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From spreadsheets to sprints: the vital role of project management in tech

We spoke to seasoned professional Charlotte Kelly about her varied project management career and why she believes it offers you a great opportunity to follow your personal interests.

Using mobile internet technology
“The sector is absolutely booming… there are vast opportunities and a lot of roles available, with space to grow.”

There is no denying that project management is a highly sought-after skillset across most sectors of the economy. One area that shows particular growth is project management in tech, with almost double the number of IT project management jobs advertised in the US in 2022 compared with the previous year. But why is project management such an important role within IT? And what makes it an interesting sector to work in? We spoke to seasoned professional Charlotte Kelly about her varied project management career and why she believes it offers you a great opportunity to follow your personal interests.

According to latest projections from the Project Management Institute (PMI), the project management workforce is expected to grow by 33% by 2027, equivalent to 22 million new jobs. In total, nearly 88 million individuals will be needed in project management-oriented roles within the next five years and a talent gap could create a significant risk to GDP.

The University of London, in partnership with member institution, Royal Holloway, offers an innovative MSc Project Management with two focused specialisms: Software Development and Sustainability. Available to study fully online from almost anywhere in the world, the master’s programme offers students the opportunity to learn the latest skills from experienced professionals and provides an ideal springboard into an exciting new career.

Charlotte Kelly has more than 10 years’ experience as a Project Manager, beginning her career in translation before moving into digital marketing, SEO, software and web development. Now working as a Freelance Project Director, her portfolio of clients includes TransPerfect, AB InBev and Green Park Content.

Charlotte explained why, in her experience, a Project Manager has a crucial role to play within software development projects.

She said: “A Project Manager provides an important point of communication between highly technical teams and other, non-techy teams – whether that’s the client who’s funding the project or other teams within a business. The client knows what they want in the end but often don’t know or fully understand what’s needed in between. Tech teams have fantastic ideas and might want to build everything but there are huge costs involved, and even small changes can add up.

“In software development in particular it tends to be a much more agile approach, so we agree what we’re going to do right now and then we build from there. But keeping control of a budget in an agile project is so important because it could so easily get out of control. So you need someone who brings both sides together.”

Project Managers wouldn’t have a job if projects always went well. It’s about knowing that you’re going to hit those bumps and developing your emotional skills to bring everyone with you through challenging situations.

Beyond the core skills, such as maths and budgeting, and a strong understanding of different frameworks used in project management, Charlotte emphasised the importance of emotional intelligence and communication.

“You’ll work with vastly different types of people,” she said, “like copywriters and production teams – it’s not all technical. Having someone who can work across all those different teams and bring them together at the right moments in a project is essential, otherwise it’s too siloed.

“So yes, things like organisational skills are important – but they’re important in most roles. It’s the people skills and emotional intelligence that are vital. Project Managers wouldn’t have a job if projects always went well. It’s about knowing that you’re going to hit those bumps and developing your emotional skills to communicate properly with people, address the elephants in the room and bring a large group of stakeholders with you through challenging situations.”

The University of London’s MSc Project Management (Software Development) draws together the principles of project management with an in-depth understanding of the software development process, software project planning and software engineering principles. You will develop an essential combination of technical knowledge and specialist management skills that will give you a competitive edge in the workplace.

Put your hand up for as many opportunities as you can. Wherever your own personal interest lies, you can almost always find a job in project management within that area.

Far from being the “terrifying, authoritarian” figure people may expect, Charlotte believes strongly in the importance of project management as a “human role”.

“We’re not there to crack the whip or to come down hard on someone if they say they need a bit more time – that’s quite an outdated view. It’s much more about how you motivate people and lead them towards outcomes, as opposed to driving them there against their will.”

If you’re looking for a change of career or an opportunity for promotion within project management, Charlotte has this advice:

“The sector is absolutely booming. Previously it’s been seen as limited to a few industries but now it’s been adopted really broadly and so there are vast opportunities and a lot of roles available, with space to grow.

“If you don’t ask, you don’t get. Put your hand up for as many opportunities as you can. You might start off with small projects that last a matter of days, but those build foundational skills that you’ll take with you onto bigger projects with bigger budgets and more responsibilities. And you’ll also have the transferable skills to move between different industries – software development is used in all sectors. Wherever your own personal interest lies, you can almost always find a job in project management within that area.”

Find out how you could take your career in a new, exciting direction with the MSc Project Management (Software Development).