Posted by: ThePMOView | August 28, 2012

How we can grow as Project Managers

There is an interesting discussion (as of August 28, 2012) about training on LinkedIn’s PMO forum (of which I am a member). Someone asked about an education program for PMOs (Does anyone knows or recommends a graduate program from an university (Certificate, MSc, MBA with Concentration) focused on PMO ?).

So I thought this would be a good time to republish an article I wrote for the PMI Newsletter for the New York PMI chapter. The New York PMI Chapter is the largest chapter in the US (and maybe the world) with over 10,000 members (at least at the time I was involved with them).

While we are talking about education, one thing that my Masters really helped me with is vastly improving my writing skills. So you can see this difference very clearly in the article below versus what I have been posting on this blog previously. While the article was well received in the newsletter, I do not feel it is up to my current standards. But it will be an interesting read regardlessJ.


How can we grow as Projects Managers?

(Originally published in the PMI New York Chapter Newsletter, 2004)

This is always a good question. Do we expand our knowledge through seminars and training offerings from PMI and their affiliates? Or do we take a longer and more formal path and get a degree in Project Management? Like most questions like this, each path has its positives and negatives. In addition, personal life and work demands also have impact on which path would be the right choice for an individual to make. What this article hopes to do is to outline what options you have to grow and which one might best fit your circumstances.

Let’s start with the PMI as that is the body of knowledge that most PM’s subscribe to. The PMI offers many different classes, both online and classroom and cover many different areas of Project Management. This allows each of us to customize exactly what areas of Project Management we would like to improve on. They are usually short, no more than a week in most cases, so can fit into a busy work and life schedule easier.

These offerings are good for specialized knowledge and preparation for the PMP certification. The difficulty comes in that (except for the PMP certification) all that you receive to show for the effort is continuation education credits and a training certificate. None of those will impress anyone outside the PM community (and maybe not even that). The knowledge you gain will definitely help improve your skills, but unless someone lets you actually use the skills you did gain, the effort has been wasted.

Another down side is that these courses will do very little to improve you marketability in an area where it seems like EVERYONE is now a Project Manager of some kind. You may be able to talk about those areas you just learned about with more knowledge and authority, but if those areas are not of interest to the company at the moment, then, again, your time has not been used well.

My own personal view is that all knowledge is useful. So using these classes just to gain knowledge for knowledge sake is always worthwhile. However, our time available to learn just for learning’s sake is very limited. In college, we could take courses outside of the main area of study, because we were already there learning. So expanding our knowledge was already built into the project plan as it were. Now however, taking time away from work and family just to gain some addition knowledge may not be possible. The bottom line for us to ask ourselves is, can we afford it when there is no immediate gain other than the knowledge itself?

This leads into the second method of expanding our knowledge, acquiring a diploma in Project Management. This can be either an under-graduate degree or an advanced degree. Talk about time sinks! This is the ultimate one. So why bother?

I actually had an interview with a Fortune 100 company for a position in their national PMO. The reason that I did not get the position was because I did not have a Master in Project Management. That was one of the selection criteria for the position. (Of course why they wanted to interview me when I did not have that listed on my resume is still an open question. Did they think I might have forgotten to mention it?)

So this is the main reason, it is an accepted accomplishment everywhere. It will never expire, no continuation education needed to maintain it, and it shows that you are committed to your field. There are several accredited schools that offer degrees in Project Management, both BS and MS. These are also offered in online formats and traditional classroom environments.

But the time involved is considerable to say the least. At least two years in most cases for a Masters. The biggest difference is that this time can be better justified than the other method, because there is an actual gain at the end. The time will be, not just learning, but learning with a purpose. At the end of this path your marketability will be much improved, even more than a PMP certification.

So why wouldn’t everyone want to do this? The rewards are much better than the other way, so it’s a no brainer, right? Well, maybe. This choice involves both time (a lot) and money. The money may not be an issue if your company will pay for tuition, but a lot of companies that do this require you to stay for a period of time afterwards in order for them to reap the rewards of your learning. So all you have done is exchange time for money. This may not be an issue in some cases, if you were planning on staying at your company anyway, for example. The downside is that t has been my experience and for others as well that the company you are working for will not give that much of an increase in salary after you graduate (again this is something that has never made sense to me, but sadly it is the reality).

For those that pay for the education themselves or work for a company that does not require people to stay, an increase in income would be expected. (As a side note, it takes a 20% change in income to change a lifestyle, either positively or negatively). This is why the rewards are better in the long run. So again with our busy schedules, can we fit a two year commitment into something like this? Unfortunately for most of us the answer is no. So we fall back to plan B which gives allows us to fill in the gaps in our knowledge a little at a time.

At this time, to be a recognized professional project manager is a challenge as there seems to be as many project managers as there are used car salesmen. So how do we stand out from the crowd? At this time, the two methods described above are the only choices. So the only question left to you is which one will fit you the best?


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