I've been offered one of my dream internships for this next summer. I'll be working as a "Program Manager" for a top notch software company. For some examples of what I mean by PM, take a look at Joel's article as well as Microsoft's PM internship description.

This is my first internship in this position. Up until this point, I've been working as a developer. This is sort of a change of paths, but I feel like it's a great opportunity.

I want to spend a lot of time preparing for this internship before I get there. My goal is to be a valuable member of the team as quickly as possible.

Here's what I already have on my agenda:

How else should I prepare to be the best Program Manager I can be?

  • 1
    Lucky son-of-a-gun. You'll learn a crap ton from this. Congrats! Nov 21, 2011 at 3:48
  • Thanks! I definitely want to make sure I learn as much as I can, so I want to adequately prepare! Nov 21, 2011 at 4:51
  • The books you for a list... those are very entrepreneurship focused... sure you'll get that type of 'flexibility' at microsoft? I thought PM's at MSFT just did what they are told? ... :) Nov 21, 2011 at 15:06
  • On my team, PM does not seem to be a "just do as your told" role at all. Nov 21, 2011 at 21:33

4 Answers 4


The purpose of an internship is to learn - you get to learn about the company and the profession and the company gets to learn about you and your abilities as a potential full-time employee. You aren't expected to know everything right off the bat and be able to jump right in and make the big difference. After the interview, they believe that you already have enough knowledge and skills to be able to function in the position and to learn the things that you don't yet know, but need to know. I wouldn't be worried so much about trying to learn everything in advance, but just gain some overview in areas that you are personally interested in.

From the description of the job on the website, you might be interested in software project management, requirements engineering, software systems architecture and design, usability, and communication. I can recommend a number of books in these areas: Rapid Development: Taming Wild Software Schedules, Software Project Survival Guide, Software Requirements, More About Software Requirements: Thorny Issues and Practical Advice, Software Systems Architecture: Working With Stakeholders Using Viewpoints and Perspectives, Software Architecture in Practice, The Design of Everyday Things, Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most, Getting to Yes, and Getting Past No.

I wouldn't recommend running out, buying all of these books, and reading them all, though. This is supposed to be a learning experience. Use it as such. If you really wanted to learn things in advance, I would suggest starting with Rapid Development and Difficult Conversations. I think that these would have the most impact and relevant information, regardless of company or position.


I would add another item to your "reading list" and that is Zapp! the Lightning of Empowerment.

In my opinion as, as a Program Manager your most powerful day to day tool will be in the form of written and verbal communication. You will be talking with customers, team members and other teams. Essentially you will be filling the communication gap that exists between them. Fill this gap and empower your team providing direction, suggestions & feedback.

As this is an internship:

  • Don't be afraid to ask questions
  • Learn from mistakes made and more importantly take responsibility for your actions and decisions
  • Have fun and get to know your collegues

I was a PM at Microsoft for 7 years + 2 internships. Great experience especially for folks like you who are anxious to grow/learn/change-the-world. 2 best things to read are this blog post: http://www.randsinrepose.com/archives/2011/04/19/summer_intern_field_guide.html and a book called "the art of project management" written by another former Microsoft PM. An excerpt from that book is at http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa480154.aspx.

  • The book I mentioned is actually the original title of the last one in your list. Good choice ;) Nov 23, 2011 at 21:33

The PMI's Practice Standard for Program Management is a wealth of information on the general components of program management and the various moving pieces involved.

Like all standards, it is not a methodology, but an inventory of possible elements in a program and a conceptual framework of how they all hang together.

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