Googled Knowledge vs Real Know how

Your new project has just been approved, and now you need to staff it.

Whether you go to HR to get resumes of potential team members, or post available team positions on LinkedIn or Career Builder, your problem is the same. Every resume you sift through seems to have all of the project ‘buzz words.’  Which resume reflects real project expertise, versus “Googled” expertise?

I am seeing a disconcerting pattern in today’s staffing. I look at someone’s resume for a position on a project and it looks like they have done everything and know everything—yet when I count up the years of experience it doesn’t add up.

How can that be?

Here’s how:  Job seekers are advised by various recruiting experts and websites to “fill your resume with the right buzz words to get you noticed” and advise that the buzz words you choose should “come directly from the job description.”  http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2010/12/14/fill-your-resume-with-the-right-buzz-words/

Although these experts caution job seekers to use the words only if you have the expertise, I can tell you that it is not always the case, at least on project management resumes I’ve seen. And it gets worse. “CareerBuilder.com” has a list of universal keywords to “help you attract attention.” OK-In fairness to job seekers, I realize that their resume will be read first by an applicant tracking system (ATS) and if it doesn’t match target key words it will never be reach a human.  (Who decided that a computer scanning program was the best way to screen applicants???)

This makes it really tough for those of us who are trying to staff with real expertise and not over inflated resumes.  After all, anyone can Google key words to review wiki definitions, read examples, and quickly obtain surface level knowledge of a topic. While definitions, facts, and key factors may be Googled, a good project manager can conduct behavioral interviews that focus on how the interviewee solved a particular problem, reacted to a crisis situation, and applied PMBoK knowledge in real life. Furthermore, making simulated scenarios, and exercises such as “fix the project schedule” or “how would you crash this schedule?”, will quickly let you ferret out real knowledge from Googled knowledge.

I dont think that these HR and recruiting firms have it right – in fact I think they are poluting the water with bloated resumes because of the way they use automated systems rather than actual interviews.  I guess they are getting ready for hiring robots rather than humans!

What other techniques do you use to ensure that the staff you bring onto your projects can do the real work of project management?

 

The Role of a Project’s Lead Technologist

Every project that I have looked at over the years involving computers, software or technology had three key staff on them — The PM, the sponsor and the lead technologist (or some call them the Subject Matter Expert- SME). Selected by the project manager, the Project Management Office, program manager or senior staff, the role of lead technologist requires someone who can effectively balance technical leadership and design, while supporting organizational and project goals. Although the exact duties differ among organizations and projects, the lead technologist often is expected to:

  • Oversee or develop the system architecture and design
  • Work with clients to understand requirements and constraints
  • Create and present the project’s technical side to customers and senior management
  • Solve technical problems
  • Referee technical disputes
  • Recommend resources and tools

I could go on. However, I think you get the idea that this position can be extremely demanding. In my career, I have seen lead technologists save the backside of inexperienced managers and nearly destroy a project because of personality conflicts with junior staff. As a lead technologist or a developer moving into a lead position, here are a few suggestions that may improve your chances of success.

  1. Get authority commensurate with the position – if you can. But remember that you are not the PM – and probably don’t want that job anyway!  Be a support partner to the project manager.
  2. Define clearly the expectations and evaluation criteria of the position – tempting though it may be for the PM to say, “and everything else assigned by the PM,” work with him or her to clarify expectations.
  3. Practice communication skills. Lead technologists help program managers, executive management, customers and stakeholders understand the technology and its application to the project goals. Often they need to serve as translators for technology approaches and obstacles.
  4. Be willing to say no. Sometimes through ignorance or bullying tactics, you will be asked to make technology violate the basic laws of physics or human nature. As lead technologist, you need to explain why an itch cannot be scratched or a request cannot be met. Be diplomatic, but firm.
  5. Get to know team members skills and motivations. Do not overlook weaknesses because of friendship. Help build weak skills and enhance aptitudes.  Be a coach.
  6. Do not hoard information – screen it. Then pass along as necessary both up, laterally and down.
  7. Work to build trust with the team by doing what you promise, admitting mistakes and recognizing (publically) achievements and contributions of team members. Give credit where credit is due!
  8. Do not be defensive, but be willing to explain technical decisions when asked. Listen to other’s ideas.
  9. Create level of effort estimates with input from the assigned staff. Do not base LOE on the time and effort you would take to complete the task (Not everyone is a super-star).
  10. Stay calm even in the face of unexpected challenges or problems.

Please share your suggestions, tips and experience as lead technologists.

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