Building a Strategy for Working in a PMO

Lindsay Scott also shares tips for assessing the value of data-centric roles and comparing your skills to job descriptions.

My goal is to work in a PMO so I can have a more strategic role. What will help me get there? 

For experienced project professionals, the initial transition into a project management office (PMO) should be quite seamless: You already have experience delivering projects, so you know what support other project managers need. 

A PMO is all about ensuring the organization is set up for success in projects, programs and portfolios. That means your work is varied: You’ll be setting up PMOs, staffing and managing them, and putting in place the ecosystem which allows current and future initiatives to thrive. 

You will also be working at a more senior level within the business, so there are plenty of power skills to master such as communication, problem solving and strategic thinking. The role tends to touch on change management, data management and business analysis, so taking steps to boost your business acumen will help you see the bigger organizational picture.

If your organization already has a PMO or multiple PMOs, speak to your manager and the PMO manager to discuss how to make that transition a reality. If working in a more strategic role is your ultimate goal, look at PMOs that are more focused at the portfolio or enterprise level. These types of PMOs are more involved in strategy implementation than those that focus on projects and programs.

Senior roles in PMOs tend to be filled by people who have years of PMO experience. Building a mentoring or coaching relationship with those people will help you burnish skills and make connections that will come in handy when PMO roles open up. 

An alternative path to consider is to stay in your delivery role and look to move up to program manager in the future. Many senior leaders in PMOs make the move later in their career and are more likely to gain a portfolio or enterprise-level PMO role. The experience gained via this route to a PMO is often seen as a big positive, because it ensures that you’ll have a level of accountability, seniority and responsibility required for more strategic roles.

I was recently asked to consider moving to a data-focused role. Would this be a good career move?

Data analytics, machine learning, and predictive analytics will have a big impact on the way projects are delivered in the future. Forward-thinking organizations are already exploring and using data analytics in their project departments, so if you’ve been offered the opportunity to get involved, it could be an exciting change—and a chance to expand your skills and knowledge.

Would you be happy or content to move away from a project delivery role now? If so, remember that even a data-focused role will still have elements of project management. Ultimately, becoming more specialized in data will make you more versatile and likely will expand job opportunities in the future. 

During my job search, I realized I’m lacking some of the skills postings list. Should I still apply?

The short answer is yes. Job postings tend to list both “must have” and “nice to have” skills, but you never know the balance the hiring manager is seeking. Beyond that, it’s not certain that any candidate has all of those skills. As part of your application, acknowledge those gaps head on. Use your cover letter or a section on your résumé or CV to highlight your learning and career development plan—and align it with any missing skills that the new role might require. For example, if the posting requests agile experience, show which agile courses or certifications you’re pursuing.

So throw your hat in the ring—and see how your experience stacks up. 


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