I'm a software developer with five years of experience and I want to start a career as a project manager. Today I'm seeking for a new job, related to management where I find myself much more valuable due to my communication skills. But it's kinda hard, because all the positions ask for previous experience, and although I have experience in project management (I'm the head developer on my team and we don't have a PM, so I end up being the PM and not coding at all) I don't have any explicit experience or course/certification.

I believe many of you are project managers in IT companies, so I ask you: are there any known steps to go from a software developer to project manager? Have you seen any successful case? Should the developer start courses on the subject? Or it's easier to start acting as a PM and get experience from that (like I did)? The knowledge on software development is a plus?

PS: I'm sorry if the question is not actually a question with only one possible answer, but I think some people here might share the same doubt. Feel free to close the question if you think it's off-topic or it doesn't belong here.


4 Answers 4


Getting a certification of some description is your best first step. Not only does this give potential employers confidence that you have a certain minimum level of knowledge, but it also gives you a chance to see where you are falling short in the on-the-job training you have been getting. While nothing is better at training you to be a PM than real world experience, you need either a mentor or training beforehand to avoid going down the wrong path. I started out in a start-up environment with a team that was trying hard but simply didn't know what we didn't know, and I had to spend a lot of time unlearning bad habits after I left.

CAPM has been discussed by Chris. Another route is PRINCE2, I found this to be a good first certification that is complementary to my PMP but, at least for me, a lot more useful for immediate implementation in the workplace. This is because PRINCE2 is more of a framework for conducting projects rather than a body of knowledge, I found it relatively easy to take what I was already doing and fit it into that framework so that the projects became more controlled.

Knowledge of the field is important if not essential. If you don't you may not be able to communicate in an accurate and timely fashion, you won't understand customer requirements or technical limitations, you won't be able to tell if the team is padding or shorting their estimates, you won't be able to identify risk triggers etc etc. If you have a mentor or a good team that is very proactive and reliable to support you then you can get away with limited knowledge, otherwise you are going to do a lot of learning from mistakes.


For whom would you want to manage projects? If it is your company, then start learning how they manage projects. Have a corporate mentor. Read management materials. Find out what materials are most widely respected in your field. Consider learning important high-demand disciplines like TQM, Lean, Agile, etc. Follow the best managers you know, and reflect on their successes and failures.

Classes and certificates are all good and well, but the important thing is to "get the goods," and be able to actually do the work.


I am actually taking an interim approach. I started off as a software developer (read: coder as I do believe there is a distinct difference between a coder and developer) and realized it wasn't my passion. I have moved to the business analyst role in an effort to round off my skill set and as time progresses, possibly move into a PM type role.

Right now, I'm really enjoying being a BA, working side by side with a great development team (so I'm not completely removed). This also gives me a lot of hands on training working with a PM and utilizing them as an unofficial mentor.

Just my particular path.

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    Could you perhaps elaborate on how you went from a coder to the BA role? Oh, and you're right on the coder-is-not-a-developer thing :) Commented Jul 17, 2011 at 16:21
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    My apologies for the delayed response. I would be more than happy to share my transition. I only have 500 more characters to do so =). As a developer in a small shop, I was often times responsible for gathering my own requirements and interacting with the client. We didn't have formalized BAs. To really get hands off in terms of the coding aspect, I had to move to a larger company that had a specific BA role. I was forced to be hands off the code, which in turn forced me to refine my communication and written soft skills to help facilitate the software development process. Commented Aug 15, 2011 at 20:52

From my perception, it is the right time to jump into the PMP certification. People mislead PMP as an experience based exam but I treat it as an interest driven exam. You have ample experience for any certification, remember certification will not give you a jump start but it will help Job givers to select your resume from huge stacks. In fact, who don't want to keep certified people in their organization.

Check this link to read other certification related to project management. I am also a software engg. with 2+ years of experience but from last 1+ years I am 100% dedicated to project management and soon I am appearing for CAPM certification, as I have no other choice because PMI has restricted the eligibility for PMP to 3 years, minimum.

I is always a good practice to choose a proffesion in which you feel that you have interest.

are there any known steps to go from a software developer to project manager?

I doubt, it may be deepnd upon organization to organization. Microsoft now a days recommending each associate over 3+ years experience to go for PMP. It certainly give them a project life cycle knowledge.

Have you seen any successful case?

Yes, I have seen many young people in the management side, only because they are talented and more because they love the work they are doing.

Should the developer start courses on the subject?

PMI recommends individuals to start PMBOk which is written/contributed by project managers around the world.

The knowledge on software development is a plus?

It will create a positive impact, indeed. But it is not mandatory for a project manager to be expertise in technical domain but a general understanding is must. For example: Let say you get a job in any soap making company then all your knowledge about software will be in vain. In that case, you need not require to know the chemistery behind "soap making" but all you need to understand that what is require for the project life cycle.

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