Monday, July 28, 2008

I wonder where they are...

I don’t know whether to write this post or not. Whether to publish this in the blog or not. But Its quite sad situation about the Project Management resource problem in SL IT industry...

Lately I started hunting a very good Project manager from the industry. We thought the best way is to recruit somebody through recommendations. So with lots of enthusiasm we sent the message across. Within few days I got about 5 CVs. 2 CVs looked promising and called them for an interview immediately.

First candidate: A guy who has been working as a project manager for company “X” for years. He has been working for the same project over a period and most of his experience was related to handling maintenance work. Never practiced or heard of any PM methodologies but seems he is handling the current scope of work with no much issue. Never got exposed to Development projects and all the projects have been customization projects of 3rd party product. When I threw few tricky questions about estimates…… I lost all my moral as he didn’t have a clue of project estimates. Always the estimates were done by somebody else and passed to him. Or estimates were never done. He didn’t even know how to defend himself from an unrealistic estimate. Overseas Projects – Never done..OK fine.. “over 7 years of Experience as a Project Manager” The expected salary hit the sealing…

Results –“OUT” -Who cares… Many more to interview and see..

Another– A Guy who has handled projects over 3 years.. Seems very enthusiastic.. Communication - Lot more to improve in order to do a project management role..He has been handling some outdated projects and he has got fed up of his work.. I asked a question..

Me : “How do you time estimate a project when you don’t know the technical side of the development work.. “

Interviewee : (was in deep thinking process… after few min…).” I ask the developers”

Me : Ok fine.. But they will think.. this guy don’t know anything about our work.. we will give him some false estimates and see.. Then what do you do? Do you just pass me the same estimate that you get from them?

Interviewee: NO I always take 80% of an estimate what developers give me.

Me : :-D (thinking….Hern protects the developers)

Results : Out !!!

Ok.. Cant wait anymore.. Called a reputed recruitment Agency.. Got 5 CVs.. All of them with MBAs, many years experience ….Works!! Very promising.. I called all..

1st one.. Nerd.. No PM experience.. He has handled a team of 5 developers over 6 years.. He is not PM material Period!! He was talking about why SL IT is not moving towards Open source.. I was counting each min I spent.. still I couldn’t end the discussion. Then I told him.. Look., Your profile doesn’t match with the current opportunity I have ., when I have another I will call you.. Then he was telling me that he has a project in hand which he can give to the company if we recruit him.. It was hard for me to send him out…..Finally I said.. I have another meeting…

Next . Currently working as an IT manager.. No experience as a PM.. I don’t know how it was there in the CV. He has got exposed to the AS400 Development and gone overseas as an IT manager.. Not updated with technology or managing projects. He himself accepted the situation.

Next was a guy who is a developer.. Working as a team leader.. Like to move in to Project Management career .. It didn’t take much time for me to realize why he needs to move in to PM from development.. Oh boy he thought the PMs are paid well.. J When I first asked he said his passion is Project Management ., next time when I said we have 2 opportunities 1 is for PM and another is a Senior SE and we pay the same salary for both positions.. He asked me “In that case can I apply as a SSE in this company ..? “ Shew ….

Ok another.. Worked in a Gov Dept. Who handle some projects.. But not fit in to the Private sector Project management.. He told me that he thought the vacancy was for a BA. THANK YOU..

The Next .. Good guy.. Looks good .. Good PR.. good communication we go

Me: Have you experienced any project failures

Interviewee: No I never fail I don’t like to fail

Me: Very good. So let me ask you this question.. Have you had any tight budgets for any projects?

Interviewee: Yes Once I had only 1 Million Budget and my detailed estimate gave me a project cost of 1.5 Million

Me: Interesting.. So what did you do?

Interviewee: Its not a problem to me.. I don’t plan any 8 hour schedules. I always plan 10 – 12 hour schedules. Then we can finish additional work with no cost. I think a developer can work till 11 PM with no issue.. Its an acceptable time for a software developer to work. Always my teams do that with no questions. Therefore I managed to finish the projects within the budgets allocated to me.

Grow up baby !!!

I dont know where those good PMs are gone.. Have they migrated..? Ofcourse few good PMs I knew have already migrated.. I think we are talking about very few PMs who are already working in few companies..

Whats next?.. Calling another recruitment agency…

PS: I thought of adding this line after receiving some comments about this post. This post doesnt mean to say there are no good Project Managers in Sri Lanka. When you look at Software industry, Some of the world's largest project such as huge stock exchange projects, Telco projects are outsourced to Sri Lanka and there are really good PMs managing those projects. What I see is currently there is a big vacuum in the market and this is only the interview experience


Dina Garfinkel on 7:20 PM said...

Very entertaining post, thanks for sharing it! I hope you feel better about sharing it, and hope you find someone good soon!

Bas on 11:05 PM said...

I can tell, you are really concerned with this topic.. hope you find a PM soon.

What are the key topics you are looking for in a PM?
"The Next .. Good guy.. Looks good .. Good PR.. good communication .."
Looks good? HAHAHAHA.

But seriously. If you could choose, what skills would be needed?

And I am interested in your answer to:
Me : "How do you time estimate a project when you don't know the technical side of the development work.. "


Thushara said...

Hi Bas,
To be honest this is a very tricky question. This has been an argument with different Project Mangers over years. Whether the PM need to be technical or not. However PMI methods says that PM doent need to be technical and you should be able to work across industries by applying PM methodology ( I guess Im right here) Ofcourse we can have many arguments on that topic..
My personal view is that , PM needs to have technical knowledge up to a certain level in order to manage a project properly . It doesn’t mean that PM should know the syntax of a code and should be able to sit and write a code.. NO…
What needs is the basic understanding of the technicality of the product. In software development may be layered architecture concepts, understanding of the framework, Understanding the process of Development cycle, understanding of the business functionalities of a system., Ability to understand a specification, security aspects, industry standards help a PM to do his work with least problems.
Ok Coming back to the Original question. In this case the Guy has been working in some VB systems. And he didn’t have any knowledge on Microsoft .Net framework etc. My expected answer would be something like,
“There are many options available to make an estimate. Your company is very strong in .net projects , so you may have been doing this over a period., there must be some estimates and actual time line records available for core functionalities of the system which I could refer to . In the same time, because I have done VB systems., I have a rough idea about how much time will take by certain functionalities. As an example if you need only 1 days to write a basic setup function in VB , I don’t think Microsoft . net will take 2 days. In that case no point of using such new technologies. Therefore first I give them to WBS and ask the developers to make a time estimate. Then I go through and analyze it based on my knowledge. I would mark the areas which I think there can be more complexities ., and I mark separately the suspicious pessimistic or optimistic figures. Then I will have a separate discussion with the team’s senior members to find out whether my concerns are correct. With their agreement I talk to the team and get it revised with actual figures. Further there are other factors I need to consider when estimating time., the availability of resources risks etc.. Blah blah “
Actually I didn’t expect him to be very accurate here.. But I didn’t expect him to give me such an answer.

Bas on 7:58 AM said...

Hi Thushara,

I think you are absolutely right. In that respect there is not much difference with my part of the world (Europe). Although, it is rare that during recruiting you will encounter people that have the amount of insight you described here. A lot of recruiting seems to take place on buzzwords and certifications. “Do you have PMP/Prince2?” People are looking for words like control, process, procedure and the almighty compliancy. What you actually want is see how people deal with uncertainty. And the stuff you describe are a good example of this.

Referral is the best way to get good Project Managers. But you have to keep in mind that there are different types of PMs. Software PMs are quite a different breed.

Perhaps you should consider training your own PMs. It is not rocket science. Within a month a person must get the hang of the process. And the rest is just proper coaching. Is that an option? You seem to be a good coach.


The Project Management Podcast™ on 10:44 AM said...


I think that you had the right idea the first time: Find a good PM through networking. Except... you didn't find them through your OWN network but instead you found them by sending a message.

My recommendation is clear: If you want to hire a good PM you have to get to know the person BEFORE you are hiring. This means that you have to get involved in your local project management organization. The PMI probably has a chapter in your area and other PM organizations may be there as well. Go to dinner meetings, work as a volunteer or send some of your current PMs to meet the group.

It is always best to hire people that you know, rather than having to go trough the experience that you went through.

Mahasen Bandara on 6:24 PM said...

Oh boy.. Good PMs in SL? I knew one, may be two. But most inherently sucks big time.

Most are wanna be's with no personality skills or least - brains. But as you said, the current market vacuum leave companies with no choice but to hire some one who could barely get the job done.

But the end result of hiring such a**holes are devastating for companies as well as developers.

You are hunting for just one, so you have some what a liberty of being picky, but think of a company with thousands of employees!! And on top of that they need people to manage managers, and managers of managers... And if you read the news, results are evident.

And I know by experience it's only a little different in India.

All that said,

On grooming new PMs, my experience with American professionals and Asian professionals tell me that it's less practical in Sri Lanka to groom a new PM than in the west. Reason is, South Asian professionals, with a little experience make their cup full unlike westerners I have met.

They are very resistant to change and hardly make way for different ideas and practices. They have a remarkable ability to translate every thing they hear and see in to what they are accustomed to and blissfully ignore other facts. They never open their minds to a new paradigm. True, It's not all, but most.

So your best bet in grooming a new PM would be to get some one from your own team to step up. Some one who has been with the team for a long time and is trained to think in the same paradigm as you.

"No experience at all, is better than bad experience."

Thushara said...

Hi Bas,

Thanks.. BTW whole thing lead to a very good conversation..

For me selecting a PM based on whether he has PMP or Price2 will not make much sense due to our agile environments.
Some people even who has gained qualifications fail big time when it comes to situational issues. Most the outsourced Projects we manage have many constraints. (Fair enough .. Why people outsource ?? :-) )
So sharp thinking and common sense with experience is a must have skill.. thats why I spend lots of time when interviewing them. further the soft skills. thats one area which I find it very difficult to see in the market.

Coernelious, Thank you so much for the insights. I understand all of you have proposed for me to select somebody and groom from the existing teams or fresh candidate from outside. But Its bit hard at the moment due to time I have in hand. and I cant put these new guys in front of a customer or load some major parts of work to them. its a big risk. But thats the only option left.

Mahasen SHH!!! :-) Yeah I know what you mean. I have seen., heard experienced it. But in the same time to be fair I think the training required for some professionalism is not readily available in Sri Lanka.Further most the companies have made a very big mistake in the past. They never understood the role of Project Manager., they thought one developer can team lead and no need of a PM for a project. (No extra cost) Which is a very big mistake. Now the industry is paying for that. Now the demand is there but very very few are brought in to the industry with quite good training, exposure and experience. Few people who thought that their passion is Project Management somehow managed to do self learning , updating knowledge by associating many professionals internationally and using every bit of opportunity they got in their projects to groom them as good Project Managers.. So the industry will suffer for a while..

ange Embuldeniya on 5:31 AM said...

Hey Thushara!

Still looking for a PM? :) Happy to put you in touch with a couple of proven ones ;-) Most come experienced with overseas project implementations and ITIL gurus! Except, I'd just need to know whether you're looking for a technical PM or a functional PM :)

In all honesty I haven't come across any amazing PMs in Sri Lanka but that's because I dig SL for a few weeks each year for the past 25 years :D but could point you to a couple of PMs in the industry who are working with in my teams and looking for another gig to get started on :).

Let me know if you're still in need of a PM. And good luck with the interviews!


(angeloe at

Thushara said...

Thanks Ange., I sent you a mail.

Shafraz Nizamdeen BSc (MIS), PMP on 11:16 AM said...

You looking for PMP's?

Derry Simmel on 10:22 AM said...

Great post and great topic. I hate to just say "I agree", but I do. The key to getting the right people for a job is to be looking ALL THE TIME. Cornelius' suggestions about PMI chapters is great. Also, volunteering is a good way to meet more people and a way to see what they know and what you know. My preference if I don't have someone immediately available is to ask friends and contacts - I'd rather have someone who is known by those I trust than not. Another way is to keep in touch with people who you interview - good ones - you may have bypassed them for one reason or another, but the new job may be the perfect fit. Oh- another thing is to create relationships with recruiters - I know quite a few in the area whom I trust and have worked with in the past. With a relationship, they will look out for you and not just send you anyone who fits the bill. Unfortunately none of this solves your immediate problem, but for the next time....

Derry Simmel on 10:26 AM said...

Great post! My thoughts-

- Always be looking for great employees, not just when you need them. Keep a list and keep in touch.
- As Cornelius said - join PMI chapter or similar organization.

- Volunteer - you get to work with people and they get to see you at work too - mutual interest.

- Develop relationships with recruiters (not firms, individuals). If you work with them, they'll find you the best people, also helps if you're looking to move.

- Keep the names of the best interviewees - they may not be right for one job, but maybe later they are a great fit.
- Friends and family know people too best to get a name from someone you trust if you don't have direct experience

Ron Holohan said...

Hi Thushara,

Sorry to post this as a comment, but I couldn't find an email address for you.

As a project management blogger, would you be interested in being a guest blogger for The Project Management Podcast website ( My subscribers would undoubtedly be interested in your viewpoint on any PM topic you choose and we would provide a link back to your site in the article to help drive additional traffic to your site.

If you are interested, simply submit an original article that has been proofed for grammatical and factual integrity in Microsoft Word format. Also, provide a short bio and photo (.jpg 200x200 pixel format preferred) to be included when your post is published. If selected, I will send you an email on its publication and its permanent link URL so you can link back to your article on your site.

Thanks and I look forward to your submittal!


Ron Holohan, MBA PMP
Chief Project Officer
The Project Management Podcast


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