Having heard yet another IT graduate tell me that they do not want to waste their entire career being a developer, business analyst or tester and instead prefer to start in project management, I've had to hold in the scream and write this post instead.
A good friend of mine was recently tutoring at one of the Sydney universities and mentioned to me her disbelief at the fact that the majority of the students she had contact with had sights on project management as an entry level role after finishing study. In their project teams, there were hardly any indians but lots of chiefs.
In my career, I have managed to work with a vast array of project managers. The quality has varied, as it does in any professional role. The one thing I have noticed is that the good project managers are worth their weight in saffron. A good project manager doesn't use Microsoft Project to plot the predicted progress of a project. They manage time, money, risk and people in often Machiavellian environments with a finesse that is not learnt in a book or during a degree.
At ThoughtWorks, I am lucky to work with only the best project managers there are. One is known as the "Ego Wrangler" because she can get peak performance from a team of alphas who if left to their own devices would degrade in to a Tank Girl style society. Handling smart individuals with great enthusiasm for what they do in the conservative business world takes a lot of experience with people and situations. It takes experience in risk management and that doesn't mean avoiding risk. It means knowing when to hold 'em, knowing when to fold 'em, knowing when to walk away and knowing when to run. There is the skill of listening and hearing more than what is said in meetings, over coffee, on the lift and during staff tantrums.
If I was to sum it up, project management takes years of experience working on many projects. You have to fail and succeed and learn from yours and the mistakes of others. The ones I know have my trust, dedication and respect. Unfortunately, that is just not something you give to someone straight out of university no matter how brilliant they will one day be.