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Starting over...

Last post 11:31 pm October 7, 2013 by Douglas Huntley
4 replies
02:01 am October 4, 2013

I have spent the past 8 years in various PM roles within the Department of Defense. In most cases I had a management role in a Government PMO and worked closely with a Vendor PM to assess the deliveries of software and hardware products. The DoD is antiquated in its approaches to software. The primary development tool is Waterfall managed by Microsoft Project; using traditional requirements documents, mapping software requirements to test plans,and long - really long development cycles.

I have been reading everything Agile and Scrum and have passed the Open Test and am studying for the PSM-1. I know my future in this role is closely linked to how well I can understand and employ good Agile techniques. I have an MBA, am well read on traditional concepts of Project and Product Management, TQM, Lean, I have some Six Sigma training, and I am highly motivated.

But how do I translate the last 8 years into meaningful experience to modern software development companies? How do I get a foot in the door to get to an interview?

I am out of work and any feedback is welcome.

10:34 am October 4, 2013

Did you attempt to introduce more agile ways of working at the DoD, even if only in a very small way? For example, was there an attempt to map agile practice to MIL-STD-498 or whatever they use these days as a development standard? Perhaps you are at least in a position to critique the stage-gated approach that was taken.

I'd say that the first thing to do is to phrase your CV/resume in terms of the shortcomings you identified and what you could have done (or did try to do) to fix them. In my experience, recruiters like that because it shows you are thinking. Next, do some community blog posts on your thoughts to places like DZone and then list your contributions. Recruiters like that too. Thirdly, do some video presentations, no longer than 10 minutes, on agile topics that interest you and which you can also refer to. Show that you are active in the agile community and it can make your job application stand out in the pile.

03:18 pm October 4, 2013

Thanks Ian.

While with the DoD I did not try to change the processes or streamline/improve them. That was a failing on my part. But in the role of DoD PM it seemed we were obligated by contract to the Waterfall technique, DOORS databases, and many other traditional constraints.

I appreciate your feedback and will look into DZone and the other things you mentioned.


09:15 pm October 4, 2013

I wouldn't fall prey to thinking you need to be experienced in Agile to get a job (I'm reading between the lines of your question). 8 years of PM experience in DoD sounds solid to me. You're talking about highly critical projects and in some projects (medical, aerospace and defence come to mind) I don't think an iterative approach is necessarily appropriate. The consequences of failure are too high, and getting it right can be more important in getting product out the door.

Lean and Six Sigma are also process improvement... sure it's not scrum it's but these are all plan-do-check-act which scrum is as well.

If I were you, I wouldn't try to rebrand as "I know agile" and more be "I know projects and I've seen how software projects work/don't work". And if agile is a question I'd say "I'm actively learning about agile because I think it may solve some of the problems I've seen such as <insert example from my experience here>." Getting agile certification would reinforce that you know agile theory but much more importantly you know projects in a real world situation.

It's not like all software companies are agile now. most say they are but they really aren't IMO. Browsing through these forums can give you some examples.

11:31 pm October 7, 2013

Thank you Robert! I will definitely take what you said to heart and think about it.

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