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I've just started as an intern for a big company, so this obviously doesn't immediately apply to me. I love programming, however, I'm still considering potential career paths I may be most suited for.

I've read a lot of stories on here about people moving up to management, regretting their choice and moving back to programming.

What personality traits imply that project management is the right route for a programmer? What types of people make the best managers and enjoy the role?

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  • Did the OP ask about personality traits or about behaviors? – David Espina Jul 27 '11 at 9:47
  • personality traits. Behaviors might suggest traits, though. – Casey Patton Jul 28 '11 at 22:29
  • Certain behaviors are consistent with certain personalities. However, trying to interpret a set of exhibited behaviors to try to pinpoint a personality type is very difficult, even for those trained. Bottom line is, there really is no evidence that certain types are more conducive to PM success than others. There is evidence that certain types are attracted to PM, but job attraction and success on that job are not necessarily correlated. – David Espina Jul 28 '11 at 22:50
  • 1
    Well, my question wasn't from the perspective of me looking at other people and trying to figure out if they are project manager material. Rather, the question was from the perspective of self-reflection and determining whether I should pursue that path. I feel like people have a pretty good understanding of their own personality traits, so it's probably not necessary to analyze their own behaviors. Thanks for the contribution. – Casey Patton Jul 28 '11 at 22:55
  • Ah, got it. Go for it! It's fun. – David Espina Jul 28 '11 at 23:10
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Here in our company, we have two paths to follow: Delivery (i.e. analysis / management) / engineering. There are some details that highlights each profile. I'll share some of them.

  • Communication: I believe the greatest watershed between these two careers. A Manager basically keeps the communication flowing. An engineer doesn't need as much communication skills as a manager.

  • Problem approach: While engineers needs both focused and (at least a kind of) broader vision, understand the big picture is always a must for a manager.

  • Organization: An engineer needs to organize his own agenda. A manager needs to know what most of the people is doing (in a general manner).

  • Patience and Leadership: It's funny to have both words as a synonym... but a manager needs to listen carefully and put himself in other people's shoes to know the best way to handle problems. Engineers usually aren't that worried about someone else's problems. And in some cases, they're causing relationship conflicts.

  • Edit 1: Passion for technology: Although we expect managers to understand the newest technologies and be able to discuss about them with the development team, in my experience I've seen that people REALLY passionate by technologies (specially new techs) aren't likely to want to do managerial tasks (fulfill documents, as they say).

Apologies if a comment may be misunderstood by an engineer. I need to make clear that, although our development guys aren't very communicative, they're just amazing doing their jobs.

2

There are a lot of aspects to project management; it is not just the leadership skill. Many personality types are attracted to the role, or pieces of the role like project controls, where they will specialize in a certain area like Earned Value.

Also, if you were to use MBTI as the method to categorize personality types, you may find ENTJs and ENTPs more attracted to the leadership role, but are not necessarily better at it. Different types approach leadership differently, excelling in some areas while falling short in others. There are likely extreme personality types that are simply not conducive to the PM role, but I suspect that there are many variations of MBTI types that work well in the PM role, just differently.

I would be careful to try to identify specific characteristics that would lead to a better PM. It would most likely be based on a false belief.

  • 1
    Acronym's references are welcome :-) – Tiago Cardoso Jul 26 '11 at 21:30
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    MBTI is Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory. ENTJ and ENTP are two types. – David Espina Jul 27 '11 at 10:03
  • Ah, I'm an ENTP according to that. That might explain why I'm considering this! – Casey Patton Jul 28 '11 at 22:30
  • Where you took out the test? – RG-3 Feb 22 '12 at 22:59
  • I am ENFJ, does this mean I am not PM kinda guy? – RG-3 Feb 22 '12 at 23:10
2

I would like to add one more point in addition to what others have mentioned above. A person has to have the ability to think from customer's perspective too. He/She should be able to move out of the 'developer mindset' and see/use the system as a customer. Developers usually tend to achieve excellence in writing the best piece of code that would provide the most flexibility in the system. But they often forget to analyze if this added flexibility is required by the client or not. Will this extra effort really add any value to the system or is it just making the system more complex that will be hard to maintain in the future.

  • I would go so far as to say that a PM needs the ability to disconnect from the project being managed, so that they don't take anything personally. – Danny Schoemann Feb 29 '16 at 8:56
1

Ability to communicate (written and verbal) big time. Be able to listen "actively" to figure out what people are saying.

An ability to live with chaos... the constant adjusting to and adjusting of peoples expectations, requirements etc.

Oh then there is process and methodology.

  • Could you explain how process and methodology might relate to a personality trait? – Casey Patton Jul 26 '11 at 20:09
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    Sorry meant that as a throw away aside... as in once you have the traits nailed down/improved on then learning process and methodology. As a trait... willing to learn and be flexible with process and methodology. Not adhering to one cause it is the one true way. – edgaralgernon Aug 24 '11 at 16:34
1

There are many distinct aspects to project management, but focusing on the 'management' aspect, there are two clear sets of competencies that I would want to consider. One focuses on managing the process and the technical aspects of the project, and the other is associated with managing the people. These are not mutually exclusive - far from it - but the emphasis placed on each will vary according to the way that your organisation is set up to run projects.

If the PM is also a line manager, the ability to work with staff in a long-term relationship is vital. The skills required to do this are quite different from those of a PM who pulls in staff in a 'matrix' structure, with a separate manager looking after the long term needs of the staff. I suggest that you identify which model your company uses, and see how your skills map against the needs of the role.

Finally, if you are happy working with uncertainty and are able to see the big picture despite short term 'noise', you may be well on the way to being suited for project management. Don't expect instant gratification or constant positive feedback, but if you can thrive in an environment where there are high demands on your time, constant interruptions, and new challenges on a daily basis, while being able to stay in control and keep your people motivated, you are well on the way to being a practical and successful project manager.

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I have a business (BAA-MBA) and theology background (Bth). Sometimes in my answers both sides of my training shows. I do not like the way most managers manage now a day (including me). We often see short term visions, minimal team spirit, quest for high salary and bonuses, etc. It is nobody's fault, we were trapped in a system that nobody knew how to change (or did not want to change). With the economic crisis that system falled apart completely. Right now, we need managers who are not afraid to take risks to rebuilt America's economy and the world economy in a proper way, an ethical way for it not to fall apart again in 70 years from now. But I am far away from your question. I still believe that to have a management status in a compagny it is the law of "who knows who" that applies most of the time. I mean that with equally competent candidates, the higher management will choose the person that fit the most in their vision on what will be their company in the next 10 years. You have to listen to your heart to really know what you want in your work life or in your personnal life. You have to identify your dreams and choose the ones you want to achieve; and then never quit. Those who succeed are not always the best one, but the one who work the hardest and never quit on their dreams because they feel inside that it will come true one day.

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