In my career, I have been most fortunate to work on a variety of projects mostly those that are Information Technology (IT) - or financial services-driven. The IT projects have involved mostly software delivery or implementation, but I also have had the opportunity to conduct projects in technology driven infrastructure, state government, and yes, even a few months in pharmaceuticals. So you can say that I have touched projects in a varied assortment of industries. Nevertheless, there are certain industries that require specific knowledge of the type of product or service being delivered by the project team. This brings up the question: Is the PMP portable to different industries? For example, can a PM who has worked mostly in financial services work as a pharmaceutical PM? Can a PM who has worked in infrastructure work in government? Let’s examine some questions.
Can the PM show that he/she understands the “lingo?”
This is the first and most likely the hardest question. Just because a PM has worked on technology projects focused on software doesn’t mean that the PM is a “fit” in a pharmaceutical company if the project has to do with software. Let’s say a company is focused on civil engineering. Will a PM understand the needs of the project if the PM has been working in financial services? There may be some exceptions, but I am of the mind that trying to get this PM job may be a tough sell. Yes, I have heard of exceptions, for example, a PM with experience in the refrigeration industry landed a position in pharmaceuticals. In this case, the PM's knowledge of refrigeration was beneficial because the pharmaceutical company’s product needs to be refrigerated. That was an easy cross-over in industries. But how many experiences like that have you heard of? You see, the PM must be able to speak to at least the high-level of the product being delivered so that the project team members will respect the PM.
Has the PM worked on similar projects?
Let's go back to our PM who understands the working of software contracts. Can he/she work on a scientific software project in a pharmaceutical company or a clinical research organization (CRO)? If the PM understands the types of contracts and legal and scientific terms commonly used in the industry, then he or she may be able to make the cross over. Again, this may be the exception and not the rule. Scientists who work in CROs may need a PM that thoroughly understands their needs and understands the legal issues of deploying, maintaining, and upgrading software that these scientists use.
Can the PM show his/her flexibility in abilities?
Sure, most PMs I know are very flexible and have worked on a variety of projects, such as I have. It is good for the PM to have a broad knowledge of multiple industries, as long as the PM can be focused on one type. On the one hand, the PM doesn’t want to be “pigeon-holed” in a single area, but on the other, neither does the PM want to be considered a jack of all trades but a master of none. The PM wants to be portrayed as an expert in his/her field with a working knowledge of how projects
work in other industries.
However, the question of portability in other industries becomes quite difficult to explain. I have seen exceptions where a PM has left the industry they have been working in for some time and gone over to another industry. However, those have been the exception. The rule usually is that the PM stays within their industry and works to become the go-to PM in that industry.
I am open to discussion at any time on these blogs or anything else related to project management you would like to explore. If you would like to comment about this blog, please do so by posting on this blog or by responding in an email at Benny A. Recine. You may inspire a blog article. I look forward to your comments.