I was tired of going to work.
So I joined a project. It changed my life.
By Adrian Neumeyer
I remember one day going to the office and not wanting to open my laptop.
I knew what to expect. I knew what kind of emails I’d get. I knew these were the same questions I’d been answering for the past 3 years: „Hi John. The system works fine. You just have to fill in field X before you press ‘Continue’. Let me know if it works.” That was me as an IT specialist.
The work I once enjoyed doing became boring and predictable. Everything started to repeat, and I felt like a well-paid robot. What’s more, I would come in and see the same old faces every day. Not that these were not great people. They were. But after 3 years of working together I could see the flaws and I knew I needed new role models (otherwise I’d be ending in the same way).
So, was that job all I could do? I felt like I was missing out on so many things. I’d always been a curious person with a broad range of interests. And I felt I was capable of more.
I used the coffee breaks to observe other people. People from other departments. I wanted to learn what they were working on and what they enjoyed about their job. Maybe their work would be something I would like to do as well?
One group that impressed me the most were project managers. They had the traits I was looking for: confident, smart, funny and always a good story to tell from one of their projects, whether it was about a horrible plane trip or a culinary experience (“I didn’t know what I was eating. I had to stay in bed for 5 days.”).
Fired up by the discussions with senior project leaders, I went to my manager and told him: “Hey Bo, I want to try out project management”. To be honest, I didn’t have a clue what project management would actually be like. Had I known how tough it would become, I would probably have stayed away from it (and continue to answer stupid IT support requests).
No, not really.
You know, I’d rather burn my fingers on an exciting new opportunity than staying in my old job and become one of these bitter, grey-haired folks who’d navigated themselves into a professional dead-end street (and blaming others for their lack of success).
You have to get your shit together, be brave, and try out new things.
Anyway, I had picked a lucky moment for breaking into project management.
My boss had an opportunity for me.
He had recently kicked off a project and needed help. The thing was, he already had a project manager, so we agreed that I’d help out part time as a project assistant. I did the legwork like gathering updates from team members. I created Excel reports up to date and created presentations. At that stage, my work was still easy as I wasn’t in the hot seat yet.
That changed after a few years.
I took over the lead of the project. Work became tough. Really tough! The project had become a political topic and it was hard to get the needed support. I remember one management meeting where we got totally ripped apart. We’d made a planning mistake, and I was still inexperienced and lacking the overview of ALL the variables.
That meeting would have been a point where most people would have quit. I don’t know why I kept going, but I did.
My attitude always had been this:
What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger
Some people think this is a stupid philosophy. I don’t. It’s been my recipe for success. Losers give up when it gets hard. Winners keep moving forward EVEN THOUGH it gets hard.
Winners keep doing what they do BECAUSE IT’S HARD.
Remember that quote from President John F. Kennedy?
“We choose to go to the moon! We choose to go to the moon […] and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”
John F. Kennedy
My idea had always been this: If I kept doing the work which other people found too hard, this will automatically put me ahead of everyone else. Slowly but surely.
- In high school I chose math over languages even though it was hard.
- At 19, I went to the military instead of working on children’s camps.
- I picked a college more than 10 hours away from my hometown.
- At college I picked the courses other people found too boring or too hard, like accounting and cost management.
Was it easy? Nope.
Did it make me a better and stronger human being? Oh yes.
Anyway, I got off track but I wanted to share some of my thoughts with you. Because chances are, you also have this fire burning inside of you. This desire to challenge yourself. To go beyond what you think of yourself. To go beyond how your family thinks of you. Your co-workers. It’s all a story we have built about ourselves. The great thing is you can change your story. I’ll talk more about this further down. For now, let’s continue my PM story.
I basically moved from project assistant to part time project manager in about two years. This means I was managing smaller projects where I still had to do some technical work myself. 2 years may sound like a long time to you but it’s not. When you manage a project, time is running at twice the speed. So, two years is nothing.
After my initial struggles (communication was not my strength) I became confident as a project leader. And when I heard other people describe me as having managed projects successfully, that felt really great.
The thing is, managing projects is not just science. It’s also an art. Therefore, you often don’t know whether you are doing things right or not, and you are constantly questioning your actions. That’s why it’s so important that you build experience and do as many projects as possible.
The new role as project manager introduced me into a whole new world. I was now dealing with executive managers, which was exciting. We were interacting on the same level and I wasn’t just a regular, low-level employee anymore. One time I even got to have breakfast with the CEO and even he knew about my successful project.
It was time or a big leap
I changed companies and found a full-time project manager role. These roles are scarce, because there are only few positions, so I was lucky I found one. Now I was managing large IT projects full time – multi millions worth. A real project manager. I was doing ONLY management and coordination work. No more technical work. I could delegate EVERYTHING.
Here’s what was best about being a reputable project manager: As my projects were international assignments, I got to travel quite a bit. My first project was in Turkey. The trip to our site was always a nightmare: a 3-hour flight followed by a 2-hour taxi ride through crazy traffic, plus a 2-hour ferry trip and then again, a taxi ride.
My next project was in Mexico. A great country. During our 2 weeks stay we spent the entire weekend exploring ancient places, pyramids and Mexican food (not talking about the Tequila).
Another project was located in India. This has been my most challenging project so far. Why? India has a very complex tax and legal system. People warned me that this would make the project very difficult. They said: “Are you sure you want to do this, Mr Neumeyer?”. I don’t know about you, but if someone tells me I shouldn’t do something, that it was too hard, then this makes me want to try even more.
Long story short: My team and I, we successfully brought the India project to an end. We managed to do what numerous teams had tried before and failed.
What should you take away from this? What might be unachievable for one person can be totally achievable for another person — meaning you.
Therefore my advice to you:
Don’t compare yourself to average people. Compare yourself to the top performers.
Because top performers always win in the end. Then you can’t help but succeed! Then your success is just a matter of staying put and time.
My project success wasn’t just a professional success. It also also a personal win, because I realized I could accomplish even the most demanding tasks. And of course you receive a lot of rewards in your company. Our director took me out for lunch to thank me personally. When do you ever get the opportunity to chat with a top manager? I always wanted to work directly with top management. Now I was.
Why am I telling you my story?
I want to show you that:
Becoming a project manager is absolutely achievable.
- Even if you think you are not a natural leader type. I wasn’t one either!
- Even if you think you are not a good communicator. I sucked at communication when I started coordinating projects.
- Even if you feel nervous talking to a large group of people. Hell, was I nervous when I gave my first project meetings! I’d go to the bathroom 5 times before every meeting. (I even bought some pills to calm down my stomach). These were my early PM days. Today I’m confident and I feel like I’m in control of things.
Forget about those bullshit stereotypes about leaders that you read about in business magazines. This has nothing to do with the real world. This is what naive people think leaders and managers are like. It’s not what leaders are actually like.
The other you that’s been waiting inside of you
Every morning you look in the mirror and you see your face. What you see is your current identity. That’s who you are. The thing is, you may not always like what you see. No, I’m not talking about your skin or your physical appearance in general. I’m talking about the things that pop into your mind when you look at yourself.
This may not all be good stuff. For example, you may think of yourself as weak. Or you may say I’m not that smart. I wish I could be more comfortable around people, have more friends. Maybe you even think of yourself as a loser, even if you’re not saying this in public.
You basically get frustrated with yourself.
I sure was.
Because you want to be different. You want to make more out of your life. Prove the people wrong who don’t have high expectations of you. You want to overtake the people who have made fun of you.
Do you know what I’m talking about?
The great thing is that frustration can be a huge trigger for changing yourself. For trying out something new. Trying to change your identity. And rewrite your story that you keep telling yourself.
I want you to challenge yourself
Put yourself into difficult situations, start your own personal transformation. Try out project management now and don’t put it aside for another year.
You will be surprised how you will change. You will see yourself differently. And you will change how you see the world. You’ll realize that you actually can achieve anything. ANYTHING.
“Life can be so much broader, once you discover one simple fact, and that is that everything around you that you call ‘life’ was made up by people who were no smarter than you.”
What are you waiting for?
You can do it.
I know you can.
To help you make the move into PM, I have created the following course.
Breaking into Project Management
Here’s a video course I created for you to guide through the process of moving into project management. Many people don’t know what steps they should take and what is expected from them. So, the course answers these questions.
After going through the videos, you will understand the requirements – that is the skills and qualities you need to bring to the game. Second, you will understand what companies are looking for in project leadership candidates. Also, I’ll show you which path is best to make the move. Finally, you’ll learn how to promote yourself and tweak your application documents so that you actually get invited for an interview.
Content of the course:
- Module 1: Your Skills: What are the core skills and qualities that project managers must bring to the job? We’ll look at each skill in depth: from planning through communication to team-building skills.
- Module 2: Certifications: Do you really need to get certified to land a PM job? Which certifications make sense for you.
- Module 3: Your Path: The typical path to become a project leader. How I became a project manager. What are good entry-level roles? And how do you find them?
- Module 4: How to Sell Yourself: Does your CV and cover letter really convey your strengths and talent in a compelling way? Does it make companies want to invite you for an interview? I’ll show you how to sell yourself properly through your application so that you actually land job interviews for PM positions.
- Module 5: How to network like a Pro: Learn how to meaningful relationships with hiring managers and recruiters and speed up the process for transitioning into project management.
How to join the course
My name is Adrian Neumeyer and I started Tactical Project Manager in 2017 because there was no other blog on the net that taught people the basics of managing projects. Today, thousands of professionals visit the blog every month and become more successful with the methods and strategies I teach.
My background is in IT and I’ve been working as an IT project manager for over 10 years now.
“I like how you make managing a project so clear and concise.”
Your questions answered
What format does the course come in?
It’s an online video course. It is hosted on the student platform of Tactical Project Manager.
I am in industry XYZ. Will the course be relevant for me?
The course does not focus on a particular industry. Remember project management is a general skill where the foundations and requirements are more or less the same in any industry.
What if I don’t like the course?
I give a 30-day money back guarantee on all my courses. If you don’t like the course and let me know within 30 days after purchase, I will refund you the money – no questions asked.
How long will I have access to the course?
You have lifetime access to the course. Watch it whenever you are ready.
I have another question. How can I reach you?
Email me at email@example.com