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What in the world is a "project manager"? A guide for students

Frances Chan

Careers Commentator
Find out what project management is and whether you'd like it as a career!

1.Β What's a project manager?

γ€€πŸ€” But first, what's a "project"?
γ€€βœ¨ "Project manager" defined
 ❓Why do project managers exist?
γ€€πŸŒˆ What are the different types of project managers?
γ€€πŸ” What do project managers do?

2. Would I like the work?

γ€€πŸ’Ό What project managers do day-to-day
γ€€πŸ˜Š How happy are project managers with the job?
γ€€πŸ’ƒ What type of people thrive?
γ€€πŸ‘ Pros
γ€€πŸ‘Ž Cons
γ€€πŸŒ Impact

3. Would I like the life?

γ€€βš–οΈ Work-life balance
γ€€πŸ€Έβ€β™‚οΈ Flexibility
γ€€πŸ€ The people
 ⬆️ Your managers

4. What's in it for me?

γ€€πŸŒ± Learning & development
γ€€πŸŒŸ Job outlook
γ€€πŸ’΅ Pay
γ€€πŸ“ˆ Career progression
γ€€πŸ”€ Exit options

5. Where can I find internships?

1. What's a project manager?

Project managers are like sports team managers. They don't score goals or make the plays, but they make sure the right people are in the right roles, the game plan is solid, and the team has everything it needs to winβ€”only in this case, "winning" means creating a digital product that users love and rely on.

πŸ€” But first, what's a "project"?

A project is like a special mission with a clear goal, specific things you can use to achieve those goals, and a set time by when you need to finish it.

In the context of your life, a project would be something like moving into your college dorm for the first time.Β It's a one-time effort with a clear goal: making sure you and your stuff get to your dorm safe and sound.

Something that wouldn't be a project would be keeping your dorm room clean throughout the year. Unlike everyday chores (which never seems to end!), projects have a defined timeframe for making something special happen.

The same applies to projects in the professional world. For instance, let's say:

  • A hotel wants to develop a new training program for its customer service representatives.
  • A hospital wants to switch to a new IT system for managing its patients' health records.
  • A fast food chain wants to launch a plant-based burger.

These would all be projects, because they're one-time endeavours with clearly defined goals.Β 

✨ "Project manager" defined

A project manager is someone who oversees an entire project from start to finish.

Let's take the example of the plant-based burger for instance. A project manager wouldn't develop the recipe for the burger, teach line cooks how to make them, or craft marketing campaigns to bring people to stores.

Instead, project managers act more like the captain of the ship, steering the course and making sure everyone works together to bring the new burger to life. So they might not flip the patties themselves, but they'll make sure the perfect team is in place to do it all well, and on time!Β 

They'll also be the one who everyone goes to when they're not sure what they should be doing or when there are issues.

❓ Why do project managers exist?

Project managers exist because:

  • Projects can get messy. Projects usually involve several teams who usually don't work together. Without someone to coordinate, things can get messy fast. For example, the cooks might start perfecting the patty before the marketing team has decided that it should have a specific flavor profile to target a certain audience. This could lead to delays and rework.
  • Project managers enable everyone to focus on their job. The project manager makes sure everyone is working on the right tasks. The cooks focus on the recipe, marketing focuses on commercials, and no one gets stuck doing something they didn't sign up for.
  • Project managers keep things on time and on budget. Just like a good recipe needs the right ingredients at the right time, the project manager keeps things moving smoothly. They make sure the burger gets launched on schedule and stays within budget, so there are enough patties to go around!

🌈 What are the different types of project managers?

External, internal...

Different industries: construction, IT


πŸ” What do project managers do?

Here's a brief overview of what a project manager would do in different stages of the burger project.

  1. At the start of the project:
    • They'll define what success looks like (e.g. "increase sales by X%" or "attract a new demographic to our brand").
    • They'll create a roadmap to success. For example, "If we want to launch by December, we need to have the recipe developed by March, staff trained by October, and we'll need to actively market the new burger in November."
    • They'll put together a winning team. Projects often involve people from different teams who normally wouldn't work together (e.g. product development, sourcing, marketing, operations, and training). Project managers are responsible for assembling these cross-functional teams and making sure everyone knows what they're supposed to do.
  2. While the project is going on:
    • They'll make sure things are going as planned. For instance, is recipe development on track? Are ingredients being sourced within budget? Is marketing hitting its goals?Β  If there are any roadblocks, they'll try to remove them. They'll also make back-up plans in case something goes wrong.
    • They'll keep everyone in the loop. On top of coordinating between the different teams, they'llΒ  also keep senior managers up-to-date on how the project is going and if there are any major issues that'll cause delays.
  3. At the end of the project:
    • They'll oversee the rollout. In this case, this means ensuring all locations have the necessary ingredients, equipment, and trained staff to launch the new burger on schedule.
    • They'll monitor sales.Β After launch, the project manager will track sales data to assess the success of the campaign and adjust marketing strategies if needed.

Part 2. Would I like the work?

Coming soon!

πŸ’Ό What project managers do day-to-day

😊 How happy are project managers with the job?

πŸ’ƒ What type of people thrive?

πŸ‘ Pros

πŸ‘Ž Cons

🌍 Impact

Part 3. Would I like the life?

Coming soon!

βš–οΈ Work-life balance

πŸ€Έβ€β™‚οΈ Flexibility

🀝 The people

⬆️ Your managers

Part 4. What's in it for me?

Coming soon!

🌱 Learning & development

🌟 Job outlook

πŸ’΅ Pay

πŸ“ˆ Career progression

πŸ”€ Exit options

Part 5. Where can I find internships?

You can find plenty of internships on Prosple. We have a vast selection of internships curated for students like you. Just filter 'til you find the right fit!