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If I'm a senior project manager, should I still keep learning new technology?

For example, every month every year, most language updates themselves, and a lot of new programming concepts become popular. Many new frameworks and patterns are created and make things easily.

But you have to spend a lot of time to keep up with. If there's language which is proved more efficient and you aren't familiar with it, will you plan to learn it and let team members take this language to develop the project?

If there's new framework, most people say that it's helpful to our project, but you know nothing about it, would you learn it and decide it?

But as a PM, you should be a senior level or maybe busier than before. Are you willing to learn something 'not so senior'??

closed as off-topic by gnat, Dan Pichelman, user40980, Kilian Foth, Corbin March Sep 11 '13 at 12:57

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    If your job as a PM requires you to decide which languages and frameworks to use, you better know what you're doing, but I disagree that new technologies appear every month that are "proven" to be stable let along being more efficient. – JeffO Sep 10 '13 at 1:28
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    I think you're working somewhere with inappropriate terminology... Project Managers do not code or deal with technology, as soon as they do they're going to be extremely ineffective. Are you perhaps a technical lead, or are you literally a project manager? Project managers spend their time managing schedules and resource requirements while being responsive to project members needs to ensure they have what is necessary to complete the project within the schedule, as well as updating the schedules and keeping stakeholders in the know regarding project status. – Jimmy Hoffa Sep 10 '13 at 2:06
  • Do you like programming? – Den Sep 10 '13 at 13:51
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Let my try to answer this from the viewpoint of a developer (team) : There are two types of managers that can manage a developer team: technical and administrative managers.

The answer to your question is pretty clear for each of those individually: if you are only responsible for the administrative parts (resources, schedules, etc.), then do everyone a favor and stay out of technology. You're not going to be able to keep up anyways, but you will fall into the trap of talking to the developers on a tech-level on which they out-smart you easily. In other words: this undermines your own position and does no good to anyone.

On the other hand, if you are in a technical manager role, you are responsible for the technological roadmap of the company and as other comments pointed out, you damn better know what you're talking about in that case. Then again, you should not even need to ask that question, because your very job definition should include (at least indirectly) that you must have up to date technology knowledge.

Unfortunately, we live in that thing called "real world", where things aren't black and white.. err.. admininistrative and technological. I have encountered several managers, who had the bad luck of being responsible for both aspects. I say bad luck, because most of them tried to be good at both, but none succeeded.

Stepping only half-way into our tech world as a manager is dangerous, but as far as it gets towards an actual answer, I'd argue that you should not go deeper than the overview level. Do not make decisions based on your technical knowledge, unless you are a tech-manager and know that your knowledge is sound and complete. In all other cases, I wholeheartedly disagree with Mark Bernstein in that you will never ever know more about coding than your best developer. Heck, he spends all his working hours on that subject - and as we know from the best - a lot of his freetime as well. There is just no way on earth that you can possibly keep up with that amount of dedication - nor should you.

Get a grip on the major subjects, so that you can understand enough of the tech talk to understand the gist of a problem, but do not try - or pretend - to know all the ins and outs. The latter just leads to dangerous territory and in the view of developers voids your credibility as a manager faster than you can say 'oops'.

  • Have you ever said 100 times in a row "This guy is so right" ? – Radu Murzea Sep 10 '13 at 11:06
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If I'm a senior project manager, should I still keep learning new technology?

Yes.

For example, every month every year, most language updates themselves, and a lot of new programming concepts become popular. Many new frameworks and patterns are created and make things easily.

Less so.


If you are a PM (in any sense that I understand them to operate) make sure that you are on top of your game with regards to what you need to do first. This probably involves a lot of client liaison, presentation watching and delivery, requirements gathering, specification consuming, requirements analysis, minute taking, ego massaging, tea making, creating or facilitating the creation of SOWs, making huge Gantt charts is MS Project and working with the team to create project backlogs in Jira. That's quite a lot of work.

You have made it to senior so you probably have some of that nailed. So now you put your other head on (and in some places I think this is probably referred to as Technical Project Manager) and you make sure that you understand, high level, what technologies your team is using and what they can do with them. This gives you confidence, should make your team meetings less bewildering, enables you to engage better in project/sprint planning, allows you to call BS on dodgy developers, stops you selling things that your team cannot build and should increase your gravitas in client meetings when you confidently say yes we can - or, when required, no we cannot. Your knowledge need go no further (for professional reason anyway, you might fancy it for fun), you have a team, presumably with TTLs, TDs and TAs; it's their job to advise you when a new technology has entered the fray. Trust them.

Your role should not require you to learn how to code, but that does not mean not learning new technology. For example you should understand what the latest project management tools bring to the table and how that may improve your project lifecycles. Maybe you don't use any project or bug tracking software, so you learn Jira (easy) and you learn how it fits your organisation, clients and project structure (hard).

Be good at Project Managing, manage the clients expectations, if you don't understand the tech, don't promise that you can deliver something and make sure you've got a pocket developer with you in key client meetings and to proof read your E-Mails.

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