Career Development—Landing Your Dream Job

Transcript

Narrator

The future of project management is changing fast. On Projectified™ with PMI, we’ll help you stay on top of the trends and see what’s really ahead for the profession—and your career.

For an easy way to stay up to date on Projectified™ with PMI, go to iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play Music or PMI.org/podcast.

Stephen W. Maye

Hello. I’m Stephen Maye, and this is Projectified™ with PMI. I’m here with co-host Tegan Jones and today we’re exploring career development. We’re talking about the skills that are increasingly in demand in the field of project management and project leadership.

In our last episode, we talked about how advances in technology are changing the nature of work. While it’s true that machines are taking on jobs that were until recently done by humans, adopting new technology also creates jobs that didn’t exist before. We’re also seeing a trend continuing toward a different approach to work. More and more people are thinking of their work in terms of projects rather than long-term jobs, and I don’t think that’s gonna change any time soon.

Tegan Jones

Yeah, and as people move in between jobs more frequently, they’re really starting to focus on what are the skills that I need to develop in order to make myself more marketable. And what we’re seeing is that really it’s the soft skills that companies are looking for more frequently. According to PMI’s 2018 Pulse of the Profession®, 4 in 5 executives say that soft skills, specifically communication, leadership, and negotiation, are more important for project managers today than they were just five years ago.

Stephen W. Maye

Yeah, it’s interesting to watch this trend. We hear very frequently, as we’re listening to the thinkers, the writers, the practitioners in the space emphasizing the importance of what we often call soft skills. And if I take one example, you mentioned negotiation. Now you could unpack that to include a lot of different pieces. But from a project manager’s perspective, very often he or she is operating in situations where they don’t always have full positional authority. They may be in a room with a group of key leaders trying to gain funding for a next phase, trying to acquire additional resources for work that needs to be done, trying to create alignment and commitment to a plan or to a schedule, and all of these things are really elements of negotiation.

Tegan Jones

And that might be one of the reasons we’re seeing such an uptick in the demand for project management skills. So last year Anderson Economic Group conducted a talent gap analysis that was commissioned by PMI, and what they found was that the demand for project managers is actually growing faster than the demand for other types of workers in many countries. So over the next decade, or from 2017 to 2027, the project management labor force in seven sectors is expected to grow by 33 percent. It’s gonna create nearly 22 million jobs around the world.

Stephen W. Maye

You know, there’s an interesting connection to another trend that we’ve talked about before, which is this increasing emphasis on the need for project managers to be deep in their industry vertical, or deep in a particular function or in particular technologies that they’re implementing.

So I can imagine situations where people that already have that depth but perhaps don’t think of themselves as project managers, or at least as career project managers, they’ll have the opportunity to explore that.

Tegan Jones

That’s something really interesting that Lindsay Scott is gonna talk about a bit more later in this episode. The Arras People Benchmark Report did list out the top three things that hiring managers are looking for when they evaluate a candidate, and two of those things are real world experience and sector expertise, but what I thought was really interesting is that the third thing that they’re looking for is someone with the right personality and the right professional approach. And so it circles back to those soft skills and those negotiation communication capabilities that people really need in order to land that next position.

Stephen W. Maye

And there’s still a challenge because you can have that depth, that expertise and that experience, but there may be a gap between having it and your ability to convey it. So what have we learned about what it takes to convey that so that you can use it to parlay all of that experience into the next job, the next project, you know, the next career move?

Tegan Jones

We’re going to learn a bit about that from all of our guests in this episode. We’ll talk to Manuel Salero Coca, managing director for PIN Technologies in Mexico City, about what it takes to become a project leader—and even start your own business. And Lindsay Scott will share some of the hiring trends she’s seen in the U.K. But first let’s hear from Deepa Kalangi, senior project manager at Magellan Health in Portland, Oregon.

She wrote a book called “Cracking the Toughest Project Management Interview Questions,” so I reached out to her to learn about what some of these questions are and see how she suggests project management candidates prepare so that they can be ready for whatever a hiring manager might want to throw at them.

Stephen W. Maye

Prove to me that you’re honest in one minute.

Tegan Jones

Yeah, stuff like that. Let’s see what she has to say.

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Tegan Jones

What are hiring managers looking for? It varies by job description and sector, but there are some qualities that are valued across the board. For example, a 2017 survey by GlassDoor, found that 9 in 10 hiring managers are looking for an informed candidate. Someone who’s prepared for the interview and understands what experience is relevant to the role they’re applying for.

It’s a simple concept. But many candidates get it wrong—starting with the résumé or CV. As Deepa Kalangi explains, the first mistake many job applicants make is trying to fit in too much information upfront.

Deepa Kalangi

Somebody that’s a strong PM would have their résumé very clear in nature, concise in nature. They would have what the program or project is and what the team size is, what type of a matrix organization it is and things like that. So if a résumé has everything reflecting all of these things, then that’s a good résumé that I would pick.

Tegan Jones

But once someone’s in the hot seat, Kalangi wants to hear less about what type of work they’ve done—and more about how they’ve delivered results.

Deepa Kalangi

If that person is able to tell me this is what I have done in my projects, and these are the kind of issues and risks I have seen, and this is the approach I have taken to solve the issue or the risk, along with the team’s help—whoever is needed—involving the right stakeholders, having the right conversations, that will all help me gauge whether they have used the problem-solving skills or just have done the typical project management where you would just go to a meeting, conduct a meeting, and then you know just update the project plans and then you know send out the notes.

Tegan Jones

To see if job candidates have the right attitude, she asks for examples of how they’ve managed past conflicts.

Deepa Kalangi

Ideal situation would be your project is going smoothly and you know there’s no issues, which would never happen. If there’s a conflict, you should be able to expect, guess that there’s a conflict coming in, and then try to resolve, try to nudge and understand what they are going through. Everybody has their own set of issues, or it could be personal, it could be work-related. But if somebody says it’s not my job, I’m waiting and nothing happened, then that definitely turns me off.

Tegan Jones

Candidates also have to be ready to answer tough questions that have no right or wrong answer. Kalangi says she sometimes asks impossible questions just to get a view of how a job applicant thinks.

Deepa Kalangi

So, the toughest question is when the interviewer asks an impractical and unrealistic question, like, for example, you are given three months of time, and you are given nothing, right? There’s no requirements, there’s no scope, it’s, all you know is three months is what you have to run this project. So how would you do it?

So that’s basically testing the candidate’s ability on how they approach to resolving it, not necessarily you are able to achieve the goal of three-month timeline, right. Obviously you are going one layer after the other, so let’s say the team is over-allocated, then you would see what kind of projects they are being assigned to, what that project’s priority is versus this project’s priority and what is the impact if this project is not gone on time versus the other projects. And then there is an escalation process to the leadership team. That, all that approach is what we are looking for when we are interviewing candidates.

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Stephen W. Maye

The modern interview can even be more challenging than it would have been a few years ago. It’s not that uncommon now that an interview may only be 30 minutes. So not only are you trying to convey your experience, your technical expertise, your prowess as a project manager, but you’re trying to do that in a context that expresses your ability to solve problems.

Tegan Jones

Absolutely. The power really is in those specific details. Really explaining your thought process behind each of those steps along the way demonstrates not only that you understand the basics of project management, but that you are a critical thinker and that you can get the job done regardless of what comes your way.

Stephen W. Maye

Bringing specificity allows you to not only demonstrate the core project management experience and capabilities and knowledge but to connect it to industry verticals, connect it to specific strategies. And if you can do that, then you’re starting to really reinforce the confidence of the person on the other side.

Tegan Jones

Business acumen, understanding business strategy, these are skills that are just becoming increasingly important for project management professionals. And this is something that Lindsay Scott talks a lot about. Lindsay Scott, she works for a recruitment agency in London, and she writes a monthly column about career development for PM Network. And I recently reached out to her to ask her take on exactly what are some of the most in-demand skills for project managers and what are the things that people need to be looking for out into the future to make sure that they’re going to be able to make that next big leap in their career?

Stephen W. Maye

Perfect. Let’s hear what she has to say.

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Lindsay Scott

Hi, I’m Lindsay Scott. I’m a director for Arras People, which is a specialist recruitment agency focused on project management. One of the things that we’d found here in the U.K., especially, is that from our benchmark report, which is looking at different trends and things in project management, we’ll always ask questions of organizations that are looking for project management talent and asking them how easy or difficult they might find it in terms of finding the right kind of people. And from our research, it’s consistently been quite high. It’s about 80 percent in the last benchmark report of organizations that find it quite hard to find the right kind of talent, and there’s a couple of reasons for that behind that figure.

The first one is about the salary or rates on offer for people and not matching the kinds of skills and experience that a project practitioner has. So therefore, we’re not able to attract people into their positions that they have. But also on the flipside to that, there’s quite a lot of what we call academic project managers that have got a lot of the qualifications but not enough experience for the types of roles that organizations are looking for today.

So you’re probably wondering as a project practitioner as you’re listening to that, what is it that organizations are actually looking for in project practitioners today to fill their open roles? And it’s not an easy question to answer, as you can probably imagine, but the first thing that is very obvious is that organizations still do need what we would call those traditional technical skills around project management—what we call bread-and-butter project management techniques and approaches and methodologies and that kind of thing. That still exists. That’s still what’s required within organizations today.

So what we’ve found over the last couple of years is that a lot more organizations are interested in this hybrid approach to delivering projects, being able to get things to the market faster and smarter and that we’re working in a more complex world, and we want teams to be able to work better together in order to be able to deliver projects more successfully.

But from a project practitioner’s point of view, that means that there are new skills to be learnt in this area. So if we look at the PMI’s talent triangle where we have seen traditionally where the comfort zones are of doing development around the technical abilities, what we’re seeing is that obviously, the other two parts of that triangle are becoming more prominent. So we know that the behavioral side of projects has always been important and remains so, but probably even more so than ever before because it’s not just about being able to deliver the projects. But also these complex and complicated projects mean that you need to be building more relationships across an organization.

And let’s not forget the third aspect of that triangle, which is called business management. But ultimately, this is about the project manager being able to understand where they figure in the big picture because they still do need to be able to influence and take a part in that bigger picture. It’s understanding the organization’s strategy, how projects are getting chosen through portfolio management, and ultimately how these projects get executed by them—the project manager.

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Stephen W. Maye

I like the point that Lindsay made about complexity. Managing more complex projects in increasingly complex business environments requires a more diverse skill set. You need a wider variety of technical skills to support a hybrid approach, and layered on top of that, you need to build strong relationships with all your stakeholders in order to execute at a faster pace.

Tegan Jones

People are more likely to respond to you quickly if they know you and they like working with you. That’s just human nature. But putting in time with stakeholders also helps build their confidence in the work you’re doing as a project manager. That trust makes them less likely to drag their feet when you ask them to turn something around faster than they’re used to.

Stephen W. Maye

This theme also came up in a conversation I recently had with Manuel Salero Coca, managing director for PIN Technologies in Mexico City. Manuel has had a long and successful program and project management career in the tech sector, and he talked a lot about building trust as a foundation for career advancement.

Tegan Jones

There’s definitely an art to building trust with your co-workers. Let’s hear what he has to say.

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Stephen W. Maye

Manuel, it’s great to have you with us today. I’m always personally curious about how someone got to where they are, so I don’t want to miss the opportunity to get into that. And also to hear how other people out there who are thinking about building the kind of career that you have can learn from your path. But first let me just say, thanks for being here. Great to have the opportunity to talk with you.

Manuel Salero Coca

Thank you to you for your invitation.

Stephen W. Maye

So let’s dive right in. You know, you have held important leadership roles at large global companies. You’ve been with Samsung, you’ve been with Ericsson. And now of course, you have launched into the startup world, and you are the managing director for PIN Technologies, headquartered in Mexico City.

So you obviously, from your career experience, you had developed deep technical skills. But are there specific or unique skills you would point to that may not be obvious to someone looking from the outside, that are important to making this kind of a leap?

Manuel Salero Coca

I think the self-learning skills. They are very important.

Also very important is the adaptation. Adaptation is something that when I say adaptation, actually I say survival. And this applies not only for organization, it applies for yourself, for everyone. The capacity of adaptation and whether with that comes the awareness for the environment. You always need to be aware, where are you standing, where the company or country stands, what is happening in the world at the domestic level or global world.

Stephen W. Maye

If you think about what’s needed now, is there a greater gap in what we think of as classic project management skills, or is it a greater gap in what we might think of as more soft skills? Some of the things around leadership and influence and change management. Or is it even, or is the gap more in the area of industry expertise?

Manuel Salero Coca

Right, I think the core skills remains pretty much the same. I mean, leadership, communication, adaptation. What is really different today are the formats and the performances that you need to be effective. You know, there are too many ways to communicate. You need to provide instant communications to take a lot of decisions in every day and every minute basis.

Another key skills that I think that project managers should learn is innovation. Innovation as a systematic way to find new solutions because the project doesn’t work in a silo any more. You need to interact with too many people, with too many industries, with too many professionals from different fields that really the innovation is a very important tool to develop because it opens the door for find solutions, and to empathize with the rest of the people and to be able to provide value—not only for your team and your organization but also for your customer and your customer’s customers.

Stephen W. Maye

When you have an opportunity, you have a need on your team, to fill a project leadership, project management role. What’s at the top of your list for the skills, the capabilities that you’re looking for, that you’re prioritizing when you need to fill those roles for your own business?

Manuel Salero Coca

I like to focus in the capacity of the people, my team, myself even, in reaching efficient results, tangible results, something that you can measure. That’s just from let’s say from the technical point of view, a practical point of view. But the other thing that is very important to me is the quality of the relationship that the people shows within the team. I mean, these people have a good relationship with the rest of the people in any ethical and professional manner, yes or no? How well these people collaborate within the team and outside the team with the different stakeholders?

Stephen W. Maye

Can you give me an example of where you’ve been observing someone who was already engaged in a project environment, perhaps in a project leadership role, and you saw that they really had achieved a level where they were ready to, to receive that kind of next big promotion. Give me an example of where you’ve observed and said okay, she’s ready because of this.

Manuel Salero Coca

Normally in a governance meeting, in any project meeting, the people that brings you a set of solutions instead of the list of problems is the people that you need to look for. But if in that meeting, it just becomes complaints about the problems and how we cannot do the things. I think you are, you need to improve your team, and you need to find that leader that comes natural with solutions. And then you take, you test. You give a mission to that people. In particular, with no really, with guidance rather than instructions, just broad guidance of what is the problem. That people will solve it. And then you can delegate very big parts of the program or the project to that people, and you only will act like a mentor.

And that of course is very useful because when you leave the project, you really have the confidence that the project will stay on track. Because there is someone else that you can trust and the people can trust, customer can trust to drive the project.

Stephen W. Maye

Where do people get tripped up? Even though they’ve got good skills, they’ve got experience. Where do they get tripped up? Where do they find that they’re either stumbling in their career or stumbling in their leadership of major projects?

Manuel Salero Coca

Sometimes we focus, we tend to focus in the technical stuff. Because, I don’t know, it’s like the most tangible thing. But the lesson learned in my experience is that in the end, the technical difficulties, it’s always find a solution. Sooner or later. But if in the process, you damage or you lost your human touch, that will be very difficult for you to develop the skills that you need to be successful in this project and in another project.

For instance, you might have success in that project perhaps. But perhaps you will lack the recommendation that you will need for your next assignment for instance. Or you will lose the confidence or the trust of some part of the teams of the stakeholders, and it will act against you in the end.

Stephen W. Maye

Talk to me about the key factors that you see, either building or damaging trust in a project leadership, project management environment. Where does that trust come from, or how does that trust get damaged?

Manuel Salero Coca

The trust comes directly how you are aligned to the organization purpose. How do you understand the project you are implementing for that organization. How do you understand what is the culture of that organization.

If you understand that, you are able to communicate at all levels, what is the project status, what is the project goals. The people needs to see the project managers are the leader of the project. And that means the people that have all the information, the best information to take decisions.

But the leader needs to build that trust, to build that level of confidence with the people, and to be able to say bad news at the right moment, with the right people and communicate what will be the alternatives, what will be the consequence if we don’t take action. So if we take the wrong actions. And so on and so forth. So it’s something that builds every day, within the project, within your work environment and also outside your project. This is something that never leaves you.

Stephen W. Maye

So we of course have been talking with Manuel Solero Coca of PIN Technologies, P-I-N Technologies from Mexico City. Manuel, one more question before you take off. If your son or your daughter or your friend says, I want to build a successful career in project leadership and project management, and you only get to give him or her one piece of advice. What’s the one piece of advice that you give?

Manuel Salero Coca

Never stop learning. And never give up.

Stephen W. Maye

Better advice never given: Never stop learning, and never give up. With that, Manuel Salero Coca gets the last word. It has been a pleasure talking with you, Manuel. Thank you for joining us on Projectified™ with PMI.

Narrator

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