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What Does a Principal Program Manager Do?

What Does a Principal Program Manager Do?
By MegaInterview Company Career Coach

A Principal Program Manager is a highly skilled and experienced professional responsible for leading and overseeing complex programs and projects. These individuals are experts in project management, program management, and change management, and they play a key role in driving strategic initiatives and delivering measurable results for their organizations. They are often responsible for leading cross-functional teams, managing budgets, and creating and implementing project plans.

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In this article, we will explore the duties and responsibilities, job requirements, skills, salary, work environment, advancement prospects for a Principal Program Manager, tips on how to become one, and examples of similar jobs.

Principal Program Manager Duties and Responsibilities

The duties and responsibilities of a Principal Program Manager can vary depending on the organization and industry they work in, but generally, they include the following:

  • Leading cross-functional teams: Principal Program Managers lead and manage cross-functional teams that may include members from different departments, such as engineering, sales, marketing, and finance.
  • Developing and implementing project plans: Principal Program Managers are responsible for creating and implementing project plans that align with the organization’s strategic goals and objectives.
  • Managing budgets: Principal Program Managers are responsible for managing project and program budgets, including monitoring expenses and identifying areas of cost savings.
  • Tracking and reporting progress: Principal Program Managers are responsible for tracking and reporting progress on project and program milestones and identifying and addressing issues as they arise.
  • Managing risk and change: Principal Program Managers are responsible for identifying and managing project and program risks and for implementing change management strategies to ensure smooth transitions and successful outcomes.
  • Communicating with stakeholders: Principal Program Managers are responsible for communicating with stakeholders at all levels of the organization, including executive leadership, team members, and external partners, for keeping them informed of project and program status, issues, and concerns.
  • Building and maintaining relationships: Principal Program Managers are responsible for building and maintaining relationships with key stakeholders, including customers, partners, and suppliers, for ensuring that projects and programs are delivered on time, on budget, and to the satisfaction of all stakeholders.
  • Identifying and implementing best practices: Principal Program Managers are responsible for identifying and implementing best practices in program and project management in order to improve performance and achieve desired outcomes.

Overall, a Principal Program Manager plays a critical role in leading and overseeing large, complex programs and projects and ensuring they are delivered on time, on budget, and to the satisfaction of all stakeholders.

Principal Program Manager Job Requirements

The job requirements for a Principal Program Manager generally, include the following:

  • Education: A minimum of a bachelor’s degree in a related field such as business, engineering, computer science, or a related field is typically required for a Principal Program Manager. Some employers may require a master’s degree.
  • Experience: Significant experience in project and program management is typically required for a Principal Program Manager role. Many organizations require several years of experience in a senior management or leadership role and may prefer or require experience in the specific industry the company operates in.
  • Certifications: Many organizations prefer or require candidates to have relevant project or program management certifications, such as Project Management Professional (PMP), Program Management Professional (PgMP), Scaled Agile Framework Program Consultant (SPC) and/or Six Sigma certification.
  • Strong Leadership skills: Principal Program Managers must have strong leadership skills and the ability to manage and lead cross-functional teams effectively.
  • Strong Communication and Interpersonal skills: Principal Program Managers must have excellent communication and interpersonal skills to effectively communicate with stakeholders at all levels of the organization, including executive leadership, team members, and external partners.
  • Project and program management expertise: Principal Program Managers must have strong expertise in project and program management and be familiar with relevant methodologies and best practices such as Agile, Scrum, Waterfall, PMBOK, and SAFe.
  • Strategic thinking and problem-solving skills: Principal Program Managers must be able to think strategically, identify and analyze problems, and develop and implement effective solutions.
  • Technical skills: Depending on the industry, Principal Program Managers may require a high level of technical knowledge and expertise in specific areas such as software development, engineering, or manufacturing.
  • Strong analytical skills: Principal Program Managers must be able to analyze and interpret data and make data-driven decisions.
  • Strong budget management skills: Principal Program Managers must have strong budget management skills and effectively manage project and program budgets.
  • Change management skills: Principal Program Managers must be able to identify and manage project and program risks and implement change management strategies to ensure smooth transitions and

Principal Program Manager Skills

The skills required for a Principal Program Manager include the following:

  • Strong leadership skills: Leading cross-functional teams and managing projects and programs effectively.
  • Strong project and program management expertise: Familiarity with relevant methodologies and best practices such as Agile, Scrum, Waterfall, PMBOK, and SAFe.
  • Strong communication and interpersonal skills: The ability to effectively communicate with stakeholders at all levels of the organization, including executive leadership, team members, and external partners.
  • Strategic thinking and problem-solving skills: The ability to think strategically, identify and analyze problems, and develop and implement effective solutions.
  • Technical skills: Depending on the industry, Principal Program Managers may require a high level of technical knowledge and expertise in specific areas such as software development, engineering, or manufacturing.
  • Strong analytical skills: Analyzing and interpreting data and making data-driven decisions.
  • Strong budget management skills: Managing project and program budgets effectively.
  • Change management skills: Identifying and managing project and program risks and implementing change management strategies to ensure smooth transitions and successful outcomes.
  • Strong relationship management skills: The ability to build and maintain relationships with key stakeholders, including customers, partners, and suppliers, to ensure that projects and programs are delivered on time, on budget, and to the satisfaction of all stakeholders.
  • Negotiation skills: The ability to negotiate with suppliers and customers to achieve mutually beneficial agreements
  • Strong organization and time management skills: The ability to effectively organize, prioritize, and manage time to meet project and program deadlines
  • Flexibility and adaptability: The ability to adapt to changing circumstances and unexpected events
  • Continual learning: The ability to stay current with new trends, technologies, and best practices in the industry and take appropriate actions to improve the performance of programs.

Principal Program Manager Salary

The salary for a Principal Program Manager can vary depending on factors such as location, experience, education, and industry. However, generally, it is a well-paying role. According to salary data from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) the average annual salary for program and project managers, including those at the principal level, is around $115,000, ranging from $78,000 to $154,000. Other sources, such as payscale and glassdoor, also suggest that the salary range for Principal Program Manager can vary from $100,000 to $170,000 per year, with bonuses and benefits.

Remember that the salary also varies based on the location, the company and size, and other benefits that can be provided. Also, those who have certifications such as Project Management Professional (PMP), Program Management Professional (PgMP), Scaled Agile Framework Program Consultant (SPC) and Six Sigma certifications, or Master’s degree in Business Administration (MBA) may have higher earning potential in this role. It is best to research salary information specific to the job and location you are interested in.

Principal Program Manager Work Environment

A Principal Program Manager (PPM) typically works in an office environment and may be part of a larger project management or product development team. They may work closely with other program managers, project managers, engineers, and executives to plan, develop, and launch products or initiatives.

PPMs may also be involved in creating and implementing processes and best practices to improve the efficiency of their projects and teams. The role may also involve some travel to meet with team members, partners, or customers, and they may attend industry conferences or other events related to their projects.

Principal Program Manager Trends

There are a few current trends in the role of Principal Program Manager (PPM) that are worth noting:

  • Increased focus on Agile methodologies: PPMs are increasingly expected to lead Agile development teams and be familiar with Agile methodologies like Scrum and Kanban.
  • Emphasis on cross-functional collaboration: PPMs are expected to work closely with teams from different departments and disciplines, such as engineering, design, marketing, and sales, to bring products and initiatives to market.
  • Use of analytics and data-driven decision-making: PPMs use data analytics to measure project performance and make resource allocation and prioritization decisions.
  • Greater attention to Customer: PPMs are expected to have a customer-centric approach and to be able to identify and prioritize customer needs.
  • Virtual & Remote collaboration: The increasing remote & virtual collaboration, due to pandemics or other factors, has led to a change in the way of working, where online tools, virtual meetings, and messaging apps have become more important than ever before.

These trends are not exhaustive, and the field of program management is continuously evolving. As a PPM, staying current with the latest trends and best practices in the industry is important.

How to Become a Principal Program Manager

Becoming a Principal Program Manager (PPM) typically requires several years of experience in program management, as well as a strong track record of delivering successful projects and leading teams. Here are some steps you can take to become a PPM:

  • Gain experience in program management: Start by gaining experience in program management by working as a program manager or project manager. You can gain experience by working on different types of projects and with different types of teams to build a broad range of skills.
  • Develop your leadership skills: As a PPM, you’ll be responsible for leading teams, so developing your leadership skills is important. Take on leadership roles within your organization, such as leading cross-functional teams or mentoring junior team members.
  • Gain a relevant degree: Many PPMs have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in a relevant field, such as business administration, engineering, computer science, or a similar field. Some programs may offer specifically in project management or program management.
  • Get certified: Consider earning a certification in project management, such as the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification from the Project Management Institute, to demonstrate your skills and knowledge to potential employers.
  • Stay current: Stay current on the latest trends and best practices in program management by attending industry conferences and networking with other professionals.
  • Network: Building a professional network can help you learn about job opportunities, gain new skills, and gain visibility within the industry.

It’s worth noting that the requirements may vary depending on the organization you want to work for and the industry or field you’re in. Hence, it’s best to check the specific requirements of the companies you’re interested in working for.

Principal Program Manager Advancement Prospects

The advancement prospects for a Principal Program Manager (PPM) can vary depending on their organization and industry. Here are a few possibilities for career advancement for a PPM:

  • Moving into a senior management role: PPMs with a proven track record of delivering successful projects and leading teams may be promoted to a senior management role, such as Director of Program Management or Vice President of Program Management.
  • Taking on more responsibility: PPMs may be given additional responsibilities, such as managing a larger team or overseeing more complex projects, as they progress in their career.
  • Moving into other leadership roles: PPMs may use their experience to move into other leadership roles, such as a Director of Engineering or a Chief Operating Officer.
  • Starting their own company: Some PPMs may use their skills and experience to start their own company and lead a team of their own
  • Specializing in a certain area: Some PPMs may specialize in a particular area of program management, such as supply chain management, IT projects, or digital product development, and become subject matter experts in that area.

It’s worth noting that the advancement prospects will also depend on factors such as the overall size of the organization and the industry in which they operate. The PPM role itself is often considered a senior role within the organization and usually doesn’t have many direct progression roles. However, PPMs have a wide variety of career paths since the skills and experience of a PPM are highly valued in many industries.

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Principal Program Manager Job Description Example

Below you will find an example job description for a Principal Program Manager:

Job Title: Principal Program Manager

Job Description:

We are seeking a highly skilled and experienced Principal Program Manager to join our team. As a Principal Program Manager, you will be responsible for leading complex and cross-functional programs from ideation to successful delivery. You will collaborate with product management, engineering, design, operations, and other teams to drive the execution of multiple initiatives that align with the company’s strategic objectives.

Responsibilities:

  • Lead and manage multiple complex programs simultaneously from ideation to successful delivery while ensuring that all projects are delivered on time, within scope, and within budget.
  • Define and execute program plans, develop and manage budgets, allocate resources, and monitor progress to ensure successful delivery.
  • Drive cross-functional collaboration and communication across product management, engineering, design, operations, and other teams to ensure alignment and effective execution.
  • Develop and maintain program schedules, risk management plans, and communication plans.
  • Identify and mitigate risks and issues that may impact program delivery, communicate status updates, and manage stakeholders’ expectations.
  • Ensure all stakeholders are informed and aligned on program goals, status, and outcomes.
  • Develop and implement effective project management methodologies and processes to ensure continuous improvement of program delivery.
  • Establish and maintain effective relationships with internal and external partners, vendors, and other stakeholders.

Requirements:

  • Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, Engineering, or a related field. Master’s degree preferred.
  • 10+ years of experience in program management in a technology-driven company, with experience in leading large, complex, cross-functional programs.
  • Strong leadership skills, with the ability to influence and motivate cross-functional teams.
  • Strong technical and business acumen, with a deep understanding of software development, engineering practices, and project management methodologies.
  • Excellent communication skills, with the ability to communicate complex concepts to stakeholders at all levels of the organization.
  • Strong analytical and problem-solving skills, with the ability to identify and mitigate risks and issues.
  • Demonstrated ability to manage multiple projects simultaneously and deliver on time and within budget.
  • PMP, Agile, or Scrum certification preferred.

If you are an experienced program manager with strong leadership, communication, and technical skills, and you are looking for an exciting opportunity to drive the execution of multiple initiatives in a fast-paced, dynamic environment, we encourage you to apply for this position.

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