Project Management – Certification Needed? Specialized Experience Needed?

He was the Head Coach and Technical Director of the Eastern NY State Olympic Development Program from 1990 thru 2000.  Under his coaching expertise, he has developed 32 professional players (5 currently play in MLS…1 being a High School friend of mine – Mike Petke) and 34 National Youth Team players.  In 1993, he was chosen the National High School Coach of the Year and led the team to a US National Championship.  He has participated in the selection of Head and assistant Coaches for each Olympic Development Team, as well as oversees the 10 Upstate and Downstate ODP selection of players and team formation (players are chosen from an available pool of over 90,000 players).

What an impressive resume huh?  I am thinking this guy must have been amazing when he was a player!  You know what, he never played the sport!  He was a student of the game…focused on it, lived it, and breathed it.

Todd Haley is the 2nd youngest coach in the National Football League and has his Chiefs standing at 2-0 to start the season.  I am sure a coach at this level has had a tremendous career when he was younger.  He may not have gotten to the professional ranks, but he probably had a good career through school and maybe some college, right?  NO!  Todd Haley has never played a single play of organized football in his life, yet he is leading some of the most talented athletes in the world at the most competitive level in his sport.

You see, there is a lot of debate these days as to what makes a good project manager and if you need to specialize in a certain field…Do you need to be a PMP or a Scrum Master? Do you need to come from the Health Care field or Civil Engineering to run a project in the respective vertical?  I say no to both.

I have come across countless PMPs that couldn’t manage a hot dog stand, never mind a multinational, multi-year project to develop a global Help Desk, SAP implementation, or a new highway bypass.  Like the coaches referenced above, if you want to be a great project manager (lawyer, teacher, etc) then you need to eat, breath, and sleep your respective field of interest.  Here are a few things you can do to elevate your game…

  1. You need to spend 20 minutes a day reading blogs from some of the thought leaders in your industry (I will put my blogroll up against anyone on the web).
  2. Be careful with Twitter (everyone can be expert when there is little interactive discussion & debate), but get on there and start following the likes of Derek Huether, Elizabeth Harrin, Todd Williams, Peter Taylor, and #pmot There are so many other great folks out there.
  3. Spend some time visiting PM Aggregator Sites such as The Daily PM
  4. Check-Out sites like TenStep and GanttHead for their free Webinars, Virtual Conference, etc.
  5. Be diversified, but focused.  Of course I want you to come to my blog each Monday (subscribe at the right) and follow me on Twitter, but you need to get 4-5 go to resources and stick with them.  Mix a wild card here and there to stay well rounded.

If you wait to have the position to start reading ‘how to succeed’ books, then chances are you will flop at your first big chance (if you get one).  I could be wrong, but I think that comes from one of one of John C Maxwell’s books.  The point is that most people can become great project managers (or whatever field/position), but they need to put in the time…read, listen, join.



8 thoughts on “Project Management – Certification Needed? Specialized Experience Needed?

  1. Great article! I have had numerous discussions with others on the merits of technical knowledge (in the IT world) vs PM skills. Right now PM skills (and my MBA) help me get through some tough situations. A person who can install a SW program or administrate a server isn’t going to know what to do when the customer is angry or the project schedule is 2 weeks behind.

    1. Stacey:

      Thanks for stopping by and better yet, leaving a comment.

      I think Project Management is one of the most misunderstand disciplines in the majority of organizations. So many managers leverage them as glorified admins…document management, meeting minutes, tracking deadlines. On the flip side, they have a techie standing up a new line of business or managing the next breakthrough…marketing, legal, and all. PMI & APM need to work together to start educating businesses on the value & role of project management.

      Thanks again, honored with your visit to my blog.


    1. Ryan:

      Thank you so much for stopping by and leaving a comment…I am honored. Hopefully the blog will prove itself valuable and you will enjoy coming back…maybe even subscribe to the email. How did you trip to Charlotte go?


  2. Robert,

    Thanks again for another resource to add to my treasure trove of information on project management. I’m working toward my PMP now, so these resources are invaluable.

  3. Ali, Dr. Wallington:

    I am very honored you took the time to visit and share a comment. So many folks get to a level and think “they made it” and then wonder why they leveled off in middle management. Probably because the same passion & efforts you had earlier in your career are long gone.

    Thanks again!


  4. Thanks for the mention, Robert. Fully agree with your findings, it is the understanding, knowledge and passion for project management that makes you an outstanding manager – rather than certifications and designations. Continuous education is the key.

  5. Couldn’t agree more. Project Managers need to maintain continuous CPD – be it professinal qualifications, conferences, webinars or self-led learning via books, research papers, blogs etc.

    We need to keep on top of developments in both project management, but also in the industry we work in, or want to work in.

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