When it comes to looking at the project manager position in 2009 compared to 2014, it becomes clear that a mere five-year gap has seen an influx of new talent in the ranks.

Project Management Institute [PMI], in fact, notes that in 2009 there were around 400,000 people who had earned its immensely popular Project Management Professional [PMP] certification worldwide. Fast forward to 2014, and that number jumped to 620,000—and the year’s not even over yet.

PMP Training – Resources (Intense)

Contacted by InfoSec Institute’s Intense School to get his perspective on the project manager position in 2009 compared to 2014, Mark Aiello, president of Cyber 360 Solutions, was able to tap into his experience running a recruitment firm whose customers sometimes seek out project managers.

Last January, InfoSec Institute interviewed Aiello to pick his brain for insight on some of the issues impacting the information security industry. At the time, he was the chief executive officer and president of The Revolution Group, an IT staff recruiting firm that was the parent company of TheRevGroup and secureRevGroup. In May 2013, just a few months after the interview was published, Aiello’s company was swallowed up via corporate acquisition by Cyber 360 Solutions, which itself was, and still is, owned by publicly traded Staffing 360 Solutions, an international staffing company with a market cap worth tens of millions of dollars. After the purchase, Aiello was installed as Cyber 360 Solutions’ president.

So who better to ask about industry change than a professional who has experienced more than a bit of change himself?

What follows is a transcript of the project manager interview with Aiello:

Intense School: Drawing from your own experience, how have things changed for project managers from 2009 to 2014?

Aiello: There are a lot more of them. I don’t know what the official number is. What I found was that there were less than 400,000 PMPs in 2009 and in 2014 there’s close to 700,000 PMPs. Even if my numbers are skewed a little bit, you’re probably talking about at least a 50% increase in just five years. It’s a lot easier to find project managers from a supply standpoint, which is the nature of my business. I know that the supply is decent; it’s frankly almost equal to demand right now. And over the last five years, supply has probably outpaced demand.

A PMP certification, from a certification standpoint, is still the most popular, and was the gold standard. But the rise of Agile development and the Scrum Master role has replaced, in many corporations, the traditional PM role. There’s been a change during that time, significant change in terms of companies adopting the more rapid application development methodologies. I think the traditional project manager is kind of outdated. What we see more of is customers looking for a Scrum Master.

From what I understand, even though our customers are trying to make them one and the same, they are clearly different roles. In some organizations there’s a PM but underneath him or her is a Scrum Master or other Scrum Masters. Because of this, the traditional PM role is changing to this more rapid way of project development. One of the things that led to this is, in most projects, scope changes are inevitable. There’s a constant redefinition of requirements; it’s frankly nearly impossible to accurately define a complete scope from the beginning—tools change, business needs change, the order of priorities changes. There could be some new technology that could solve some problems that six months before they didn’t even know existed. So things are changing so rapidly, and I think in the IT space they’ve adopted this way of doing things to accommodate frequent change.

Why this huge leap in the number of project managers in just five years?

I can tell you that there’s been a large increase based on the eyeball test. I know it inherently because I live it. We started our company at the end of 1999 right when Y2K was at its end. That was a huge project for the previous couple of years. And then that went away and companies realized that they had other projects that now needed to be addressed. Because a great deal of their focus and their expenditures had been on Y2K, they now needed to move in the direction of the other things that had been lower priorities. They looked at these projects and said, ‘Hey, we need project managers.’ There was a significant call for project management and project managers I’d say from right after Y2K to probably five or six years ago. They were hard to come by.

As for the reason there are so many now compared to before, you just need to look at virtually any labor market from immaturity to maturity. Demand outpaces supply, supply than gets smart and catches wind of it and more supply is created—universities come up with degrees, colleges come up with classes, continuing education creates classes. We’re seeing the same thing happening in the security world. And what happens is that more people take notice, and people gravitate towards the demand. Everybody wants to be in a profession that they feel is going to last the rest of their lives, and no one wants to be in one that they know is going to end. More people were realizing that project management is here to stay. More and more people have been getting into project management either through education or continuing ed or certifications like the Project Management Institute’s PMP certification.

What usually happens in a labor market is that at some point demand starts to flatten out and supply still increases—it doesn’t quite get the message right away. When it does, both run in parallel and flatten out.

When clients request that you find them project managers, what sorts of hard skills are they looking for in candidates?

They’re now looking for hard skills like Agile development, rapid application development. I think they like people who come from more of a web background specifically web development. It really comes down to the individual. Are they well organized? Do they have some sort of project management software background? Do they have at least MS Project in their background? Are they the right people to lead the project? What’s the general idea that senior management has of how this project should be led? Does it need to be led with someone who rules with an iron hand or somebody who’s a little bit more collaborative and builds consensus before they move forward? There are pluses and minuses to both—it depends on what one is trying to accomplish and in what time frame.

Is what clients are looking for now in terms of hard skills significantly different from what they were looking for in 2009?

I would say not significantly different. The same basic skills are the same basic skills.

What about soft skills?

From a soft skills standpoint, we’ve seen a huge shift in terms of clients looking for people who are more collaborative than the iron fist that I described before. The general attitude is that if you can get everybody to buy in, you’ll end up with a better product. If you can have a diverse group of individuals, then you will have people who are looking at things from different viewpoints and ultimately at the end it helps you to address all inevitabilities or at less more inevitabilities than you would have if you had just been a homogeneous group or one person dictating. We see a much bigger move in that direction.

What about education? Is there any difference—comparing 2009 to 2014—in terms of what clients are looking for in potential hires?

I don’t think there’s a difference. Our world is the IT world, so they’re looking for people who have advanced degrees in computer science. They still look for certifications whether someone’s Scrum certified, Agile certified, Blackbelt certified or PMP certified. I still think they look for those. Companies will be concerned if someone doesn’t have a certification. They’ll wonder how serious candidates are about working as a project manager.

In the past, it seems as though some companies were open to accepting prior work experience in lieu of a degree. Is this still the case?

It has not been our experience that they’d be willing to waive the degree requirement in lieu of work experience. It’s been our experience that our customers believe it is a necessary foundation. They look for education and experience. There are more people with that background who have gotten into project management, and it enables our customers to be a little more specific in terms of their requirements. As supply increases, they feel they can be a little bit more finicky. In terms of certifications, it’s the same thing. There are so many more certified people now as compared to before that it’s my belief that our customers will judge an individual’s certification status when they’re comparing people. If someone has advanced certifications and one does not, they’ll probably be more likely to gravitate towards the one that has those advanced certifications. The thinking is that the person is perhaps better trained and someone who is more serious about their profession.

In its industry growth forecast for the 2010-2020 period, PMI projects that there will be 15.7 million new project management positions created around the world across seven project-intensive sectors. Moreover, the job growth will be accompanied by a substantial increase in the economic footprint of the job position. Specifically, the project management job is on pace to grow by a lofty USD 6.61 trillion during the time period covered. With the substantial growth projection, not to mention the likelihood of higher-than-average compensation packages, the years ahead will give professionals with project management aspirations enough time to increase their competencies in this area, notes PMI. That way, they can change with the times.