Fujitsu UK

Developing Early-Career Project Managers



Click HERE to download the PDF



Learning That Makes a Difference

What’s the best way to prepare project managers at the start of their careers?

Fujitsu UK’s Program and Project Services (P&PS) team realized that it needed a new way to develop project management capability in its early-career professionals.


A Need for Project-Specific Training

Fujitsu UK’s traditional approach to project manager development was lo hire a small class of university graduates and apprentices and put them through a two-year general business management training program . This fell short for four reasons:

  • The training did not include any project management content, focusing instead on general concepts and skills such as leadership and lime management,
  • It failed to address the needs of apprentices.
  • The two-year time horizon was not long enough to develop the depth of project management capability that the job required.
  • The attrition rate of employees who went through the program proved problematic. While it was no higher than Fujitsu’s overall attrition rate, the small size of the program meant that every individual who left the profession was a significant loss.

Fujitsu is a multinational information and communications technology equipment and services company with more than $35 billion in annual revenue (2020).

“A two-year graduate program isn’t going to turn you into a project manager. It’s going to be the experience you get delivering projects as well as some formal learning and a strong support network. You need the opportunities to fail and get back up again—to gain scars.”

– Sinead Graf, Head of P&PS Early Career Initiative


Early-Career Development Framework

Fujitsu UK developed a framework built on three pillars—structured learning, learning from others, and experiential rotations—intended to span the first five years of a participant’s career. The framework’s design is informed by the 70-20-10 model for learning and development, which recognizes that most learning takes place on the job.

This professional development opportunity is funded by a government initiative to support apprentice ships through structured learning programs that lead to industry-recognized certifications.

It begins with a three-week structured learning and induction (onboarding) program that covers essentials including an overview of the organization and its operations, foundations of project management, and general business concepts such as profit and loss and stakeholder management.

At the end of the course, participants are placed in a rotational assignment in the program management office (PMO) for the first six to eight months.

“If you understand the way the PMO operates, supports, and controls the environments in which projects work, then you will be a better project manager,” says Sinead Graf, who developed and led the initiative for its first two years. “You will understand the impact that your work has on other people.”

After the first rotation, participants take on a new assignment, preferably in the same sector that they’ve gained experience with during their rotation in the PMO. They manage a small project for the next six months before being assigned to a different project in a different sector for a rotation that could last up to a year.

This program has transformed our ability to create consistently high-performing young professionals, driving improved customer experience and outcomes whilst ensuring the participants have every opportunity to grow their careers in a great DX environment.”

– Nichola Clark, Head Project & Programme Services UK and Global Community

Having the rotation system and experience matrix means we know the early career professional can hit the ground running and immediately slot into delivery and customer facing teams.”

– Ian Prangley, Public Sector Projects Delivery Lead

The support systems for each participant include a buddy from the previous class of project management trainees, a coach, an assignment manager, a senior leadership team (SLT) sponsor within the P&PS organization, and the head of the early-career initiative.

After two years in the program, all participants are assessed to determine overall progress and identify strengths. Over the last three years of the program, participants go through at least three more rotations, though some cycle through four or five positions during that time.


Higher Employee Engagement Scores

Surveys taken after six amount in the program and six months later found that participants reported the greatest gains in growth and sense of purpose.

“A strong support network has been in place at every step to provide mentoring and guidance where required.”

–Adam Lewis, Class of 2019




Related Content

  • Project Management Journal

    The Impact of Executive Coaching on Project Managers' Personal Competencies member content locked

    By Ballesteros-Sánchez, Luis | Ortiz-Marcos, Isabel | Rodríguez-Rivero, Rocío Personal competencies have been shown to be increasingly reliable predictors of successful project managers. This research studies whether executive coaching is effective in strengthening personal…

  • PM Network

    2018 Jobs Report member content open

    By Rockwood, Kate The outlook is better than it's been in years. The global economy is surging, boosting job markets across sectors and continents. The global GDP growth projection of 3.7 percent for this year…

  • PM Network

    Stop the turnover member content open

    By Kroll, Karen M. Employers take heed: as demand overtakes supply, project practitioners who aren't happy in their current positions will find plenty of opportunities to move on. This article discusses how…

  • PM Network

    No pain, no gain member content open

    By Scott, Lindsay Studying project failures provides us with the opportunity to learn from the mistakes of others. However, what kind of effect do project failures have when interviewing for a new position? This…

  • PM Network

    5 signs that it's time to go member content open

    By Bertsche, Rachel A missed promotion, measly pay, a truly horrible boss: some signs make it easy for an employee to know it's time to leave a job. But sometimes the signals aren't so blatant--especially when it comes…