I know a lot of Project Managers and they are all over 30 years old.
Are all project managers like that? I mean, is this about getting more experience than at least 7-8 years?
Or being a Project Manager is so hard? What do you think?
Communication is 90% of the job. The other 90% is keeping track of the bigger picture. It generally takes years of experience to see what needs to be done, make plans for it and effectively communicate that to a broad range of people involved on a project- from corporate stakeholders, customers and regulatory agencies to technical team leads and the technical implementation team.
I also tend to see a requisite degree of humility and confidence in plus 30 project managers that makes them more successful than younger pm's on larger projects.
Keep in mind, project management is more than task management and scheduling. It's hard because the project manager is accountable for the overall success of the project and whether the time and money spent was put to good use.
Most Project Managers are over thirty because you cannot really learn to be a good PM from just training but from experience. The more projects a PM has managed and the more diverse these have been, the more effective usually he/she is. You use different methodologies through the years and you certainly learn from previous mistakes. Project Management needs also strong leadership skills that usually you obtain through the years. The older you get you can also see the bigger picture so you can take better strategic decisions. Also you have dealt with a lot of different people so you are better in people management.
I can only speak for myself on this, but I would have made a lousy project/program manager in my 20's. Why?
It wasn't a lack of attention to detail, a critical component in being a PM. It wasn't a lack of technical knowledge, I knew the products I was working with very well. It wasn't a lack of understanding of the product lifecycle, I helped create the one for the company I was at in my 20's.
It was a lack of developed people skills.
It takes a lot of intense people skills to be a really great project manager. Few people have these in their early 20's (I applaud Trevor his success). It took me until nearly 40 to learn the difference between driving a team and leading a team.
It will be interesting to see how the up and coming crop of young project manager bachelors change the face of this. My guess is they will suceed or fail based on how much emphasis their degree work put on people skills.
I think the fact that most PM are more than 30 is not really related to the hardness of the task, but either because in most companies, you become PM only after you have proven yourself as operative. For example, in the IT business, you will first have to prove yourself as a valuable engineer before any hope of becoming PM. And it's caused by the increasing price due to experience: the years passing by, you become gradually too expensive for a simple operative work, and so your company will want you to switch to more managerial positions, like PM for example.
But the work itself is not so complicated: create the conditions to let your team do it's work, monitor schedules and, most important, contain pressure from above to avoid scaring your team...
You need broad experience (technical, personal, and organizational) before most companies will give you project management duties. Competent PMs can plan and oversee a project from beginning-to-end without burning out their team, which is rarely an easy task.
Earning the respect of technical teams BEFORE you manage them also takes time. People need to believe you'll ask the right questions, help solve their problems, and understand why they make different technical decisions. Your graphic is a good illustration of why project management is "hard"--you need general expertise, not only know how to write code or create a MS Project schedule.
It's not necessarily 'harder' than any other management discipline, but since it plays off of all the others, usually you need to have some experience in another area (mgmt or tech) before you can manage a project. For most companies a project represents a strategic component, so they want they to be sure whoever's running it is going to be able to do so successfully.
But there's no age limit. I started managing projects when I was 22. The key point around this though it that it's not about age, it's about complexity. I was managing projects, but they were relatively non-complex. It was only as I gained experience that I was looked at as being competent to handle more complex projects. By 30 I was handling both projects and programs, but only because I had the experience.
I think Project management is hard for two main reasons:
First you generally evolve from a technical leader role where things are globally well defined to a role where things are sometimes hazy, unclear or ambiguous. It may take you sometimes to clearly understand what to be done (or not), what are the corrects goals (official or not)… In the same times you need to give clear objectives to your team, so beginning a project is sometimes very anxiogenic.
Second, Team management is the most difficult part (See how many questions you have here). You can do bad choices (technical, process, functional) and may correct them easily if you are a good leader and are followed by your team (they may alert you, or work harder and later), but when you did Team management mistakes you may demotivate people and all can fall over. Don’t remember that you need to define goals first, and depending experience of your team, not the way to do it (All people can have good ideas). Don’t forget to listen, listen and listen…
All of us have been managing projects since we were five-years-old. The concepts are exactly the same whether you are building a replica of the solar system with your classmates or the next space vehicle working with NASA. The complexity, rigor, formality, and impacts grow. The point is, you take on projects consistent with the level of your competency and capability. This can and does happen at any age of seniority.
Age is a red herring. Most folks seem to equate years of experience with competency. The assumption is made that, if you have been managing complex projects for fifteen years, you are more competent and capable then one who has managed the same complex projects for five years. Banking on that assumption is at your detriment.
Skill, knowledge, and experience make up competency, with experience being the least reliable but upon which most folks rely.
PM of complex projects is difficult, but relying on someone's age and years of experience will not increase the likelihood of success in any reliable way.