The path to PMO Leadership: is there a sure shot way to get there?

One thing’s for sure though. Just having project management experience won’t be your ticket to the role.

As my friend Russell St. Hilaire says, “You cannot become the PMO Leader by becoming a better Project Manager – because IT’S NOT THE SAME JOB!”

The reality is that there are a ton of ways you can become a PMO Leader

I classify these into two (2) broad categories:

  • The Conventional Way

    So you could be a Business Analyst who becomes a Project Manager and then a Portfolio Manager and then a PMO Leader. Or you could be a PMO Analyst or a Consultant (doing project management work) who becomes a Program Manager and then a PMO Leader. And we haven’t even thrown some other roles like Software Architects or Designers into the mix. Even though this is a conventional journey, there’s no exact mapping to the role of a PMO Leader.And then there’s the…
  • The Non-conventional Way

    And you thought that the Conventional Way was convoluted?
    Depending on the needs of an organization, you could jump into the role of a PMO Leader straight from an Operations role – because you know:

    • the INs and OUTs of the company really well,
    • who to work with,
    • what to work on, and
    • how to get things done

    Similarly, you may be frustrated with the way that projects are being managed with no common structure within your company and feel that you must take it upon yourself to rectify this by creating a PMO.

    It’s rare that you would see the Unconventional Way pan out in a large, established firm. It’s usually not the first time that a PMO is being set within a large organization, and in their truest intent, they apply what they learnt from their previous attempts at setting a sustained, scalable PMO. These companies also typically have the resources to hire someone (consulting firms or experienced individuals) or promote someone from within (with the right mix of skills and experience) to fix issues in process, structure and all things PMO.

It is more common to see a PMO being setup for the first time in mid-size or small companies (experiencing tremendous growth). The reasons for putting a PMO in place could vary, but all have the general theme of bringing order to chaos. Getting in consulting firms may not be the best option financially, and there may be a limited budget to attract the most qualified external candidates for the job. Monetary reasons aside, and especially for small-to-mid-size organizations, it is more crucial to put someone at the helm of forming a PMO who understands the pulse, culture and dynamics of the firm. Positioning someone from within, who has the interest, inclination, and working relationships, is the best bet then for these companies to get a PMO set up successfully. With this, having project management knowledge or experience becomes a definitive plus but not a showstopper.

So what do all these permutations tell us about the role?


  • There are countless ways to get the opportunity,
  • It requires different facets, AND
  • Every organization has varying needs and requires different skill-set

Let me be clear.

If you get to the PMO Leadership role in the Conventional Way, get yourself some business or operations exposure.

And if you tread to the top PMO role in the Non-conventional Way, ensure that your path goes through experience in project management.

But what are the attributes – both skills and mindset – that will prepare you to truly excel in the role?

And how can you get these so that you can consciously chart your career to the top PMO opportunity?

In my session at the PMO IMPACT Summit, we will explore the exact framework you can apply to answer these questions.

And to get you excited about taking control of your PMO career into your own hands, we will also draw some inspiration from the journey of a famous celebrity.

Are you ready to do this? Register here for the PMO IMPACT Summit.

See you on the other side.

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