. Make a list with dates and clear milestones. If TL is ready to go on this list - it is a potential PM. If he is not ready to invest and is not aware of all of the above, then this is not his. Perhaps not him yet.

    If you are TL and want to be PM 'ohm -learn and practiceBe PM regardless of your leader’s plans. If your manager helps you, great. You are very lucky. No kidding. Such help is very expensive. If your leader does not help you, this is not bad, you just have to put in a little more effort. Demonstrate to him not in words, but in practice, with the facts that you are ready to take responsibility for others and are already doing it (here is a list of when this happened and what positive results ended). Ask yourself a little sandbox, a pilot project where you could work out. Where they could make mistakes (everyone makes them) without critical risk for the main project. Ask your manager for help in the form of tips. One hour a week. Half an hour a day. Any regular time slot convenient for him. Do not be afraid to make mistakes. Do not be afraid to ask. Make a plan with the leader that you need to master in order to become PM. Do not be alarmed if the plan is big. Remember - this is a completely different profession. And knowledge with skills there is needed completely different.

    In conclusion:

    1. TL should be aware that "sit on the priest exactly"! = "Guaranteed growth in PM in a few years."
    2. “Stand up and done” thinking is exactly what PM requires. The salary-credit-Egypt style of thinking is something that seems to be good for TL but not at all for PM.
    3. Be proactive - who needs the most?
    4. It is important to perceive yourself and your role in the team, project, company.
    5. It is really necessary to be able to work with people.
    6. The constant readiness to work on oneself, to learn and change, to take responsibility for others is crucial.

    All this and much more are Soft Skills, without which you will be left with TL, but outwardly dress PM epaulets (new job writing). Epaulettes, of course, warm the soul, but inside you are still the same TL. Do you need it? Are you all up to this?

    Well, did you realize what you have to do? Really realized? Still want to become PM? If so, then review again the list of misconceptions and pitfalls. Yes, yes, go back now to these lists and review them carefully, even if you still remember them.

    Revisited? Are you still here Then it’s for you in the next article that I will write what, in my opinion, it is worth starting with, in order to start rebuilding your mind set in the direction of “being PM”, if you are really ready to do this, you are ready to become a real leader (about one of the features of which says Simon Sinek in hisperformance on TED ).

    The motivation to be PM is the desire to do something that one person himself cannot do in principle.

    PS: the original of this article (and other interesting materials) can be read on my blog:

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