Understanding Project Management

Discover the history behind project management to increase your understanding of technical program managers.

Author’s experience: Throughout most of my professional career, I have been a technical program manager (TPM)—or a proxy to it. During this time, I have worked alongside other TPMs on large-scale projects, mentored junior TPMs on their journey, and have interviewed a large number of TPMs from all corners of the industry. Over the years, I have gained considerable perspective on what a TPM is and what makes them successful.

Now, without getting into complex sentence diagraming, let’s take a look at the job title itself: Technical Program Manager. The title is comprised of two parts, the noun, program manager, and the adjective, technical. From this, it’s easy to see that there are at least two foundational pillars to being a TPM—the program management and the technical skills. Program management can be split into two separate pillars because program management includes project management—we can't have the skills to run a program without also having the skills to run a project. However, the reverse is not true—we can certainly have project management skills and not have the skills to run a program. So, that’s our third, and final, foundational pillar: project management.

In this chapter, we’re going to dive a bit deeper into each of these foundational pillars by exploring the following:

  • Understanding project management

  • Diving into program management

  • Exploring the technical toolset


Before diving into the first pillar, let’s take a quick look at how the pillars support each other, as illustrated in the figure below:

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