Software project management: A humor

Sophia was one of my students in Software Engineering. Beside her technical skills, she was also known for her humor and often made the whole class laughed. I still remember when we discussed how people view technology, she told the class: “There is an old Roman proverb: “When women are bored, they go shopping but when men are bored, they invade another country and called it “Shopping”. Today, in the information age, this proverb should be changed into: “When women are bored, they go to college and study Information Technology (IT) but when men are bored they play computer games but called it “Investigate Technology” (IT).” You could imagine how many students laughed as she always made the class much livelier. Sophia graduated in 2009 and went back to Italy, working for a software company there. Yesterday she sent me an email describing her work as a software project manager so I can share with my students:

“I would like to share with you my experience after three years working as project manager. As a married woman I declare that “Managing a software project is like giving birth to a child.” Most men do not understand about giving birth so I am writing this for women. I hope that we still have many women who study Software Engineering or Computer Science, because many of us will become “project managers” when men still work as developers and testers Ha Ha Ha…

As students, you are learning about the “Project Management Lifecycle” but some of you may not know about these four phases yet so let me help you:

Project Initiation phase can give you the same happiness as finding out that you are pregnant and soon to be a mother. Being promoted to project manager is exciting but also brings a lot of worries too. You have hundreds of questions and plenty of advices from your relatives, including your mother in laws. There are thousands of things that you must do, but it is challenging to know which ones are useful and which are not. So talk to customers, get their requirements as much as you can and set your project goals and objectives but do not share it with your mother in laws. OK!

Project Planning phase is unpleasant as the first three months of pregnancy. You are tired with your customers as they do not know what they want. One day they say this and the next day they change their mind. The same thing happens with your mother in laws. She has many conflicting advices as she does not know what she is talking about. Your husband is useless since he does not know anything about requirements, project scope; and who should be on the team so he just watches helplessly when you have your morning sickness. The only thing he can do is clean up what you vomit and worry what to do next. As project manager, you think about estimating project schedule but the schedule cannot be changed. You have only nine months to deliver the project. No more, no less and no slip schedule. You also have to think about risk management too since you have to make sure that the project will be deliver on time, on schedule with high quality.

Project execution phase is the next six months of pregnancy where you will feel like it is a century long. You will spend a lot of efforts in architect and design with all types of food. Forget your fashionable clothes; it will not fit any more. As you carefully tracking your project's progress you need a lot of help from others too. You must make sure the Quality Assurance (your husband) is doing his job by getting you whatever food you want, even it ismidnight and you want to have ice cream. (Any women who are pregnant know what I mean) You also need help from the Configuration Management (Your mother in laws) since she will control all the changes to the project. If there are changes, it should be reviewed and approved before things can be added to the project. If you plan your project well then developers must work well in programming and testing with no bugs, no defects and no problem.

Project closeout phase can be “painful” sometime. If you do not plan carefully there are always last minutes changes to be added but it is not your fault or your team's faults. Last minute event often come from the customers or other factors beyond your control. Project delivery can be a happy time depending on the view of the Quality Assurance (Your husband) or the Configuration Management (Your mother in laws) on what they think about the final product (Boy or Girl).

So you done with your project as a project manager but expect the next project to come soon. A lot of that will depend on your customer (This time is your husband) as he will have to work hard to achieve success. I hope that you all remember the four phases of software project lifecycle by now. I am sure most women do but I am not sure about the men. They may fail this class … Ha Ha Ha

Sophia from Italy.


  • Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University

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