Michael Burgos, Retired Army Chief Warrant Officer
Project management certification is both alluring and intimidating to even the most knowledgeable and prepared candidates. For Service members with minimal exposure to civilian terminology and varying levels of direct experience, this barrier can seem insurmountable. Retired Army Chief Warrant Officer Michael Burgos blends extensive instruction background with project management expertise as a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and Project Management Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP) to prepare the Service community for project management certification.
Describe your career in the Army and civilian sector.
I served in the military for 22 years. I started off enlisted as a fire direction specialist in the field artillery, then later converted to Warrant Officer and I completed my service as a Chief Warrant Officer 4. My job title was a targeting technician, and that’s a 131A. After I did multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, I was asked to teach the Warrant Officers and Captain’s Career Course for a while, and then the last job that I had was a nuclear targeting officer for the Army, and there’s only one of those so I ended up teaching joint nuclear operations.
I retired in 2018. Currently I am an instructor at PM-ProLearn helping students train for the Project Management Professional and the PMI Agile Certified Practitioner certifications. I’ve also developed curriculum, test questions and practice questions.
If you worked on a staff at the battalion level or higher where you’ve interacted with people and assisted with planning, then you likely have the skillset to be a project manager.
How do you think the PMP certification helped you during the transition period into civilian life?
Once I had the certification, I had multiple job offers in the D.C. area since a lot of governmental contracts require that somebody has a PMP with at least a bachelor’s degree. As soon as I posted my PMP on LinkedIn, I was getting cold called with job offers at $180,000 a year starting in a week if I’m available and it was really just a matter of deciding what I wanted to do next. My wife and I looked at each other and decided that, rather than keep that pace up in D.C., we’d rather slow down, so we relocated to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. I always tell people retiring from the military not to jump into a job for the money, but really understand what will make them happy, because otherwise they will be miserable.
What made you want to get the PMI-ACP?
As a targeting technician, we used an agile-type project management style to go through iterations of development, and I had done a pretty big agile project developing nuclear operation tools, but my time to use that project was running out, so I had to go get this certification. In order to get the ACP certification, you have to demonstrate that you have done an agile project within the last three years. Agile certifications are focused on process and methodology-based scenarios and that is really where the industry is going. It is definitely complementary to the PMP, although if you’re just working agile software development stuff, I could see where the agile certification is all you really need to move forward, because that’s the focus.
From my time leading a platoon all the way up to the Department of the Army, I’ve always been some sort of operational planner or project manager, and those skills help you significantly in this kind of certification.
What recommendations do you have for Service members who are starting their certification process?
The first thing is to understand the marketplace that you’re in and where you’re going when you transition out and see if there is a need for certification. People that are going to secluded areas aren’t going to benefit as much from a certification as those that stay around a military base, or in the D.C. Beltway. Search LinkedIn and find out what jobs are available with that certification requirement to see if it’s value added for you. From there, understand the requirements of the certification so that you know if you can or cannot qualify. The PMP is as lucrative as it is because of the experience required.
Once you do that then it’s really about figuring out where the funding source is going to come from. There’s lots of opportunities where you may not have to actually pay out of pocket for that certification, but people still need to understand how earning the certification is going to benefit the military while they are in uniform because the funding exists to professionalize the force. Then attend a training course and determine how you want to study. A lot of students come in thinking that after five days they are going to walk away with a certification, when in reality for most certifications there’s usually about 100 to 120 hours of dedicated study that you’re going to have to do after a boot camp, because you have to truly understand the content in order to pass the certification.
Are there any particular skillsets or traits developed in the military that would make a project management career particularly compelling for transitioning or recently discharged veterans?
I don’t think it’s really MOS specific — I think it’s more specific to the positions they’ve held. If you stay down the line the whole time, then the Project Management Professional certification can be a little bit overwhelming. If you worked on a staff at the battalion level or higher where you’ve interacted with people and assisted with planning, then you likely have the skillset to be a project manager. From my time leading a platoon all the way up to the Department of the Army, I’ve always been some sort of operational planner or project manager, and those skills help you significantly in this kind of certification. At the end of the day, it’s your ability to lead and plan and make decisions based off of your understanding of the current situation that makes you a successful project manager.