The move from technical expert to leader is a big jump for many people. And the work you do as a subject matter expert is very different from how you manage a project or lead a team.
Many people get promoted – or think they get promoted – because they’re technically very good in a role. That doesn’t have to mean IT skills. Any subject matter expert who is detailed, personable and demonstrably good at their job can jump up into a leadership role. You could be a marketing coordinator promoted to marketing project manager, for example.
Wherever you are in the business, making the move from team member to team leader is a challenge.
From Technical to Exceptional is a course designed to help you safely and successfully make the transition. I review quite a lot of project management training materials, but I’ve never come across a course that is so laser focused, and so useful for the people it is designed to reach.
What’s Inside The Course
The course is focused around six transformations that you need to make to move from technical expert to leader or project manager. These are:
- From disillusioned to eyes wide open
- From tech savvy to business savvy
- From technical resource to strategic partner
- From reluctantly reclusive to perfectly persuasive (I loved this module)
- From irritation to interesting interactions
- From super stressed to stunning success.
The course is made up of 18 mainly video-based lessons. There’s an assessment of your current knowledge and skills that you can download as a spreadsheet or take online.
The course is nicely laid-out, logically presented with high quality video and audio. The user interface is easy to follow and clean. The slides are modern-looking and easy to understand. The videos aren’t too long and Andrew has broken up the larger modules into shorter sections so you don’t feel like you have to sit in front of the screen for hours.
There are no slides to download or transcripts, so if you prefer to learn through reading, this course might not be right for you.
The Course Instructor
I hadn’t come across Andrew Zeitoun before, but I was introduced to him by Dr John Estrella, PMP, the founder of Brain Sensei — a PMP® Exam Prep Course.
Andrew was a technical expert who moved to manager – I hope he won’t mind me saying that was a long time ago. He’s spent two decades of training and coaching experts who want to transition to leadership roles, straddling the technology and management divide. He has filled many roles including technical pre-sales, system administration, IT Operations management, as well as consulting and training.
Andrew founded Threshold Knowledge Inc. in 2004 with a focus on the practical balancing of leadership and technology. He has a hybrid role at the moment, splitting his time between consulting to support customers undertaking IT-led business critical projects and coaching and training new and experienced managers.
It didn’t take many interactions with Andrew before I quickly understood his professionalism and expertise, and I really like the fact he does the job as well as teaches the job. I think that makes a difference to the practical skills you have to offer students. He knows what really works.
A Lesson in Realism
Andrew’s teaching style is totally grounded in reality. For example, when he’s talking about communication styles, and switching up your style to better adapt your way of communicating to reach your stakeholders more effectively, he talks about why we should bother. Why shouldn’t stakeholders make an effort to switch their styles to better understand us? Why shouldn’t they help us meet halfway. “They have no vested interest to do that,” says Andrew. And he’s right. If you want to make an impact at work and succeed in your role as a new project manager, you have to do the work. Sorry, that’s life. Andrew doesn’t sugar-coat it. He wants you to get that promotion, so he explains it how it is.
How This Course Fits With Other Methods and Standards
I asked Andrew how the course fits alongside other project management approaches, PMI standards and PRINCE2, for example. He said:
For those readers who are following the Project Management Institute (PMI) path, many of the things we cover appear under the PMI heading of Cross-cutting Knowledge and Skills. These are skills and capabilities project managers need, that are hard to teach as part of the Project Management Methodology, but help deliver project success.
From a PRINCE2 perspective, this course provides the ‘why?’ and ‘how?’ of the Communications Strategy Management document. In some cases it provides the ‘what?’ directly for you.
As one of my students commented recently: “Project management is easy for me, because it’s linear. Stakeholder management is the hard part, and this [course] made it easier for me.”
Dealing with the non-linear aspects of Stakeholder Management, the people, the personalities, the politics, becomes easier with the mindset shift that comes through the 6 Transformations.
How Long Does it Take to Do From Technical to Exceptional?
You can easily work through the course in a day. Putting the skills into practice will be an ongoing commitment.
Some of these ideas are things that you’ll need to practice over and over again, and you may need to wait until the right opportunity comes along before you can use them at work.
I love the message from this course: that you don’t need to be more technical to get promoted. You need to learn business savvy and the ability to present yourself and your ideas well. If you go into project management with the mindset that you will succeed by being more process-driven or technically-driven you are more likely to fail to deliver stakeholder value. Stakeholder engagement, communication skills and leadership matter!