The next career step for a Project Manager: (1) becoming a Program Manager

As a project manager, you have undoubtedly experienced the thrill of successfully leading projects and witnessing the fruits of your labor. The Project Manager role requires a unique blend of skills and expertise. However, as your passion for project management grows, you may find yourself contemplating the next step in your career journey. In this article, which marks the beginning of a series dedicated to informing project managers about potential career advancements, I will explore the path of becoming a program manager, taking also the experience of just being myself certified Program Manager (PgMP).

Transitioning to Program Management

After becoming a senior project manager and demonstrating your capacity in achieving the goal of succeeding in more complex and challenging projects, the question arises: What lies beyond the role of a project manager? One possible answer is to venture into the realm of program management. Program managers oversee a collection of related projects, ensuring they align with strategic objectives and contribute to the organization’s overall success. This shift offers new challenges, opportunities, and avenues for professional growth.

The Significance of the PgMP Certification

As you embark on this path, it’s crucial to equip yourself with the necessary skills and credentials to thrive as a program manager. One notable milestone in this journey is achieving the Program Management Professional (PgMP) certification offered by the Project Management Institute (PMI). The PgMP certification recognizes the advanced experience and expertise of program managers, validating their ability to manage complex programs effectively.

Why Pursue the PgMP Certification?

The PgMP certification offers a multitude of benefits for aspiring program managers. Firstly, it provides a standardized framework for evaluating your skills and knowledge in program management. By attaining this certification, you demonstrate your commitment to professional excellence and position yourself as a credible candidate for program management roles. Moreover, the PgMP certification can enhance your marketability and open doors to exciting career opportunities with higher levels of responsibility and remuneration. Comparing to PMP certification, with 1.3 Million, PgMP has only 4 thousand certificates.

Challenges of Pursuing PgMP

While the journey toward PgMP certification is undoubtedly rewarding, it is not without its challenges. The certification process involves a rigorous examination of your program management capabilities, requiring a comprehensive understanding on the 5 domains of program management: program governance, benefits management, stakeholder engagement, strategy alignment and program lifecycle. There are 2 examination phases:

  1. The panel review: where you need to demonstrate, on a written form, your knowledge and experience on managing related projects.
  2. The certification exam: It has 170 multiple-choice questions, and you have four hours to complete it.

You need to consider for the complete process about 6-12 months to clear out your PgMP certification, with about 300 hours of study and accepting that you might need the 3 possible attempts (passing rate is estimated on 30%). However, with dedication, perseverance, and a strategic approach (like transforming your goal in a “life project” and using the “life Planner” and “Life Journal“), these challenges can be overcome.

Lessons Learned and Insights from my journey to PgMP

Having recently achieved the PgMP certification, I have gained invaluable insights and experiences that can guide others on their journey. Reflecting on my own pursuit, I can now share the lessons I learned, the strategies that proved effective, and the pitfalls to avoid.

Strategies that worked for me:

  • Planning PgMP as a “life project” to achieve in 2022
  • Studying soft + hard: 1 hour a day continuously + 14 hours a day in the last 7 days (2 week-ends + 3 days out of office for studying) using the Pomodoro+ technique
  • Getting support from family (for taking 2 week-ends off)
  • Better to understand than memorizing
  • Reading 2 times, line by line, the Standard for Program Management (I did also a flashcard) and coming back to it, whenever I failed questions from the question bank.
  • knowing the program management domains, the program management activities input/output and the differences between all artifacs.
  • Knowing the 72 Program Management tasks (from the Exam Content Outline): making a puzzle by dividing the tasks in 3 pieces (What? How? Why?) and trying to remake/recover the task statement.
  • Doing at least 3 full question banks with the 170 questions in a row (if you achieve the pace of 1min/question and a score of 80%, you are ready for the exam) and reviewing the explanation why
  • Listening to dedicated YouTube videos and Udemy courses during ears-free time (commuting, doing sport, washing dishes, eating, …) .
  • Making a Mind Map, from day one, with all my notes and reviewing it every day during the hard study week.
My Mind Map summary for PgMP

I was only able to achieve PgMP on my second attempt. It took me 1.5 years and 300-500 hours of continuous study. I haven’t take any mentoring class (I highly recommend that you take a mentoring classes), it was just slef-study. If it was not knowing what I know from “Project Your Life”, most probably I would have give up after my first attempt. Now I’m happy of my accomplishment and I’m happy in supporting you in achieving yours.

Summary and practical tip:

Becoming a program manager represents an exciting career progression for project managers looking to expand their horizons. With the PgMP certification as a significant milestone along this path, you can enhance your professional standing and unlock new opportunities. Embrace the challenges, leverage your experience, and commit to continuous growth.

Practical tip: Having a plan and being committed on executing it. If it fails, collect your lessons, improve your plan and retry. Repeat those iterations until you make it.

As you embark on your journey on your next career step, remember that every step you take brings you closer and preserverance is what will make you achieving your goal. Failing is part of the learning process.

Wishing You a Fa-Bu-Lux Life 🙂

You can know more about “Project Your Life” through the:

— Amazon (FREE preview): link

— Book website (book delivery only possible for Portugal): link


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