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Insights / February 28, 2018

What Does a Technical Project Manager Do?

By Erin Miska

I’m over the moon about joining Software for Good this week as their new Technical Project Manager!

Erin Miska

No judgment if you are wondering what the heck that means; it can be a pretty elusive job title. I think this is partly because “Project Manager” is used in so many different industries. Regardless of the industry, it often involves things like planning, coordinating, monitoring progress, facilitating communication, keeping stakeholders informed and happy, managing budgets and timelines, etc.

In software development orgs, “Technical” often gets added in front of the title just to set us apart from project managers in other industries. Truthfully, I find the term a bit daunting; I’m not technical in the “I can write code” sense, and I’ve worked with extremely technical software engineers throughout the years… I guess it’s all relative! For me, managing software projects really comes down to two main things: communication and organization.

The project manager is essentially the liaison between clients with needs, and engineers who build stuff to fill those needs. Doing that well requires constant, clear communication between them. The hard part? The clients and the engineers don’t speak the same language. The project manager isn’t necessarily fluent in those languages either, but they have the time and patience to ask questions until they understand enough to translate back and forth. This saves the engineers a lot of time so that they can focus on what they signed up to do—build cool stuff!

The clients’ needs can often be pretty complicated, and the engineers can’t solve all their problems overnight. (Engineers have hobbies and families, too!) A big part of the project manager’s job is to work with the client and the engineers to break down the work into small chunks that we can actually make incremental progress on. Determining the size and order of those chunks can be tricky, but the project manager is there to help with all of that.

I like the role because I get to put my communication skills to the test, work with super smart engineers who always keep me on my toes, and ultimately help build cool stuff that solves problems for people. So there you have it! Technical Project Managers in a nutshell. Probably an oversimplification of a complicated job, but the tech writer in me likes to keep it concise. At least you’re starting to get the idea!