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Do project managers have to be experienced in the industry they work in?


This is a question I regularly hear debated, particularly when an attractive looking job appears which isn’t in the industry the person usually works in. There are usually two opposing camps – on the one side are those who feel project managers should hold relevant industry experience, and on the other are those who feel specific industry experience isn’t necessary.

Here’s the case for both sides of this argument:

The case for relevant industry experience

  1. Relevant industry experience helps project managers hit the ground running in new assignments
  2. It means the project manager is less likely to be bamboozled by the project team in the event that something goes wrong
  3. The project manager will have credibility with the wider stakeholder groups
  4. There’s less chance of delays in getting up to speed on the project as the project manager will already be familiar with the nuances and quirks of the industry.

The case for not needing relevant industry experience

  1. An experienced project manager will be able to apply project management knowledge to any industry as the fundamentals are the same regardless
  2. No industry experience means they are more likely to come in with a fresh set of eyes and bring positive changes to the project
  3. They may bring tips and tricks from another industry
  4. The project manager is likely to be very enthusiastic about the project, as changing industry is a big deal.

I’m all for swapping industries, and have done so on more than one occasion. I believe that it makes you a better project manager if you have managed projects in different industries and environments. What do you think?

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