Project & Product Management Resources for Students and Recent Grads
6 min read
Riding on the coat-tails of my previous post where I talked about Data Analytics for students and grads, I thought I would provide a similar post in another vertical that is incredibly important in the technology space: toolsets for product and project management!
I’ve strategically navigated and touched most major enterprise toolsets for managing Agile projects and driving product strategy and I’ve compiled a list of platforms and tools that are:
Some of my favorites and
Very friendly to students who still have access to their .edu email.
Like before, many of these will even have friendly free-tiers regardless of your student status.
If you are a student, my recommendation is to get out of Word and Google Docs and pick tools to start using them for every aspect of your life in university:
Manage your grades and classes
Manage your group projects, especially your capstones projects
Manage your student organization. These are toolsets I wished I utilized during my time as both Secretary and Recruitment Chairman for my fraternity.
While there may be initial growing pains and a learning curve, you will be distinguishing yourself from other grads by demonstrating that you are already comfortable operating in PM toolsets that many of the biggest enterprise companies are currently utilizing. It also allows you to exercise valuable skillsets around Product and Project Management and use frameworks that are not often explicitly taught in University settings.
Atlassian is the probably the biggest player in software management. It is trusted by major companies and brands like Dropbox and Visa. Their products also act as the backbone for DI2E, the platform allowing modern collaboration and development within the United States defense and intelligence communities.
Some of their top products include:
Jira — Break your project release down into agile components like Epics, Stories, and Tasks that you can then assign and track across your team. Through their built-in automation suite and Jira Query Language (JQL) you can build many clever automations such as emailed reports of tasks TODOs tailored to each group member.
Confluence — A wiki tool that allows you to write documentation around your projects, take meeting minutes, and much more. With a powerful indexed search functionality, you don’t need to go digging through mountains of documents to find your notes from that one meeting with a project customer.
Bitbucket — A git interface that allows you to collaborate on a singular code-base for software-driven projects.
Just about all tools in Atlassian are free for up to 10 users and a limited but still usable amount of storage space. This should be enough for capstone or group projects at most Universities.
Even if you decide not to use their products, Atlassian’s open Team Playbook is nothing to scoff at! This page acts as an encyclopedia of industry-tested “plays” or instructions for guided sessions for your team to do everything a distracted or failing group project could possible need to get back on track!
If you want a quick primer on Agile and Jira, I found the “Agile with Atlassian Jira” on Coursera to be an excellent introduction to both!
Asana seeks to be the home for all productivity and creativity at your organization and they are trusted at major enterprises like Deloitte and Google. They have too many solutions to name with hundreds of proven templates and workflows around:
Business Processes and Automation
Agile & Scrum Project Management
Customer Relationship Management
While Asana does seem to be a little weaker on software-specific project management, it plugs the holes by offering integrations with other platforms like Github.
If nothing else, the tool is worth exploring in order to remove some of the complexities of project development by leaning on their templates and frameworks to help you and your team take a project from initial design to deployment and maintenance.
Asana has a strong free-tier and Asana Premium is free for all students.
Often coming with Microsoft and Azure enterprise license packages, Azure DevOps is often the de-facto tool found at many companies and Universities.
Azure DevOps offers all the same tooling that can be expected from software and project productivity suites:
Azure Boards — Split your work into Epics, Stories, and Tasks and track them across Kanban boards for your team.
Azure Repos — Private git repos for maintaining your team’s codebase.
Extensions — Azure DevOps has a strong library of extension allowing you to connect your project in clever ways to other tools like Microsoft Teams or Github.
While you could use this suite to manage just about any project, Azure DevOps is definitely focused on software releases with a litany of integrations into tools like VSCode and Azure to provide a singular interface into application development and performance.
If your school relies on Microsoft as their primary office suite then it is very likely that you will get free, unlimited access to this toolset with your student license. Contact or browse your school’s IT resources for more information. If your school can’t help you then Microsoft Azure will give you access to the tools for free along with $100 Azure credit if you have an .edu address.
Unlike the other tools in this list, which seek to address management for an individual project and operate on a much smaller project-team scale, Basecamp seeks to address issues around communication and management for an entire company or organization. These issues are often found when relying on email or static file attachments. Basecamp is an excellent spot for managing a collection of project teams, perhaps a community of students in your particular school (Computer Engineering class of 2021) or a place for your student organization.
Every project within an organization’s Basecamp has 6 offerings:
To-Dos — tasks to be completed with assignments and due-dates
Message Board — more persistent, forum-style discussions and announcements
Project Schedule — A calendar of dates to hit with integrations for all major calendar apps
Docs & Files — a location for individuals to collaborate and show off documents and assets
Campfire — a simple group chatroom
Check-ins — recurring questions for all within your project
While Basecamp also has a strong free-tier, they offer free Basecamp Pro for Classroom for teachers and students. Basecamp is definitely a strong offering for anyone who wants to create a greater sense of community.
It’s probably easier to say what Airtable is not because this platform is packed with so many templates that it’s hard to think of what you can’t do to manage your project:
Gantt charts for timelines
and many more!
With a strong free-tier allowing for over 1,000 records and 2GB of attachment space it’s worth a look for aspiring project and product managers. If you’re a student, they are offering free access to Airtable Pro for up to 2 years as well as a wealth of ideas for how to use the platform for personal organization!
Notion is my personal favorite “notebook” application, but it is so much more powerful than that. Through clever combinations of their tooling and ability to use templates created by them and other users, the platform is similar to Airtable in that it can be molded to fit just about any use-case you can imagine.
Notion offers free Notion Pro for anyone with a .edu email address, which includes unlimited file uploads and unlimited guests collaborating, an incredibly generous offering for such a versatile platform!
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