Project Management Institute

5 sectors to watch

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EVEN IN AN IFFY ECONOMY, PROJECT EMPLOYMENT ISN'T HARD TO COME BY—PRO VIDED PRO FESSIONALS KNOW WHAT TO LOOK FOR.

BY SARAH FISTER GALE ■ ILLUSTRATIONS BY DAVID SENIOR

The global economy remains in flux, and with it, the project job landscape.

But project professionals in the right geographic areas, with the right skills, in the right sectors have a distinct edge. India, for example, estimates it needs 3 million more project managers by 2017, according to The Economic Times. In the United States, Wanted Analytics found that online job listings that showed demand for project management skills hit a four-year high in 2012—even in a still-sputtering economy.

“It's a chance to participate in the greatest economic recovery of our lifetime,” says Valerie Frederickson, CEO of Valerie Frederickson and Company, a human resources services firm in Menlo Park, California, USA.

As organizations struggle through what remains a tepid recovery, they're leaning heavily on their project management talent. It's not unusual for project managers to be given a troubled project running over budget or facing unforeseen obstacles. “In those situations, you need a project leader who can communicate with executives about what needs to be done to fix the problems, or one who is willing to say the project should be canceled if it isn't meeting strategic goals,” says Everaldo S. Alves Jr., PMP, PgMP, manager of the program and project management team at HP Enterprise Services in Santiago, Chile.

Not all industries are flush with job opportunities, however. Here's a look at five interesting sectors—and what it takes to succeed in them.

 

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“There are not enough professionals [in Brazil] who have the technical expertise and the communication, leadership and language skills necessary to work in a global project environment.”

—Everaldo S. Alves Jr., PMP, PgMP, HP Enterprise Services, Santiago, Chile

Tech Never Dies

The tech sector has long placed a high premium on project management skills, and that partnership is reaching new heights in an increasingly digital-driven world.

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“This is the hottest job market I've seen in 18 years,” says Ms. Frederickson. “Wherever there are technology hubs, there is a hot job market for IT project managers.”

Emerging markets in particular are driving the tech boom: Latin America, Africa and Asia ranked as the top regions for tech growth in PwC's 15th Annual Global CEO Survey. And research firm Gartner forecasts IT spending in India will hit US$71.5 billion this year, a 7.7 percent jump over 2012.

In both rising and established tech hubs, supply is struggling to keep up with demand. The PwC survey found that nearly half of tech CEOs reported greater recruiting difficulty than in previous years. The reason is simple: Years of austerity have created an innovation backlog—and a dearth of talent. “Companies have been hoarding cash for several years and now they have money to invest,” Ms. Frederickson says. “Their boards are pushing them to introduce new products and services so they can gain market share, and they don't have the people on their team to deliver these goals.”

More than 80 percent of global tech CEOs surveyed by PwC said they will change their approach to research and development, innovation and technology investments.

As in many regions, organizations across Brazil are struggling to fill leadership roles on new tech projects, Mr. Alves says. “There are not enough professionals here who have the technical expertise and the communication, leadership and language skills necessary to work in a global project environment.”

The candidates best poised to take advantage of the demand have both technical skills coupled with project management experience and credentials, Ms. Frederickson says.

How to Land the Job

  • Be part of the in crowd. Some of the hottest tech companies do the bulk of their hiring through referrals, so leverage your network to get to know employees at the company where you want to work.
  • Break out the passport. Increasing globalization across the tech sector is putting a high premium on strong cross-cultural and language skills.
  • Reboot your skill set. The tech world moves quickly, so keep up with trends and avoid job gaps, even if it means taking contract or part-time work.

 

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“This is the hottest job market I've seen in 18 years. Wherever there are technology hubs, there is a hot job market for IT project managers.”

—Valerie Frederickson, Valerie Frederickson and Company, Menlo Park, California, USA

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How to Land the Job

  • Make the link. If you're new to the sector, highlight your experience in information security, logistics and regulatory management—all issues relevant to the healthcare environment.
  • Show your human side. Healthcare is, after all, ultimately about caring for people.
  • Talk big picture. Go in armed with talking points on how IT can help drive the broader strategic goals of healthcare organizations.

Healthcare's Positive Prognosis

When it comes to jobs, healthcare dominates. In the United States, it is projected to outpace every other economic sector in employment opportunities until 2020, according to the Health eCareers Network. Demand is highest for health IT analysts, which account for 30 percent of job openings. Shifting healthcare regulations, increased demand for electronic medical records and health information exchange systems, and a boom in medical facility construction and upgrades are fueling the demand.

For many healthcare organizations, hiring project management talent is a solid way to ensure their projects not only stay on time and on budget, but also gain a competitive edge. A majority of healthcare CEOs reported they want to capitalize on innovation to increase efficiency, according to the PwC CEO report.

The United States, India and China are all expected to see growth in healthcare in 2013. Although Indeed.com reports healthcare job postings in the United Kingdom dropped 8.5 percent over the past year, the sector still holds clear promise. Nearly half of healthcare CEOs surveyed by PwC said hiring people with the right skills has become harder. That indicates an open playing field for those with well-honed project management abilities—even if they were earned in a different sector.

Mike Haran, PMP, PgMP, spent 12 years running IT projects in the financial services industry before attempting to transition into healthcare. When he started looking for a healthcare job, he noticed an abundance of postings in the field, and most of them listed a preference for healthcare-related project management expertise. Even without that experience, he was hired as project director at OptumRX, the pharmacy benefit management segment of UnitedHealth Group in Irvine, California, USA.

During job interviews, Mr. Haran made a point to talk about his experience in the finance world and related those challenges to the healthcare industry, including adapting to changing regulations and protecting confidential data.

“Every job description says ‘healthcare experience preferred,’ but there just aren't that many professionals in the field that have healthcare experience,” he says. “If you can clearly explain to the hiring manager how your past experience has a logical connection to healthcare, you will be in good shape to secure a position.”

 

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“If you can clearly explain to the hiring manager how your past experience has a logical connection to healthcare, you will be in good shape to secure a position.”

—Mike Haran, PMP, PgMP, UnitedHealth Group, Irvine, california, USA

Building the Global Infrastructure

Looking to improve quality of life—and give a nice boost to their economies—governments around the world are pouring money into infrastructure projects.

Particularly in emerging markets, governments are discovering that to maximize their booming populations and rising GDPs, they need major infrastructure investments.

“Every government thinks that infrastructure investment is the path to economic growth,” says James Stewart, chairman of KPMG's Global Infrastructure business, London, England.

China is leading the way, accounting for nearly 40 percent of global infrastructure demand, according to industry research firm CG/LA Infrastructure. Last September, the Chinese government announced plans to support CNY1 trillion worth of infrastructure projects, including highways, seaports and airports.

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Fellow up-and-comers Brazil, India, Indonesia and Turkey are also poised to become hotspots in the sector for years, even decades, to come.

“The Indian government is talking about spending US$1 trillion in infrastructure development over the next five years,” Mr. Stewart says.

The Middle East has also seen steady investment in road, port and energy projects even in the midst of political upheaval, says Scott Hazelton, director of construction and industrial manufacturing for IHS Global Insight in Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

The projects mark an effort not only to improve the infrastructure, but also the economy. “A lot of the youth are underemployed, and the way to fix that is to create construction jobs,” he says.

Although infrastructure investments have slowed in the United States and United Kingdom, the sector remains strong. Indeed, there may be a talent shortage at the top.

“I'm mentoring a couple of young people who are naturally ambitious and want a job as a program manager ‘tomorrow.’ However, my sense is that there is an absence of experienced program managers or the right caliber of candidates coming through with the necessary experience to lead major infrastructure projects,” says Mark Thurston, program manager on Crossrail, London's railway project.

Many professionals understand project management, but they may not have the leadership experience to rein in client expectations. That includes managing the broad economic and political risks inherent to high-profile, publicly funded infrastructure initiatives.

Project managers who want to build their infrastructure expertise on a global scale must also have strong language and cross-cultural skills, Mr. Hazelton says. “You can't work in Brazil if you don't speak Portuguese, and it's tough enough to work in China even if you do speak Mandarin,” he says.

Job seekers should also stay abreast of the global project pipeline and investment trends to identify potential opportunities. “Getting projects from planning to procurement is the hardest part right now,” Mr. Stewart says. “Like anything, you have to work your network to make sure you're in the right place at the right time to land the job.”

How to Land the Job

  • Look beyond the basics. Promote your leadership, risk-management and financial-planning abilities along with your fundamental project management skills.
  • Show off a little. The sector may be facing a leadership gap, so be sure to emphasize your on-the-job accomplishments.
  • Você fala português? Learn a second language if you're interested in working in another country, especially an emerging market.

 

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“My sense is that there is an absence of experienced program managers or the right caliber of candidates coming through with the necessary experience to lead major infrastructure projects.”

—Mark Thurston, Crossrail, London, England

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How to Land the Job

  • Make the link. Sustainable energy is still fairly new, so if you don't have sector experience, you can still break in by playing up accomplishments and qualifications that transfer across industries.
  • Plug into the renewable energy network. Track industry news so you know which projects are moving forward.
  • Get to know the industry players. Reach out to companies before they're ready to hire so you're on their radar when they start building project teams.

If Energy Is Your Game, Think Green

Traditional energy sectors remain strong, but renewable power is still the goal for nations around the world—and they're not shy about investing in projects to get there.

China aims to reach 15 gigawatts of installed solar energy capacity by 2015, a 50 percent increase over its previous five-year goal, according to its National Energy Administration. In the European Union, renewable energy employment has risen 25 percent since 2009, with more than 1 million people working in the sector, according to renewable energy analysts EurObserv'ER.

Looking to reduce its dependency on nuclear power, Japan has issued a mandate requiring utilities buy power from renewable sources—including solar, wind and geothermal—at above-market rates.

Within the renewable energy sphere, there has been a steady shift to solar. Boasting 268,110 jobs, solar has overtaken wind power for the first time as Europe's second-largest renewable energy employer, behind biomass, according to EurObserv'ER. India, the United States, Japan and South Africa are also seeing growth in solar projects.

“The long-term trend suggests that the number of solar power projects will double every year for the next few years,” says Seth Masia, spokesman for the American Solar Energy Society, a not-for-profit advocacy group in Boulder, Colorado, USA. “Owners will be looking for specialists with project management skills to run these projects.”

Prospects should think big, as in the 115-megawatt Toul-Rosières solar power project near Nancy, France and the 1.5-gigawatt Atlantic Array Offshore Wind Farm project off the coast of Wales. Those kinds of projects will need project and program management talent at every level.

“The smaller, 5-10 kilowatt projects often don't have trained project managers assigned to them; that work is often done by an experienced technical person,” says Peter Beadle, CEO of Greenjobs.com, Fairfield, California, USA. “The real demand for project management skills is on the larger projects where there is no substitute for trained, experienced project managers.”

Job seekers should follow industry news and reach out to companies long before construction begins. “These jobs often don't show up on job boards,” Mr. Beadle says. “You want to make sure these companies know about your skills and accomplishments well in advance of the project launch—because a known quality is more likely to be on a list of potential hires.”

Even for project managers without sector experience, it's a good time to get a foot in the door, he says. “Renewable projects, especially wind and solar, are essentially big civil construction projects, so if you have construction expertise, companies may well be interested.”

 

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“The real demand for project management skills is on the larger projects where there is no substitute for trained, experienced project managers.”

—Peter Beadle, Greenjobs.com, Fairfield, California, USA

In Finance, the Rewards of Managing Risk

The financial crisis and resulting regulatory firestorm has cracked open mega-opportunities for experienced project managers. The flurry of mergers and acquisitions requires hundreds of complex IT transformation projects, and new financial regulations are forcing firms to focus more time and money on compliance projects.

As a result, the industry is facing some serious talent issues: 48 percent of global financial services CEOs worried that skills shortages will threaten their ability to grow, according to the PwC survey. Forty percent said it's also getting harder to hire good people in the industry, and fewer than 20 percent believe it will get easier.

The repercussions are already rippling across the industry. One in four CEOs said talent shortages forced them to delay or cancel a key strategic initiative over the past 12 months.

“Even in the European Union, where the economic cycle is so bad, we've seen an increase in opportunities for project managers in finance,” says Tim Hird, executive director of global staffing firm Robert Half Management Resources in Menlo Park. “Changes in the global financial marketplace are volatile, and it's driving demand for expertise in the field.”

In particular, financial firms want project professionals with a proven record of creating efficiencies through better information management. “The challenge these organizations face is how to provide more accurate information and in a more value-added format so executives can make strategic decisions faster,” Mr. Hird says.

In-demand skills include risk management, enterprise resource planning systems, financial remediation and reporting, business intelligence, governance and regulatory compliance, he says.

Adding project management experience and credentials to that skill set is a tremendous asset. “You have to have project management skills to carry through these implementations, and that's the big challenge,” he says. “The talent pool of technical subject-matter experts who also have project management skills is very small.”

Mr. Hird advises project managers involved on the IT side to beef up their technical experience by taking on assignments that allow them to learn new systems. “The only way to stay competitive is to get on projects that involve cutting-edge technology,” he says.

By taking on forward-looking initiatives, project professionals are better positioned so that when one job ends, another one isn't far behind, even in a tumultuous sector. “The financial world always has booms and busts—they typically hire more people in the good times, then they reduce staff sizes when business gets bad,” Mr. Hird says.

To land that next opportunity, job-seekers should talk about how past projects helped the organization meet its strategic business goals, Mr. Hird suggests. Process efficiencies, better cost control and greater financial risk management are all top concerns for CFOs.

“It's not enough to rest on your accreditations,” he adds. “To get the job, you have to show actual experience and how your efforts helped deliver real results.” PM

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How to Land the Job

  • Stay current. In a rapidly changing sector like finance, you need to be up on the latest regulations.
  • Know the bottom line. In a sector that lives and dies by staying in the black, be ready to showcase how you can deliver true business benefits.
  • Live on the edge. Finance is known for booms and busts, so be prepared by working on projects tied to the very latest in cutting-edge systems.

 

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“Even in the European Union, where the economic cycle is so bad, we've seen an increase in opportunities for project managers in finance.”

—Tim Hird, Robert Half Management Resources, Menlo Park, California, USA

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI.

PM NETWORK JANUARY 2013 WWW.PMI.ORG

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