The Technical Project Manager: A Sharp, Creative Problem-Solver [Quicknotes]
You could say technical project managers are kind of like the glue that holds the business together. They’re team players, creative problem solvers, commercially sharp, and they never take their eye off the ball (or the crosshair, so to speak). So who are these enviable individuals? And what does being a technical project manager actually involve?
Earnings: Average of £40 – 50k, plus bonus and benefits. This can be £60-80k+ at higher experience levels
Hangouts: Meeting rooms, Skype for Business, wherever the team is (a technical project manager is always in demand!)
Key Skills: Superhuman multitasking ability, sharp eye for detail, bucketloads of charm
Secret Weapon: They can code better than you can
Ultimate Ambition: Securing a Chief Operating Officer role in a cutting-edge tech firm
What role does Technical Project Management play in a Tech or Gaming company?
Project management is essentially about making sure a project is completed on time and to budget – being first point of contact for all stakeholders and managing the team responsible for delivery. Defining requirements and allocating resource before project kick-off, organising schedules and troubleshooting during the project – all fall under a PMs remit.
Games design and production (and many tech projects) can be a chaotic process, with individuals or small teams responsible for different parts of the puzzle. Like a modern day puppet master, the technical project manager pulls these strands together and ensures they are all working smoothly.
Increasingly, a knowledge of agile methodologies – working in a more collaborative, iterative and incremental way - is more appropriate than the traditional project management approach. So gaming companies often require this.
Hang on – what’s the difference between a technical project manager and a project manager? A technical PM is just one that works on technical projects, right?
Well, in most companies, yes. But a ‘technical PM’ can also refer to a subject matter expert who is managing the technical side of a project, alongside a ‘non-technical’ PM. Or it might refer to a subject matter expert who is managing a specific project alongside their normal job of leading a technical team. In all cases, they have some technical knowledge or background.
What kind of person thrives as a technical project manager?
Yes, you need to be hyper organised, often to the point of neuroticism. ‘Big picture’ thinking and an analytical mind helps too. But even more important is being a great communicator and team player, since the crux of the job is keeping everyone working to plan. You might have to persuade the development team to redo part of their work, or explain to senior management why they should allocate more budget. So being empathetic, articulate and inspiring are qualities that sets apart brilliant TPMs from average ones.
In addition to the above, you’ll need a good understanding of the technologies used in the project to be able to assess what can and can’t work and collaborate with the technical staff at all levels when problems arise - otherwise you’ll find yourself bashing heads with people!
What’s a typical career path?
Technical understanding is key to technical project management, so many start in technical roles such as development, QA or games design, then move into project management early on in their career, often after gaining a qualification or in-house training. Successful TPMs will find themselves managing projects of ever-increasing complexity and scale. Depending on the organisation and the individual, it can lead to senior management roles such as Head of Delivery, VP Program Management or even the COO role.
Highs and Lows of the Job
Expect draining days close to project deadlines, the frustration of balancing client and management demands with the capacity of your technical teams, and more than the occasional feeling you are herding cats. Being a technical PM can be stressful, but job satisfaction is high. There’s a real sense of camaraderie, and it’s a great feeling when you’ve led a project to completion that’s going to have a real impact on the business. Plus, being a project manager involves such a variety of tasks and people interaction it’s virtually impossible to get bored.
Are you itching to take your career in project management to the next level?
Pentasia recruits mid to senior level technical project management professionals for the gaming, gambling and digital sector. Right now we’re looking to speak to talented and motivated tech enthusiasts for a number of high profile opportunities across Europe and worldwide. Bonus points if a) you’ve got solid experience in a technical role and b) you’ve completed projects in the gaming sector. If so - what are you waiting for? Send us your CV now or view all current project management jobs.
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