Job Title: Program Manager
Type of Company: My current company has a very strong mission to build software products that help engineers and scientists advance engineering and science.
Education: Bachelor of Music, MS in Computer Science, MBA
Previous Experience: I worked for 12 years as a software developer for three different companies. One was a company that manufactured hardware and I ported database software to the platform and ran performance benchmarks. The second was a not-for-profit "think tank" that solved problems in an "open" way for the industry. The third was a company that made video editing products - I developed a multi-media file format and a software interface to allow third party companies to plug-in video effect plug-ins.
After getting my MBA, I was promoted to be a manager of software developers and did that for 7 years. I managed a variety of different types of developers (even people older than me!) with different skill sets, and helped the company to release products to customers.
Finally, I transitioned to a Program Manager at a company that makes mathematical and modeling software. That's what I'm doing now.
Job Tasks: It's not easy to describe what a Program Manager does at my current company, which is part of the reason that it's a difficult job. At a high level, we're the "glue" that bind the engineering teams with each other, and with the overall business operations, like releasing the products to customers. In short, we do what it takes.
We work very closely with the engineers, the quality assurance engineers, the technical writers, the technical marketing people, and many others to enable them to build the highest quality products and the right features that will benefit our customers.
Specifically, I am one of the more senior Program Managers, and I also manage other Program Managers. I work closely with one of the Vice Presidents of Engineering and his staff to help them make the right decisions, efficiently and quickly. Sometimes they are very difficult technical decisions, or tough challenges trying to coordinate people across the company.
Besides the day to day operations, I work with them to plan for the future and make sure that we're thinking long term.
It's necessary for program managers to have strong technical skills so they can understand the problems that the engineers are facing. But we also need organizational, planning and people skills. The products at my company and our customers are very sophisticated and technical. Most of our staff across all functions have either Masters degrees or PhDs.
Best and Worst Parts of the Job: Best parts of my job - working with people, solving problems, contributing to the mission of the company! My company also has a very strong set of core values and social mission. I am attracted to companies like this. It's important to me. Since you invest so much of your life working, you want to make sure that you're using your valuable time wisely. I believe in the products, the people and what our customers are doing with our products - which is one of the most motivating things about my job.
Worst parts of my job - we don't have any administrative assistants at my company, so sometimes the program managers end up taking on many of these tasks like scheduling meetings, etc. This is can be monotonous. Also, since our job is all about adapting to the situation and what is needed, it can be difficult to explain what we do and what value we bring, even to the people that we work with!
1. Always strive to learn and stay current with the latest technology.
2. Always respect the people that you work with and don't burn bridges. The world is a lot smaller than you think that it is!
3. It's OK to change your mind, especially while you're in college. I started out getting a music degree and look where I ended up! It took me a while to figure out what I was good at and enjoyed. In fact, when I worked for the video editing company, it was a beautiful opportunity for me to combine my love of math and technology with a more creative field!
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