“… yes, but what do you do?” This is the next question when you have told someone what you do for a living. If you answer with “I manage projects”, some people might think you are making fun of them. And if you speak of your final deliverable, they will remember that you produce cars, washing machines, that you work in IT or that you organise events, depending on your activity sector… In reality, you are a Project Manager!
This briefly illustrates the discussion that many project managers had after telling someone what they do for a living. Even though this might be becoming less true, especially in North America where project management is widely professionalised (in particular thanks to the Project Management Institute), this situation remains relatively common in Europe.
There are various reasons to explain this. One is that this profession has its roots in the industrial sector, even while it has been propagated to other activities, mainly due to increasing computerisation, and that this industrial world, made up of large projects and complex programmes, remains a mystery to the average person. Also, and even more surprising, because project managers are still today often technicians who have shown certain management skills and were thus appointed project managers. This therefore continues to give the impression that “Project Manager” is a temporary title and not an occupation: “I am an engineer, and at the moment I am managing a project to …”. Indeed, professionals are trained in their professions: journalists, engineers, doctors, lawyers… but there is no school for project management. This is also why a large number of job vacancies for project managers also request technical experts in their field with managerial skills.
And yet Bombardier builds trains, Airbus builds aircraft, Renault builds cars, DJI builds drones… and all these companies as well as thousands of others work in project mode with project managers and programme managers who are perfectly trained; the performances of their projects demonstrate this each day. The reality is that despite this common misconception, many project managers have received appropriate training: by professional organisations, by specialised post-graduate studies or even in their initial training, because an increasing number of prestigious universities have implemented this option during the learning cycle. The collective conscience is changing. Indeed, being a project manager requires special skills and knowledge that cannot be improvised. Diplomas such as the PMI, Prince 2, and specialised Masters large universities are proof of this. And as with all professions, experience is also a determining element.
We are certainly now witnessing the end of this situation, because the common and shared knowledge has finally tackled this lexical point: Project Management is indeed a profession in its own right.