Project Management Careers Q&A – PMO Manager Career Path

I’ve been working as a PMO Manager for a number of years now and I want to progress further into portfolio level PMOs, getting involved in strategy execution and generally working at a more senior level. What do I need to consider to make this transition?

As well you know, there are many different types of PMO in existence so the transition you make will largely depend on this – the culture, context, and the type of services provided by your PMO today. It will also depend on the type of management level skills you have been providing in your existing PMO and your experience prior to that. Finally, it also depends on you as an individual – your own ambition, drive, personality and interpersonal skills. If we take a look at those we can start to see how they will impact your transition plans.

It’s important that your current PMO experience – especially in functions and services that are relatable to portfolio management such as investment appraisals, prioritisation, enterprise resource management and so on are already part of your knowledge base.

A role like this also requires much more business knowledge and acumen than one which is focused on “doing the projects right” kind of PMO. The latest PMI Talent Triangle is absolutely right in that one of the points is all about developing your wider business knowledge and in turn developing actual practical experience in a business role. Your transition plan could actually mean stepping away from PMO entirely for a few years to gain wider business management and more strategy related experience. Also if you don’t have direct project delivery experience that too might be a route for a few years. Perhaps a secondment to another business operations department might be an option too.

There will also be work for you to do in understanding the latest thinking and guidance around Portfolio Management (the latest Thought Leadership pieces from PMI are a crucial place to start, as is the Certification for Portfolio Management).

From a more personal side– strong leadership, gravitas, firm but fair, holding their own, managing the politics, the buck stops with me. All terms that are associated with great Portfolio PMO leaders. It might also be helpful to focus more on your own managerial style now – those behavioural and softer skills we tend to neglect when it comes to personal development.

When it comes to taking a step up the career ladder like this, it tends to be less about technical project management knowledge and more about great leadership – inspiring others to perform well.


This article was recently published in PM Network – the monthly project management magazine for PMI members worldwide.

Share: Linkedin Logo Facebook Logo Twitter Logo

Leave your thoughts