I am a software engineer for more than 20 years. I have worked in various types of projects but I have never managed any large scale ones. Recently I feel that I need to learn some project management in order to be able to get some more advanced projects to manage.

My question is split in 2 parts:

1) What is a good way to learn project management?

I am reading various books about organizing a project and also trying various online courses like Udemy - Business Analysis Plan the Project. The problem I mostly face is that I feel that all these are over-complicated and a lot of information that are given in the courses are not used in the real world. eg: Defining the stakeholders of the project is a kind of reduntant (unnecessary) as in reality this step is going to be done by (how you call it) instinct. It seems like a natural progression while planing the project as you will eventually face various people involved to it (or not if it is a small one).

2) Do you have any suggestion on how I can do some practice?

I need to get some confidence about project management. Do you have any ideas of where I can do some practice on a real life project? What is your advice? How did you start getting your experience?


5 Answers 5


As a former developer who is now IT project manager, I can suggest the following (in addition to Bogdan's very good answer):

  1. Learning project management: Not only read the material, but you may also pursue a certification such as PMP. This has the added benefit that it shows up on your CV, and most project management job ads I've seen lately are either asking for Prince 2 or PMP certification (not sure if this is the case in your country). Since this involves a certain financial commitment, check with your company as part of your skills development plan if they would pay for the course and certification test.

  2. Getting experience: If a project is large enough, it may be accompanied by a PMO (project management office) member to help the project manager cope with the workload. This is an excellent place to get experience in budgeting, steerco preparation, risks & issues management, stakeholder communication & management, etc. Maybe you can apply for such a position in your company.

    An alternative approach may be to become the project manager of a small project or sub-project and have a mentor who guides you along the way.


It's good that you are reading books and taking courses. Keep doing that. It gives you knowledge and tools that you can use to manage projects. Make sure you also read the PMBOK and things on various Agile methods like Scrum and Kanban.

You might find some information terse, or complicated (the PMBOK is not all that easy to digest, for example), but it's still useful information. You might find some things over-complicated and not used in real world projects, and that might be so, but don't exclude the fact that maybe the projects are the problem. For example, your mentioning that it's unnecessary to identify the stakeholders. That's not true. It might seem like that to you because that's how your experience has been on various projects, but trust me, if you are late into the project and all of a sudden you identify some new stakeholder (like another department that also needs to use the software and have their own needs and feature requests), you will no longer think like that.

Another way would be to join Project Management Meetups in your area. You take the pulse of things and you can also do some networking. It might be hard now with all this COVID-19 mess, but keep it in mind for further reference. It might also be a way to meet people that have opened positions in their companies and in need of a project manager. If you are lucky, you might get invited to an interview.

You mention you've been a software engineer for more than 20 years. I assume you are still involved in some projects. Is there some project management work there that you could help with, to pick up some of the load? Does your employer trust you enough to give you a management position? Ask. If not, then watch your project manager and think about their decisions in each situation. Would you have done it the same? Differently? Why? Why not? Could you anticipate some situations and come up with solutions? What does your project manager think about those solutions? Discuss them.

What I'm saying is that you might get a project management position, or you might squeeze your way into one with time. Where you are right now is the best place to start.

  1. If you are into the PMP exam definetely look at PMP Exam Prep by Rita Mulcahy. It gives you very simple and organized approach on how to remember the most important principles and concepts of project management.

  2. If you are into learning and applying the knowledge, then the best way is by practice. And start step by step, do not try to emulate canonical PM in your organization.

Start small:

2.1. Create small and manageable projects (time and product)

2.2. Start online documenting changing in any tools like Wiki.

2.3. See how it's going. And start applying tool by tool from PMBOK what you consider appropriate for you organization.

Again, don't try to be too canonical, improvise with the tools.


Since you've been doing software for more than 20 years, you already "know the ropes." But even in your own work you probably haven't tried to apply project management ideas to it. (Most developers are by instinct "lone wolves.")

I'd encourage you to begin by familiarizing yourself with the PMBOK principles, and with several(!) software-oriented project management methodologies. Study important tools like Microsoft Project. Initially, just try to familiarize yourself with these many new ideas. All of them are ultimately aimed at enabling teams of people to accomplish work with predictable forward "velocity," budget burns and timelines. And, all of them approach the same task in different ways. You should especially contemplate "what the task is," from a PM's perspective rather than simply that of an experienced developer, and observe carefully what the various theories do – and, don't – prioritize.

While you are familiarizing, don't treat anything as "gospel," because it isn't. Compare the different ways that the different pundits have tried to frame this task which (at one level) you already know so well.

One of the biggest things that you'll notice is how much of it is focused on planning and especially communication. Methodologies usually adopt, very early on, a rigorously-defined nomenclature: sometimes the words are borrowed from other human competitive activities (like rugby), while sometimes the words are synthetic. But they are standardized so that everyone automatically understands their precise intended meaning. Both work processes and work-planning processes are also rigorously stated for the same reason. Although, different methodologies do all of these things in slightly or not-so slightly different ways.

If you happen to have a project – even if you're the only one now working on it – you can definitely "PM yourself." Start looking at even your own solitary or small-group activities through that "lens."

  • I would make friends with an entry level PM, PM you already know or PM who recently joined in your org.

  • Offer up the system knowledge you have and learn what practical knowledge and tools you need to know from PM.

  • PMP, PMBOK and other online resources are fine but you would learn best when you share what you know and in-turn gain confidence to learn the tricks of the new trade.

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