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What steps do I need to take to become a project manager by 25?

I am a third year undergraduate student studying Mechanical Engineering at Boston University. Expected Graduation Date: May 2025.

I want to become a project manager one day in the engineering sector. After that, I would like to start my own business in that same industry. I am not sure which field of engineering at the moment but currently it is mechanical.

What steps would I need to take make this a reality by age 25?

Thank you comment icon PMP certification will definitely help. Riaz Sayed

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Robert’s Answer

Hi Andrew,
I’d like to especially emphasize Mr. Frangos’ two recommendations of Building Leadership Skills and Networking & Mentorship. When I started out in industry, there were many young engineers who were much more technically skilled than I. The things that helped me become the youngest company program manager were finding a great mentor, networking with colleagues who had greater expertise in specialty areas, and taking classes in how to effectively lead those folks. All the best to you!
Thank you comment icon I appreciate this, thank you for the advice. Andrew
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Wayne’s Answer

1. Education - Prioritize courses that emphasize quantitative skills to hone your ability to make data-driven decisions and manage budgets effectively. Also, explore the vast opportunities in project/program management within the tech sector by familiarizing yourself with Information Technology and Computer Science.

2. Acquire Practical Experience - Seek internships and entry-level positions. These opportunities often provide a stepping stone to managing smaller projects or supporting roles in project delivery.

3. Master Project Management Tools - Learn to use project management software such as Microsoft Project, Trello, Asana, and JIRA efficiently.

4. Pursue Professional Certification - After accumulating sufficient experience and work hours, consider obtaining a professional certification like PMP, CAPM, or Scaled Agile.

5. Build Your Network - Connect with industry professionals and seek mentors to gain insights and learn from their experiences.

6. Embrace Lifelong Learning - Continually update your knowledge and skills through courses, articles, and other resources.
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Vivek’s Answer

My take on Project/Program management is that it's a field that is more of an art that practices the disciplines of 4 areas: Communication, Leadership, emotional intelligence, and sector/domain expertise. All of these which come with practice and experience, the more you practice - the better you become.

Please allow me to break down into detail the above 4 areas.

Communication: I used to thing what's the big deal, as long as you're able to communicate the problem with lots of detail you'll be able to navigate the courses of any situation within an organization. It is through experience that you realize the ability to articulate any statement in the fewest possible words is what draws larger audiences to resonate with what you're saying and create a larger impact. Over complicating your statements, you'll be fighting battles of misinterpretation with individuals which will send you down a rabbit hole without getting your initial problem solved and you'll find yourself answering questions you would have never expected out of that discussion. You never know which individual will take what part of your statement and interpret something you never intended. When individuals are sitting in high stress meetings for hours on end throughout the day and juggling multiple battles, their attention, patience, and focus levels tend to be shortened. I've worked across multiple fortune 500 companies in the technology space and having the privilege to participate in many executive leadership meetings and helping leaders prepare for their presentations - this is a commonality I've observed across all high performing leaders who wish to communicate a message to their teams. As a project/program manager your ability to articulate statements will have a direct impact on how much respect you gain from your teams and superiors. It's not about trying to be the smartest person in the room and using the biggest and most attractive vocabulary - rather about being the person who can understand, dissect, and articulate information which will help you be successful. At your age, practice this wherever you can, it'll help immensely in the long run in both your professional and personal life.

Leadership: Keep in mind that when you step into the corporate world, you're dealing with experienced professionals (across many areas of expertise) who have navigated their careers to this point in time. They value their current position and feel that whatever they have accomplished up until now is through the accumulation of various experiences across many years/decades. As a 25 year old wanting to be a project manager, I'm not saying it's not possible, but you will always have this chip on your shoulder because you haven't seen enough sunsets and don't have enough gray hairs. You will be perceived as an individual who doesn't have the experience to lead a team of individuals who have 10-20 years of working experience. "Who is this fresh college grad trying to tell me how to do my work and how will they be able to put me in a position to advance my career" - nobody will say it to your face, but it's what they're saying/thinking in the background. Leadership is all about how you are able to motivate individuals and everyone's motivations you'll discover is different: Career advancement, higher pay, recognition, sense of fulfillment/achievement - just to name a few. As a project leader, you will be responsible for the career development of your team and you'll need to build that sense of confidence with that team that your methods are going to lead to success and ultimately benefit everyone. Without a motivated team, the fate of the project will ultimately fall onto you. Read lots of books on leadership and biographies/auto-biographies of successful leaders you admire and learn/implement their techniques early on in your career which will help you achieve your goals.

Emotional Intelligence: Job security. The number one thing (consciously or subconsciously) everyone fears when they're in the corporate world and rightfully so because it affects their livelihoods. You'll be stepping into a space where people have families, financial commitments, problems, and various ambitions in life. A harsh reality is that you'll discover fewer people than you'd expect are there because they truly want to be. Majority are there just to collect a paycheck. Fear that their skills are not up to par with the market demands or with a peers skillset is often the driving factor hence they feel the need to make their presence felt in the office, in meetings, and avoid the negative spotlight attention. This often leads to tremendous levels of politics and you'll start seeing individuals behave in ways you wouldn't expect. This eventually creates hurdles in trying to meet project milestones, resolving key project impediments, and causes delays which ultimately you're accountable for. Your emotional intelligence and ability to read and manage peoples emotional states and will help you navigate these obstacles with less friction. You'll need to pick and choose which battles to fight because not each one is worth fighting and it'll deteriorate the relationships. This statement holds true on how to handle your superiors also. Master emotional intelligence (EQ) - one of the hottest leadership topics in recent years.

Sector/Domain Expertise: This is the skillset which will help you get your foot through the door. Developing skillsets in a particular area is what will distinguish you from the rest of the talent in the market. This is how you'll build credibility within your team and help you calculate the correct business decisions. It's a continuous learning process and it never stops. Certifications, higher education, trainings, etc. - whichever path you may choose, keeping up with the latest trends in the industry in your field is a must if you wish to succeed as a project/program manager. Speaking the business language of the organization you're in will grant you instant credibility and will help you practice/implement your desired project/program management skillset as you'll then be perceived as someone who has holistically (technically & functionally) developed the approach to any given problem/solution. Continue doing what you're doing, and find that unique skill which you really care about mastering and use it as your ultimate weapon.

Hopefully the above helps guide you into the path you're looking to go down. Again don't want to discourage you, but to become a project manager by 25, you'll certainly need to be ahead in the above areas. I truly admire your ambition and it's important to stay hungry and shoot for the stars. I really do hope to see you as a successful PM by the age of 25, but do understand that the above, along with many other skills you'll discover in your own journey along the way, will help you reach your goal. This is again based off of my experience and commonalities I've observed through successful leaders at Fortune 500 companies - everyone's journey is different and yours will be as well. Learn from successful people you respect and practice their good habits along the way. Wish all the best!
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Oghenemaro Olufemi’s Answer

First, you will need to decide what type of Project Management sparks your interest. Think of Project Management as a tree with many branches. The branches includes; Architectural Project Management, Electrical Project Management, Information Technology Project Management, Engineering Project Management, PMO Project Management etc. Once you have decided where you would like to focus on, work towards acquiring the PMP certification and PMI ACP from PMI.org. This would give you a clear perspective on what Project Management entails. One of the major steps that has helped me build my project management experience is getting a mentor that gave me all the confidence I needed.

Side note, Project Management is heavy on team building and inter-personal relationships. It is important to learn how to build relationships with people for a successful project management career.
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Sai’s Answer

Securing your PMP certification is indeed a stepping stone to success. Being a Project Manager at a young age can be a remarkable achievement, but remember, it's equally important to collaborate with other project managers. This will offer you a unique perspective on their diverse management styles and strategies. It's a fantastic opportunity to learn about the potential challenges you might face and how to effectively tackle them. So, keep striving, keep learning, and remember, the future is yours to shape. Best of luck on your journey!
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Akber’s Answer

I recommend to first to prepare and get a PMP and or PMI-ACP certification. This is a global certification and is required by almost all project manager roles. Udemy is a great online learning platform where you can purchase PMP online learning course at a fraction of a price and learn on your own pace.

Most of the industries today are using Agile methodology mindset to deliver product and services for which I would recommend to look into SAFe Agilist (SA), SAFe Scrum Master, Scrum Alliance certification for Scrum Master and product owner.

I would recommend doing internship or showcasing your PM skills on any of the project you worked on and portraying that in your resume along with certification will land you a job quickly.
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Alexandra’s Answer

I recommend looking into getting your PMP certification. This is usually required for a PM lead role. Through this, you will take a training class to go over all procedures to be a PM and will be required to pass a test to get your certification.
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Charise-Mae’s Answer

Project management roles often necessitate a certain level of experience and certification. But don't worry, as a college student, you're in a prime position to start building those skills. Your classes and extracurricular activities are perfect platforms to take on leadership roles, allowing you to hone your project management abilities. This hands-on experience will be invaluable when it comes to applying for a Project Management Professional certification.

When summer rolls around, don't miss the opportunity to intern with engineering companies or organizations that have Project Management Offices. This will give you a taste of the real-world experience, while also helping you to expand your network. You might even find mentors who can guide you and accelerate your journey towards becoming a Project Manager. So, embrace every opportunity, as each one is a stepping stone towards your goal.
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Amruta’s Answer

Hello Andrew,
Your research can start with the engineering companies themselves! Many large firms have career sections on their websites listing open positions, including entry-level project coordinator or assistant project manager roles. Target companies you're interested in and search their careers page using terms like "entry-level project management."
For instance, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and AECOM all have resources on their websites.

Beyond company websites, there are great online job boards to explore. General platforms like Indeed, Glassdoor, and LinkedIn allow you to filter your search for entry-level project management roles specifically within the engineering industry and your desired location (USA). Additionally, industry-specific job boards can be a goldmine.
For example, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) has a career center with postings geared towards mechanical engineers, potentially including project management opportunities.

Best Wishes!
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Sanchit’s Answer

Becoming a project manager by the age of 25 in the engineering sector, given your current status as a third-year Mechanical Engineering student at Boston University, is ambitious but achievable with a clear and focused strategy. Here's a detailed step-by-step plan to help you reach this goal:

1. Academic Excellence and Specialization**
- **Maintain Strong Grades:** Ensure you maintain a high GPA to make yourself competitive for internships and job opportunities.
- **Specialize:** Identify a niche within mechanical engineering that interests you and has potential for growth. This could be in fields like renewable energy, automotive, aerospace, or robotics.

2. **Relevant Internships and Co-op Programs**
- **Summer Internships:** Secure internships with companies that have strong project management structures. Focus on roles that allow you to understand project workflows, timelines, and team dynamics.
- **Co-op Programs:** If available, participate in co-op programs to gain extended hands-on experience in the industry.

3. **Develop Project Management Skills**
- **Coursework:** Take elective courses related to project management, operations management, and business fundamentals.
- **Certifications:** Pursue project management certifications such as CAPM (Certified Associate in Project Management) or PMP (Project Management Professional) once you meet the experience requirements. The CAPM can be pursued immediately after graduation since it requires less experience.

4. **Gain Leadership Experience**
- **Extracurricular Activities:** Take on leadership roles in student organizations, engineering clubs, or project teams. Leading teams and managing projects in these settings can build relevant skills.
- **Capstone Project:** If your program includes a senior design or capstone project, volunteer to be the project manager for your team.

5. **Networking and Mentorship**
- **Professional Organizations:** Join professional organizations such as ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers) and PMI (Project Management Institute). Attend events, webinars, and conferences to network with professionals.
- **Mentorship:** Seek out mentors who are experienced project managers. They can provide guidance, advice, and potentially help with job referrals.

6. **Post-Graduation Strategy**
- **Entry-Level Job:** After graduation in May 2025, secure an entry-level position in a company known for strong project management practices. Positions like Project Coordinator or Assistant Project Manager are ideal.
- **Gain Experience:** Work diligently in your role, focusing on learning and applying project management principles. Seek opportunities to lead small projects or parts of larger projects.

7. **Continuous Learning and Professional Development**
- **Professional Development:** Regularly attend workshops, take online courses, and stay updated with the latest trends in project management and your engineering field.
- **Advanced Certifications:** Once you have the required experience (typically 2-3 years), pursue the PMP certification to bolster your credentials.

8. **Timeline and Milestones**
- **2024 (3rd Year):** Secure a summer internship, take relevant electives.
- **2025 (4th Year):** Graduate in May, take on leadership roles in projects, secure a job in a relevant field.
- **2025-2027:** Gain 2-3 years of work experience, work towards obtaining the PMP certification.
- **By Age 25 (2027):** Aim to be promoted to a project manager role within your organization.

9. **Long-Term Goal: Starting Your Own Business**
- **Experience and Insight:** Use the experience gained as a project manager to understand the industry better.
- **Networking and Business Skills:** Continue to build your network and develop business acumen through courses and mentorship.
- **Business Plan:** Develop a comprehensive business plan for your future venture, leveraging your project management and engineering expertise.

By following these steps and maintaining a focus on both your short-term and long-term goals, you can position yourself to become a successful project manager by the age of 25 and lay the groundwork for starting your own business in the engineering sector.
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Ankita’s Answer

Becoming a project manager in the engineering sector by age 25 is ambitious, but with careful planning and dedication, it's definitely achievable. Here's a simplified roadmap:

Gain Relevant Experience: Look for internships or co-op opportunities in engineering firms or project management roles. This hands-on experience will help you understand how projects are managed in the real world and build valuable skills.

Develop Leadership Skills: Take on leadership roles in extracurricular activities or student organizations. This will help you develop skills like communication, teamwork, problem-solving, and decision-making, which are essential for project management.

Networking: Build relationships with professionals in the engineering field, including project managers. Attend industry events, join professional associations, and connect with alumni or mentors who can offer guidance and advice.

Pursue Further Education: Consider pursuing a master's degree or certification in project management or a related field. While not always necessary, additional education can enhance your qualifications and open up more opportunities in project management roles.

Learn Industry-Specific Skills: As you progress in your career, focus on developing expertise in a specific area of engineering that interests you. This could be mechanical engineering or another field relevant to your career goals.

Seek Opportunities for Growth: Look for opportunities to take on more responsibility and leadership within your current job or internship. Volunteer for projects, take initiative, and demonstrate your ability to handle complex tasks and manage teams.

Stay Flexible and Adaptable: Be open to new opportunities and experiences that come your way. Your career path may evolve over time, and it's important to stay flexible and adapt to changing circumstances.

Start Your Own Business: Once you have gained sufficient experience and expertise in project management and the engineering industry, you can consider starting your own business. This could involve identifying a niche market or solving a specific problem within the industry and developing a business plan to address it.

By following these steps and remaining focused on your goals, you can work towards becoming a project manager in the engineering sector and eventually starting your own business by age 25. It will require hard work, determination, and a willingness to learn, but it's definitely within reach.
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James Constantine’s Answer

Hello Andrew,

Steps to Become a Project Manager by 25:

Education and Skill Development:

Complete your undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering at Boston University by May 2025.
Consider pursuing a master’s degree in engineering management or project management to enhance your knowledge and skills in project planning, execution, and control.

Gain Relevant Experience:

Look for internships or co-op opportunities during your undergraduate studies to gain practical experience in project management.
Seek out entry-level positions in engineering firms or companies that offer exposure to project management tasks.

Certifications and Training:

Obtain certifications such as Project Management Professional (PMP) or Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) from the Project Management Institute (PMI) to demonstrate your expertise in project management.
Attend workshops, seminars, and training programs focused on project management methodologies and tools.

Build Leadership Skills:

Develop strong leadership and communication skills as these are essential for effective project management.
Take on leadership roles in student organizations, group projects, or extracurricular activities to hone your leadership abilities.

Networking and Mentorship:

Build a professional network within the engineering industry by attending networking events, conferences, and connecting with professionals on platforms like LinkedIn.
Seek mentorship from experienced project managers who can provide guidance and advice on advancing your career goals.

Specialize in a Field of Engineering:

Decide on a specific field within engineering that interests you the most, whether it’s mechanical engineering or another discipline.
Gain expertise and experience in that particular field to better position yourself for project management roles within that industry.

Continuous Learning and Adaptation:

Stay updated on the latest trends, technologies, and best practices in project management through continuous learning and professional development.
Be adaptable and open to new challenges and opportunities that come your way as you progress towards becoming a successful project manager.

By following these steps diligently and proactively seeking out opportunities for growth and development in the field of project management, you can work towards achieving your goal of becoming a project manager by the age of 25.

Top 3 Authoritative Sources Used:

Project Management Institute (PMI): PMI is a globally recognized organization that offers certifications, resources, and standards for project management professionals. Their guidelines and certifications are highly regarded in the industry.

LinkedIn: LinkedIn is a valuable platform for networking with professionals in various industries, including engineering. It provides opportunities to connect with experienced project managers, join relevant groups, and stay updated on industry trends.

Engineering Professional Associations: Engaging with professional associations such as the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) or the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) can provide access to resources, networking events, and mentorship opportunities specific to the engineering sector.

God Bless You, Pretty Richly Indeed, JC.
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Erika’s Answer

Project Management is certainly within your grasp! Just remember to be patient with yourself as you take the time to familiarize yourself with the industry. Your educational background and prior experience will pave the path for your success. Make sure to seize any internship opportunities that come your way while you're still in school. These experiences can provide invaluable insights and hands-on learning. Keep going, you're doing great!
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Nick’s Answer

To excel as a project manager in the engineering domain, it's crucial to master multitasking, perform optimally, and anticipate potential obstacles. Although experience in the field will naturally develop these skills, there are proactive steps you can take.

Initially, consider pursuing courseware or certification for the PMP (Project Management Professional). Even if the certification isn't mandatory, the course content will provide valuable insights into how project managers dissect a project into manageable tasks and maintain progress and planning to meet their objectives.

Once you've gained this knowledge, start implementing these skills wherever possible. As a mechanical engineering student, you might have opportunities to participate in national engineering contests or group projects. These platforms allow you to practice key project management skills such as creating a project plan, delegating tasks to team members, tracking progress to ensure timely completion, and conducting reviews to guarantee high-quality work.

By honing these skills now, you'll be better prepared for your professional career post-graduation, giving you a competitive edge over others.
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Vera’s Answer

Hey! You might want to look into Technical Program Management (TPM) opportunities. Your Engg background would be a strong asset in this role and differentiate you from other candidates. Moreover, the job market seems to be favoring TPMs vs traditional ProjMs these days. In addition to the soft skills folks have mentioned above, Agile methodology, requirement, and stakeholder management are going to be the key skillsets to land a job in this field
Thank you comment icon Thank you so much for the advice. Andrew
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Jessica’s Answer

Project management is a daily life skill. Hone these essential soft skills: communication, leadership, problem-solving, decision-making, relationship building, time management, and conflict resolution.

The skills you've gained in school, along with your engineering expertise, will lay the foundation for your project management career.

Keep refining your leadership abilities. They'll enable you to guide teams towards their objectives, resolve conflicts empathetically, and expand your network.

Obtaining a PMP license or enrolling in a related course can boost your understanding of the concepts.

Always stay eager for new experiences.
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