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Bloggers Sound Off: Project Management Career Paths

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In the first installment of the Voices on Project Management roundtable series, we asked bloggers for their thoughts on critical project management skillsets.

This week, they discuss project management career paths. We asked them: Is there a defined career path at your organization? If not, what do you think are the barriers to developing one? If there is one, how is it affecting business success?

Mário Henrique Trentim, PMI-RMP, PMP: Unfortunately, we don't have clear project management career paths at my organization. In Brazil, project management is seen as a practice, not a profession. Career paths here are usually oriented according to recognized professions, such as engineer or lawyer.

I believe the greatest barriers are cultural and political ones within organizations. It would be necessary to make organizational structures more flexible to support dedicated career paths. Moreover, senior managers and executives don't know enough about project management to understand the importance of establishing project management career paths. 

I consider myself a project management "evangelist" in that I try to show organizations, not just mine, the importance of project management. I do that by addressing senior managers and executives, because from my experience, people in lower hierarchical levels have already embraced the importance of project management. There are a lot of courses, seminars and workshops for project management professionals, but senior managers and executives usually don't participate in them.


Vivek Prakash, PMP: Having worked with IT and non-IT companies, I have observed that a project manager's role and career are quite well defined in IT companies. However, this is not the case with manufacturing and research and development (R&D) organizations. In a broader sense, I can say a project manager's role and career are better defined in projectized organizations, but not in functional ones such as many found in pharmaceuticals, biotech and manufacturing.

The main barrier in functional organizations in defining a project manager's role is the focus on management of products and patents. Today's customer is interested in buying solutions, not just products. That means there's a growing need for people from different functions to come together to provide customized solutions in a specific timeframe. 

A project manager is required to lead such initiatives. And while it is a specialized skill, coordinating among various functions and aligning them toward a single objective is taken for granted. Employees are either not capable or interested in playing the project manager's role, as there is no formal training or career path. This is causing delays and budget overruns in projects.


Conrado Morlan, PMP, PgMP: I've never worked in an organization with defined project management career paths. But in my past organizations, there have been succession plan processes. For example, at a previous employer, human resources would organize meetings twice a year with organizational heads of different functions (i.e., vice presidents of finance, sales, marketing, IT, etc.). During these meetings, the definition and review of succession plans took place, as well as the identification of high-potential individuals. This has provided project professionals with the opportunity to make lateral moves to business functions or to another business unit in a similar project management role.

One of the barriers, at least in the last two years at a company I worked for, was the constant reorganizations that removed and consolidated functions. The changes demanded frequent updates to job descriptions and left no time to really align these with project and program management functions -- let alone develop career paths. The business success of the organization was on track, but project professionals could not figure out their next step in their career within the organization.

Does your organization have a project management career path? If so, what impact has it had on business success?

 

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2 Comments

Shohin Aheleroff, MSc, PMP: Having worked with IT /Telecom and energy companies, I do believe that a project manager's role in technology based industries are highly demanded due to the competition and huge volume of investment. The focus on IT project management standards and methodologies such as Agile has been significantly increased as an evidence for hiring professional project managers to increase the success rate of projects. By moving from traditional business to high performed industries , the career of PM will be more critical. Although it was assumed that only projectized organizations need a PM , but due to high business demands, innovations and changes the PM role become a permanent position in the fast growing companies.
The majority of traditional project managers had deep technical knowledge while the complexity of solutions and dependencies to various industries and technologies make project manager as a professional who will lead the other technical team members as well as business. The project manager will care more about business goals than just managing and controlling tasks therefore it will be considered as a critical success factor for any organization that can’t be replaced with technical resource or general functional manger. The project manager well known as an experienced person with great track record of deliveries that can lead the business toward the company’s strategic plan.

The project management career path in any company is set by the PMO - and that's why those companies with no PMO in place won't have a clear/unique career path for project managers.

It doesn't matter which industry the company belongs to - if it has a PMO then it has a PM career path. The presence of a PM career path is a sign that the company has a high level of maturity when it comes to project management.

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Voices on Project Management offers insights, tips, advice and personal stories from project managers in different regions and industries. The goal is to get you thinking, and spark a discussion. So, if you read something that you agree with — or even disagree with — leave a comment.

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