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How possible is it to learn the skills of project management without actually taking any classes on it? I'm definitely up for pouring through books and applying what I learn to my own projects so I can manage them and learn through experience, but right now taking classes is out of the question.

How can I go about getting the same knowledge?

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    Which industry? – SBWorks Feb 14 '11 at 8:08
  • Independent software development – JustcallmeDrago Feb 14 '11 at 8:38
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If you're working in industry, you can start by taking on extra responsibility and helping to communicate between different groups. If you can be proactive, communicate well, and have specialized knowledge of the project, then you can learn as you go.

If you're already a project manager, talk to other project managers in your organization and pick their brain. Classes will only go so far, as the job description of project managers vary from industry to industry and company to company.

While classes will teach you some fundamentals, only real-world experience will make you good at your job.

I've been a project manager for over 3 years, and my experience is you tailor your responsibilities to the job at hand.

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  • Experience
  • Project management blogs
  • This forum :)
  • Project management podcasts
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    this ain't forum :) ? Q&A site is more apt... – CoderHawk May 10 '11 at 5:05
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I would say that there are three equally important important inputs for you: colleagues, books, experience. Classes are just a surrogate form of communication with colleagues, usually with just one colleague - a teacher. Don't rely on this form too much. Learn from your friends, read books, and manage projects.

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You can learn a lot of class-taught PM skills by checking course requirements for a Masters-level IT or management program. MIT, to name one school, provides many of their course materials for download and study. Most include teacher notes, talks, or presentations for self-study and point to other resources.

MIT OpenCourseWare: http://mitsloan.mit.edu/academic/open-courseware.php

Software program managers need to understand people, development methods, scheduling, and negotiation, so expect to study at least those four areas. Building a range of skills helps you step into different roles as-needed, from planning to coding to testing. (Writing well also helps, so find an editor or colleague to review your work.)

To further develop your practical skills, look for an open-source project or local business start-up that needs help. It's an important resume addition for you and they'll usually take enthusiasm over formal PM certification.

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Since you're already working as a PM, classes would actually be at the bottom of my list or sources. As Mark and Jmort have already said - experience and interacting with other PM's (either virtual or live) is the best teacher. Post or answer questions here, get involved in discussions on LinkedIn, read pm blogs and respond or comment for clarification or to add your thoughts. The PM community is amazing supportive, and most learn as they help others as well.

Partly why I participate here - I find a lot of great insights and differing views that challenge my own thinking. I'm not coming from the IT domain as most here are, so I have to make sure I've thought through my own answers before commenting. Broadens my view and brings clarity to my thinking (and sometimes changes it).

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  • While I generally agree that experience is much more important than classes, I would like to bring up an argument for classes: you will have the opportunity to meet a bunch of people who want to become better PMs. – Andy May 10 '11 at 18:10
  • @Andy - I agree, classes have their place. My only concern, especially for someone that's actually working as a PM, is that in a room full of 20-30 other students, the only person with more knowledge or experience will likely be the teacher. I personally get more value by being in a room where 'most' of the people are more experienced than me. It challenges me more. Plus, Drago said he had no time for classes. :) – Trevor K. Nelson May 10 '11 at 18:34

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