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Network:55



Hello PMs! What suggestions do you have for someone to get PM experience in fields unrelated to his/her work experience?
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Network:1512



I wrote an article about this a few years back, Johnny. Here's the recap:

"First we have those project management purists who believe that subject matter notwithstanding, a project is a project. The same hard and soft competencies which are required to successfully manage a project in one domain apply when managing a project in another. This group will bring up tales of uber-project managers who crossed multiple industries, successfully managing projects across all.

In the other corner, we have those who believe that in spite of how successful a project manager has been in one domain, their effectiveness decreases when they have to manage a project in a different one. This side will recall the horror stories of project managers they had worked with who tried to apply their expertise in one domain to another, only to abjectly fail.

So which is the correct view?

IT DOESN’T MATTER.

It really depends on a few factors including economic conditions and your own situation.

If you happen to be transitioning domains within your own company, you have a track record of successful delivery in your existing role, and you have an established network of champions within your current department as well as the one you wish to enter, the lack of experience in the new domain could be successfully positioned as an area for short-term development rather than a showstopper.

Similarly, if you have the good fortune to work in a geographic location where the demand for competent, experienced project managers exceeds the supply of such talent, you could be offered a role in spite of your lack of specific domain expertise.

Unfortunately, neither of these situations might apply to your case.

Few companies are large or broad enough to provide the lateral, domain-switching opportunities which a project manager may wish to pursue. In addition, the explosive growth of the project management profession over the past two decades has resulted in a surplus of qualified talent in many parts of the world. Yes, there are some regions where demand still exceeds supply, but the number of qualified project managers willing to relocate significant distances remains low, and the economic or political conditions within some of those regions might not make them suitable for many professionals.

In some respects, this is similar to the debate as to whether or not one should attain a project management credential. While there is no doubt that one can be a successful project manager without getting certified if human resources staff or recruiting agencies within your region are using the lack of a certification as a low-effort means to weed out candidates, the argument is moot if you have no other means of getting past these gatekeepers.

So what can you do?

First, make sure you really want to go through with this. Have you really exhausted the opportunities within your own domain? Is this more than just a “grass is greener” desire? Seek out an experienced project manager who can help you learn the good, the bad and the ugly of the new domain.

We all know that the majority of vacant positions are not advertised. Lacking the domain expertise which would elevate your visibility with recruiters, the next best thing is to have some influential advocates who can put in a good word for you when an opportunity arises. This is easier said than done, but here are a few ways to do it:

Make sure everyone in your network is aware that you want to go through with this transition
Join a community of practice or special interest groups for the new domain and actively participate in their events
Attend a conference or take a course
Knowledge is no substitute for experience, but you need to be able to talk the talk if you are lucky enough to be granted an interview.

Specific things to learn include:

Common sources of risk and risk events
Good practices specific to the industry
Rules of thumb such as parametric estimation models
Leverage peers in your network to learn which of your skills will be most transferable. If you get invited to an interview you are likely to be asked how you will overcome your lack of domain expertise, so be prepared with scenarios from your past experience which are applicable to the new role.

Geoffrey Moore’s 1991 book, Crossing the Chasm, addressed the challenge faced by companies who wish to sell disruptive innovations to a mainstream audience. His quote should resonate for all project managers wishing to cross the domain expertise chasm: “The number-one corporate objective, when crossing the chasm, is to secure a distribution channel into the mainstream market, one with which the pragmatist customer will be comfortable.”
...
1 reply by Johnny Turner
Aug 12, 2019 9:39 PM
Johnny Turner
...
Kiron,
Thank you for taking the time to respond. I appreciate you pointing out real world examples, experiences and opinions of those that have worked through, or simply observed, PMs’ periods of transition.

I believe I have exhausted my futility in the realm of domain expertise related to Social Services. Higher education may afford me new/different opportunities, but my world view on moving people forward collides with status quo programming. While the work is remarkable, far too many experience generational disadvantages. If I were to remain, it would have to be different.

My interest in domain change is driven largely by marketability in our ever changing landscape.

Your general advice on working my current networks is a firm reminder of practicality, but your more nuanced suggestions of what to expect in interviews and/or what to be well versed in IS EXACTLY what I was looking for.

Thanks again for responding! I believe I’ll have some follow-up inquiries.
Network:25


I read through the entire response from Kiron. Well thought out & nice views shared. Let me share some thought processes.  Johnny, If you want to get PM experience outside your field of work experience, the first thought that crosses my mind is- Why? Answer to this question would provide lot of auto-suggestions for making that desired transition. Let me share some ideas by making few assumptions. Assumption#1 You felt you have learnt enough in your domain and want to explore a new domain. If that's the trigger-point then I would strongly suggest look out for a challenging/meaningful opportunity in your domain that would help you contribute to move up the value chain while new areas of learning curve unfolds for you. Assumption#2 You find another domain experience would be more meaningful to your life (Example - moving from a beverage manufacturing domain to a charitable/sports domain) then the desired transition is perfectly fine. But be aware that you should be willing to invest resources to ramp up. Believe me, during various phases of project activities you can "trust" your team members but if needed you have to "verify". And you need domain knowledge to do that.
...
1 reply by Johnny Turner
Aug 12, 2019 10:06 PM
Johnny Turner
...
Prasanta,
Thank you for taking the time to respond. Thank you for posing the question most central to most of what we all do: The “Why?”

As I previously mentioned to Kiron, I believe I have hit a ceiling with what I can accomplish given the state of Social Services (my domain) and how services are delivered. The obstacles to improving people’s circumstances are tremendous, and political will to do so is lacking, as evidenced in generational poverty. Doing the same is not an option, doing something different may be an option. But until then, my “Why ?” centers around market value relevance in our continuously evolving world.

Both of your Assumptions are correct, simultaneously! However Assumption 2 is stronger because my quest to cross over into other domains is driven largely by factors both internal and external.

Thanks again for insisting upon a deeper level of introspection!
Network:55



Aug 12, 2019 12:56 PM
Replying to Kiron Bondale
...
I wrote an article about this a few years back, Johnny. Here's the recap:

"First we have those project management purists who believe that subject matter notwithstanding, a project is a project. The same hard and soft competencies which are required to successfully manage a project in one domain apply when managing a project in another. This group will bring up tales of uber-project managers who crossed multiple industries, successfully managing projects across all.

In the other corner, we have those who believe that in spite of how successful a project manager has been in one domain, their effectiveness decreases when they have to manage a project in a different one. This side will recall the horror stories of project managers they had worked with who tried to apply their expertise in one domain to another, only to abjectly fail.

So which is the correct view?

IT DOESN’T MATTER.

It really depends on a few factors including economic conditions and your own situation.

If you happen to be transitioning domains within your own company, you have a track record of successful delivery in your existing role, and you have an established network of champions within your current department as well as the one you wish to enter, the lack of experience in the new domain could be successfully positioned as an area for short-term development rather than a showstopper.

Similarly, if you have the good fortune to work in a geographic location where the demand for competent, experienced project managers exceeds the supply of such talent, you could be offered a role in spite of your lack of specific domain expertise.

Unfortunately, neither of these situations might apply to your case.

Few companies are large or broad enough to provide the lateral, domain-switching opportunities which a project manager may wish to pursue. In addition, the explosive growth of the project management profession over the past two decades has resulted in a surplus of qualified talent in many parts of the world. Yes, there are some regions where demand still exceeds supply, but the number of qualified project managers willing to relocate significant distances remains low, and the economic or political conditions within some of those regions might not make them suitable for many professionals.

In some respects, this is similar to the debate as to whether or not one should attain a project management credential. While there is no doubt that one can be a successful project manager without getting certified if human resources staff or recruiting agencies within your region are using the lack of a certification as a low-effort means to weed out candidates, the argument is moot if you have no other means of getting past these gatekeepers.

So what can you do?

First, make sure you really want to go through with this. Have you really exhausted the opportunities within your own domain? Is this more than just a “grass is greener” desire? Seek out an experienced project manager who can help you learn the good, the bad and the ugly of the new domain.

We all know that the majority of vacant positions are not advertised. Lacking the domain expertise which would elevate your visibility with recruiters, the next best thing is to have some influential advocates who can put in a good word for you when an opportunity arises. This is easier said than done, but here are a few ways to do it:

Make sure everyone in your network is aware that you want to go through with this transition
Join a community of practice or special interest groups for the new domain and actively participate in their events
Attend a conference or take a course
Knowledge is no substitute for experience, but you need to be able to talk the talk if you are lucky enough to be granted an interview.

Specific things to learn include:

Common sources of risk and risk events
Good practices specific to the industry
Rules of thumb such as parametric estimation models
Leverage peers in your network to learn which of your skills will be most transferable. If you get invited to an interview you are likely to be asked how you will overcome your lack of domain expertise, so be prepared with scenarios from your past experience which are applicable to the new role.

Geoffrey Moore’s 1991 book, Crossing the Chasm, addressed the challenge faced by companies who wish to sell disruptive innovations to a mainstream audience. His quote should resonate for all project managers wishing to cross the domain expertise chasm: “The number-one corporate objective, when crossing the chasm, is to secure a distribution channel into the mainstream market, one with which the pragmatist customer will be comfortable.”
Kiron,
Thank you for taking the time to respond. I appreciate you pointing out real world examples, experiences and opinions of those that have worked through, or simply observed, PMs’ periods of transition.

I believe I have exhausted my futility in the realm of domain expertise related to Social Services. Higher education may afford me new/different opportunities, but my world view on moving people forward collides with status quo programming. While the work is remarkable, far too many experience generational disadvantages. If I were to remain, it would have to be different.

My interest in domain change is driven largely by marketability in our ever changing landscape.

Your general advice on working my current networks is a firm reminder of practicality, but your more nuanced suggestions of what to expect in interviews and/or what to be well versed in IS EXACTLY what I was looking for.

Thanks again for responding! I believe I’ll have some follow-up inquiries.
Network:55



Aug 12, 2019 8:53 PM
Replying to Prasanta Swain
...
I read through the entire response from Kiron. Well thought out & nice views shared. Let me share some thought processes.  Johnny, If you want to get PM experience outside your field of work experience, the first thought that crosses my mind is- Why? Answer to this question would provide lot of auto-suggestions for making that desired transition. Let me share some ideas by making few assumptions. Assumption#1 You felt you have learnt enough in your domain and want to explore a new domain. If that's the trigger-point then I would strongly suggest look out for a challenging/meaningful opportunity in your domain that would help you contribute to move up the value chain while new areas of learning curve unfolds for you. Assumption#2 You find another domain experience would be more meaningful to your life (Example - moving from a beverage manufacturing domain to a charitable/sports domain) then the desired transition is perfectly fine. But be aware that you should be willing to invest resources to ramp up. Believe me, during various phases of project activities you can "trust" your team members but if needed you have to "verify". And you need domain knowledge to do that.
Prasanta,
Thank you for taking the time to respond. Thank you for posing the question most central to most of what we all do: The “Why?”

As I previously mentioned to Kiron, I believe I have hit a ceiling with what I can accomplish given the state of Social Services (my domain) and how services are delivered. The obstacles to improving people’s circumstances are tremendous, and political will to do so is lacking, as evidenced in generational poverty. Doing the same is not an option, doing something different may be an option. But until then, my “Why ?” centers around market value relevance in our continuously evolving world.

Both of your Assumptions are correct, simultaneously! However Assumption 2 is stronger because my quest to cross over into other domains is driven largely by factors both internal and external.

Thanks again for insisting upon a deeper level of introspection!

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