Are students getting brainwashed to become project managers ?

As we all know, the percentage of IT projects that succeed is very low, and this post doesn’t have the pretension to explain you why. The reasons are multiple and complex. But there is one that we all know about and live on our day to day jobs : IT projects are mostly made of junior developers and tons of unexperienced managers. Well, at least in France, but I know other countries that follow the same pattern. Here, code is bad. So if you turn 30 and you are still spending 8 hours a day in front of your IDE it’s because there’s something wrong with you. And, of course, your salary will not increase as development is not seen as a valuable job. So, what do you need to do ? Become a project manager of course. You will get a pay rise… and a gorgeous girlfriend. What ? You don’t believe me ?

The other day I went to a IT university (I’m not mentioning the name here) and this is what I could see on the walls :

Become a manager

This one says “pssst… become a project leader”. As you can see on the right side, the guy wears a nice tie and his girlfriend looks gorgeous.

Become a manager

This one is better. On the left side is the developer’s girlfriend and on the right side the manager’s one (“become project manager“). I suppose I don’t have to explain this one.

Become a manager

This one says “Your are the one. You have already made your choice. Become a project leader”. That reminds you the Matrix of course. So the developer takes the blue pill and the manager the red pill.

I hope these ads haven’t been made by the teachers themselves but by the students. One way or the other, this is what your are taught at university. So when you are 22/24 years old and you start your first job, you definitely want to pull the nice girls and try to avoid coding as much as you can. 2 years of developing is enough, and when you turn 24/26, you want to manage projects… and fail miserably but you have the money and the gorgeous cheek.

As I said, this is not the only reason why projects fail, but it’s one of them. IT industry is one of the few where experience is not rewarded. An experienced lawyer is, an experience accountant also, but a developer should not be more than 30. This is clearly wrong and ads like these ones do not help in solving this cultural problem.

And what about you ? Would you prefer to become a project manager and have a nice girlfriend ?

19 thoughts on “Are students getting brainwashed to become project managers ?

  1. Hello,

    i think that many things are broken in French universities and professional places, but this concept is really broken.
    Developer job and manager job are really different jobs, and i understand that some of us start developer job to become PM (i do not know of PM that wasn’t manager before), but they should know that this is not everybody’s dream.
    I really dislike the looser image they put on people that do not dream to become PM.

    In my case, i am really happy with my wife, , getting 35 soon, and told to my boss last week that i prefer to get less money but being happy to go to my developer job every morning which may not be the case with a manager job.

  2. I would say that by this example you are just proving Anthonio’s point, trading skill and experience for the less money.

  3. I agree with Max. Developers should not agree to earn less money. I know it’s what we have been asked to do, but this has to change. The short term options I see in France for the moment are either become a contractor (quite easy), join a national software company where code is their business (but that’s difficult as there are not many software companies in France) or an international open source company and work from France (not easy either as the seats are numbered). The long term solution is make your boss understand that your experience as a developer should be rewarded… but that’s gonna take time as it is a cultural problem.

  4. At first sight , It’s true that Geeks are not known to catch the cutest girls 🙂

    It’s sad thing & I think most people recognize it : technicians/developpers/architect (in IT) are less paid than people doing planning & meeting for following project advancement .

    The pics u showing are very terrific .I think most IT compagny , since they are in short term money perspective , follow the movement & try to recruit/train the more PM they can .

    anyway good post , still not sure PM will catch a cutest girl than me cause he is PM:)

  5. These ads are not only stupid, they are also sexist and machist !

    And this is a tribute to the dominant “highly educated white young male with a big brain but a social handicap” mindset prevalent in IT in most western countries that your post and comments did not raise that point before. This echoes recent posts here and there (sorry no time to chase references) advocating ADHD and other mental disorders are beneficial to programmers skills !

    As long as we shall not take seriously the stance that programming is a social activity, this kind of brainwashed sexist messages will continue.

  6. Does it work to have a nice boyfriend as well ? ^_^

    I also noticed these posters. As I woman I first noticed that they are sexists. Project managers are supposed to be men and women are venal. It’s not new to me but I though people would be less clear these days.

    As for the reason why there are so many juniors on projects, I can see many
    – rapid changes : seniors in IT gain domain and team skills over time but have a hard work staying current with new technologies
    – price cuts : the junior is cheaper, less productive but who can ascertain that the senior will be so productive that it compensate ? and senior are less easy to fool too
    – tailorism / valorization of design over realization : design is regarded as a brain activity, whereas coding would be a manual activity (replace design concepts with predefined words) . In addition design always work. and everyone knows that coding means doing bugs. thus programmers feel stupid

    Times are changing. The clear line between design and coding tends to disappear in Agile projects, and omniscient architects as well. So there is a path for experimented programmers (until balance goes the other way).

    Not sure there is an impact on girlfriends or wages …

  7. So true. My own experience is the same.

    I finished a French master degree one year ago. Teachers were telling us that our focus on short term was to leave development.

    Within the french retail bank I worked for as a apprentice, people/developers see project management as a reward after long and painful years of coding (and when they become a project manager, they wrongly think that they can boss the developers; It’s the team manager’s “job”).
    Several times, I had to argue with classmates who thought that if you still develop 2 years after the end of your master, there is something wrong and you didn’t get the meaning of your studies.

    Today I develop (and do small project mgmt with HQ in Paris) in the USA and the mentality is slightly different. Development is not seen as piece of crap.
    Don’t get me wrong, I do think that project management is really important. That’s the reason why not everybody can do it. Even if some juniors have got very good hard and soft skills, a lot like me, have to take time to learn. Development and design are very good exercises when we want to deal with softwares.

    BTW my girlfriend is really cute !

  8. I like this posting.One thing I noticed over my years of experience in the Software industry is that a Manager has to win the team support which a developer need not.In one sense it is like saying a manager should have already done his technical homewok and has to spend time connecting,influencing,nertworking people or tasks.

    Developers are like Java Code they are portable and flexible.

    Manager are like JVM they should be tied to the company like JVM is tied to the OS.

    Frequent jumps in Jobs are ok in developers CV’s but looks very bad in Manager’s CV.s.

    So that is the reason why I think Managers are paid more.

  9. This is a great post. I am a senior consultant in the US and have been thinking of moving back to France (where I went school in high school and college) after many years. Based on this post I don’t think I would get along well there!

    In my experience, I get paid about the same as a manager. The difference is that I’m paid overtime for work over 40 hours, where a manager is not.

    But simply put, if I do not work the software will not be completed. If the manager does not work life goes on as normal and most people will not notice.

    In my field, older developers are generally more productive than junior developers, and they’re paid accordingly. I recall one developer who commented that he really only just started writing useful code after 5 years of doing development. I think there’s a measure of truth to that.

    And project managers are a complete waste to a software project. They’re simply overhead. In another 10 years no one will have heard of this position, as there is no need for it.

  10. Jeff,

    I know a few US people who moved to France (one a few years ago, 2 recently) as consultants, albeit senior ones. Apparently, they are not complaining about their salary.

    As for me, with my 10+ years of experience, I have been hired recently as a full-time developer (as opposed to consultant) and I cannot complain about my salary either. We’ve been hiring more techies since I’ve joined.

    We’re very small, so we might not be representative of the general job market in France. Still, the situation is not as generally bleak as this post implies.


  11. The problem with IT studies in France in also that you don’t get a clear vision of the job you will be able to get with your degree.

    You know you can be a developer, and the after some years become a project manager. This is it.

    I mean, are they only 2 different jobs in the IT domain ?? Of course not … but no one in the french universities thinks it would be usefull to let students know about the different options they have.

  12. Simplistic propaganda like this is funny. But students should be made aware as soon as possible of the reality of the workplace. Most (all?) engineer types view their work only as an act of creation, and they get f**ed along the way. It’s sad to wake up at 30 and realize you’ve been used. My opinion is that “Fire your boss” by Stephen Pollan should be a required reading to complete your degree…

  13. Here in Brazil the mentality is pretty much the same. Actually, I already think it can’t be right the fact that they direct nearly all computer science courses towards the IT market, not scientific side of it, but that’s not the subject here. You’ve got many programming classes, At least one or two per semester, but as you get to the two last years of college, when most students are already working here (either as interns or full-time employees), it’s all about RUP, PMBOK, deliverables, etc.. Plus, the market here is exactly like that: you start as a maintenance intern, become a tester, gets to be a developer, is promoted to analyst and then becomes a project manager – when in fact, many of those “career steps” seem incompatible to me.

    It’s all about the old saying, “promoting a developer to project manager could make you lose a good programmer to get a bad manager”.

  14. As an old developer (12 years in it), i have come to understand why it is safer to turn your back to coding at one point,when you work in that industry for some time.

    Experience in some technology won’t make more demanded as thinks keep evolving and very few managers understand that the core ideas remain the same behind the catch words.

    Example: I have in-dept knowlege of toplink. But i had problems to sell that knowledge in projets where they use hibernate.
    I have written at some point an mvc2 framework for a client. But i have found it very hard to prove that struts is just another mvc framework, and i won’t have any problem to adapt.

    So i have come to the conclusion that as the decision makers in IT departements have little knowledge about the technos (the have turned managers at 24…), it is safer to follow the same path.

    Anyways, nice blogs.

  15. Great work Antonio. I was writing a case on the iRace platform that has been put in place at Infosys to cut through the same cultural issues….. however, since I am not a techie, i could not relate to the cultural issue. Thanks for your wise posting.

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