Bloggers Sound Off: Project Management Career Paths

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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