I’m a senior software engineer with 9.5 years of experience…

Could this be you? "I am a senior software engineer with 9.5 years of experience. I have been Lead software engineer, SCRUM Master and other leadership roles, but my primary skills are technical." You want to move ahead, so what's the next step?

You may want to look for opportunities in management, at the moment your opportunities seem heavily weighted towards the technical side. Maybe your profile even highlights the technical side.

You're at a Crossroads

Moving into management may seem like quite a challenge, especially when you see the job openings available at least say they require at least 2 years of project management experience. In fact, many of them even say they "prefer" PMP certification, even though it's not a requirement. "Prefer" means that if you don't have it, and others do, you will either be automatically sorted out, or you will need to have something extremely compelling in your resume to stay int he mix!

This leads to a number of questions that you may have:

  1. What is the best way to move towards the project management side if things?
  2. Should I begin working on my PMP or other PM certification now? If so, what training and institute should I seek, and what is the approximate cost?
  3. How can I determine if I have the requisite project management experience to qualify for the PMP certification?
  4. Am I on the right track to even be thinking about project management and the PMP?

If your situation even partially resembles this situation, rest assured that there are many technical people that have been, or are in, a similar situation. You're actually at a typical crossroads in your career, and can either move deeper technically or into management, depending on where you want to go.

Here's one typical scenario: The Software Engineer moved to a project manager role while at the same company. The opportunity arose because the company realized it was deficient in the area of project management and started a project management training program.

So, one way to move ahead is to determine if your company has a project management training program or is willing to pay for you to go through a PMP training program. Obtaining the CAPM/PMP certification is very important in obtaining and keeping a project management position now and into the future. Remember, even though a job posting might say "PMP certification preferred", you are at the bottom of the job candidate list without the certification.

Do You Have the PM Experience to Qualify?

PMI takes into consideration different roles when assessing the hours needed for CAPM/PMP certification. The hours you have as a Lead software engineer will most likely be able to be applied toward the requirement. Keep in mind that different organizations have varying interpretations of "Project Management". Your responsibilities as a Lead software engineer might be more rigorous than those of some Project Managers. PMI requires that you have participated in project Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring and Controlling, Closing to some degree, and not necessarily in all of these Process Groups.

Whether you have the requisite experience or not, yous will need more in order to build a career in project management! Seek out any opportunities on the job to demonstrate your growing PM abilities. But there is something that can really help you get jump started...

One of the best ways to both learn and demonstrate your PM competence, in addition to studying and earning certification, is to get a hold of some PM templates and start using them. On every project you work, including very small ones, start out at least with the Project Charter template. Complete all questions, as if you were totally in charge of the project. This will force you to answer the key questions that a PM needs to understand and will completely change your perspective. It will change the way you carry yourself and will communicate to others that you are PM material.

Taking Action and Moving Ahead

The point of all of this is that there are clear ways that you can take charge of your career at the important crossroads between being a technical professional and a project manager. I hope this provides some hope and optimism that you can move your career to the next level and transition through this period of uncertainty.

Our PMP, CAPM, and related project management certification training offerings can be found at http://www.pmtrainingonline.com/pm_certification .

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