Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Completing the Mission: Why You Should Consider Veterans for Your PM Roles

Project Management Institute (PMI) research anticipates that between 2010 and 2020, there will be a more than 12% increase in demand for project management practitioners in the U.S., resulting in nearly 6.2 million jobs in 2020. This projected growth coupled with an increasingly older and retiring workforce makes veterans an excellent talent pool from which to recruit for careers in Project Management.

So what makes veterans such a great fit? Well, think of all of they’ve done in the military— from managing the movement of equipment or people to planning a mission. These short-term “projects” match the definition of Project Management as defined by PMI: “a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service or result.”

Ben Metzler, a retired Army Major who is now a Project Manager at Element Fleet Management, describes how his time in the military prepared him for his civilian career as a PM: “Most of my career was in Operations, which translates really well to running projects in the civilian world. There are significant parallels between my experience as a BN Operations and Executive Officer and leadership positions to my new career as a Project Manager.” 

He continues, “The way the Army conducts day-to-day operations is very project based.  Preparing for live fire gunneries, individual, team, and battery/company/battalion gunneries, Table gunneries, field exercises, prep for deployment, etc., all fit the PMI description of projects. They all are individual and distinct entities that have a definite beginning and end and require input from a number of different personnel and organizations within and outside of the unit.  I feel like I am better prepared to succeed in my new career than I would have been had I risen through the ranks of the civilian world.” 

Further, PMI explains that a project team often includes people who don’t usually work together – sometimes from different organizations and across multiple geographies. Veterans routinely find themselves working side by side with a diverse group of people, including those within the military and those living in the areas where they are stationed. They are able to manage different skillsets and personalities and complete a project.

Kevin Rogers is another great example of how military experience translates into Project Management. As an Air Force Captain he flew B-1B bombers as a back-seater, which he feels didn’t prepare him for much else. That is until he took a look at the many additional duties he had as an officer allowing him to build a breadth of experience. Kevin is now an IT project manager. “I ensure projects to develop functional software stay on time, on budget, and deliver the requested results,” Kevin states, “It is a lot like being a training officer in the Air Force, where I was responsible for ensuring everyone got the training they needed to deploy without busting our annual budget.”

In the Project Management Institute’s 2015 Veteran Brochure “Take Your Military Experience And Transition To A Career In Project Management”, PMI President and CEO, Mark A. Langley, writes “Many veterans have project management experience—just under a different name. The challenge is in the translation and repackaging of their skill sets so that hiring managers spot their skills. Mission-related often translates to ‘projectized,’ and the government and military are highly projectized environments, which make many veterans a natural fit for the project management world.”

Todd Phillips, Vice President of Client Delivery at Orion International adds, “Over the past 10 years, we’ve seen a number of veterans transition to project management in a broad range of industries to include manufacturing, construction, and supply chain.” He goes on to advise hiring managers to seek veterans with a demonstrated record of managing people and resources, as well as excellent communication and organization.

Ben and Kevin are just two examples of why Orion has experienced great success in matching veterans with careers in Project Management.  Hiring Managers should not underestimate veterans’ experience balancing human capital, critical resources, and time constraints. These are the very traits that make them ideal candidates for a career in Project Management.

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