The economy: Brazil has fared better than many emerging markets in the global economic crisis, but recent reports show that its growth may be slowing. In November 2012, Brazil’s finance minister reported third-quarter earnings at 0.9 percent on the year — below expectations, according to Forbes. Stock prices for well-known organizations are also down this year. For example, Brazilian energy giant Petrobras, the most actively traded Brazilian stock, has declined more than 23 percent.
The opportunities: With the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympic Games on the horizon, project managers are leading infrastructure development and expansion projects worth more than US$60 billion.
“All cities hosting the [World Cup] games are working to achieve the requirements set by Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA),” says Diego Nei, PMP, project management consultant at Associação Baiana para Gestão Competitiva, Salvador, Brazil a professional services assistance association. “We have projects ranging from entertainment to security.”
Brazil’s government has turned to project management to ensure that these events succeed — and that the resulting improvements benefit the population after the games end. For example, the Secretaria Especial da Copa, which is similar to a project management office, is overseeing projects being developed for two football tournaments: the 2013 Confederations Cup and the 2014 World Cup.
Beyond these high-profile events, IT and engineering are leading the demand for project management in the country, according to Mr. Nei, with additional career opportunities in social development projects. For instance, Petrobras only sponsors projects if they are in compliance with project management best practices, he says. “For example, they must fit the definition of a project, with established start and finish dates, and documentation submitted that follows a project plan,” Mr. Nei says.
Know before you go: Seek out smaller organizations, which also see the need to embrace project management. “They can’t afford to lose clients or waste money with inefficient processes,” Mr. Nei says. “While we didn't face a crisis here, the economic situation asked for more competitive companies — and more competitive companies demanded project managers.”
The economy: Argentina is Latin America’s third-largest economy, despite recent controversy. In September 2012, the IMF warned the country that if it did not produce reliable data related to growth and inflation, it would face sanctions. According to the BBC, Argentina’s inflation rate sits at 24 percent, much higher than the 10 percent inflation the country has officially reported.
The opportunities: In spite of the country’s economic woes, projects are still being launched around the country. Mining, auto manufacturing, oil and gas,telecommunications and finance continue to employ project managers, according to Jose Esterkin, CEO and founder of IAAP, a project management training and consulting firm in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
In October, General Motors announced it would invest US$450 million to produce a new global Chevrolet vehicle at its Rosario Automotive Complex in Rosario, Argentina.
And Canada-based mining giant Barrick Gold announced it would invest US$2 billion in the country next year to advance construction at its Pascua-Lama gold-silver project.
Know before you go: The importance of project management continues to grow among organizations in Argentina, says Mr. Esterkin, so sharpen your business acumen.
“Project managers must understand the economic and business decisions that led to the project they are implementing,” he says. “In that way, they will detect and understand the right stakeholders.”
The economy: Panama’s economy is going strong. Annual real GDP growth averaged about 9 percent over the past five years, the highest in Latin America, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The opportunities: Panama is currently home to one of the most highly visible projects in the world: the expansion of the Panama Canal. The project — which includes widening and deepening the existing channel and constructing two new sets of locks — is expected to cost US$5 billion and be completed in 2014.
“It is a program of several very large projects involving construction, excavations and dredging,” says Jorge L. Quijano, executive vice president, engineering and program management, Panama Canal Authority, Miami, Florida, USA.
The effort calls for project managers with deep knowledge of sustainability, safety, social responsibility, reforestation, communications, claims management, archeological and paleontological findings.
But while the canal expansion may be the most well-known project in Panama, it isn’t the only one. According to Mr. Quijano, there are a significant number of government and private projects in industries such as mining and construction.
Know before you go: Panama is in need of project managers with a better balance of education and experience.
“There are professionals with postgraduate degrees in project management, but with very little field experience,” Mr. Quijano says. “Then there is the other extreme — [professionals with] quite a lot of projects on their account, but with no formal training. What is needed are professionals with [experience in] at least a couple of large, three-year projects run under a project management standard, such as those [from] PMI, and that follow industry best practices.”
The economy: Latin America’s second-largest economy saw a slight slowdown in the third quarter of 2012, according to The Washington Post. The country’s economy relies heavily on the United States, where it sends nearly 80 percent of all exports.
The opportunities: Mexico is becoming a hotspot for automakers. Manufacturers including Honda, Nissan and Audi all have plans to build new factories over the next three years.
Beyond the auto industry, Calgary, Alberta, Canada-based TransCanada Corporation recently announced plans to build a series of natural gas pipelines. The total cost of the project is expected to reach US$1.4 billion and be complete by the fourth quarter of 2016.
In addition, more than 3,500 workers are participating in a 750-megawatt wind farm project in La Yesca, Mexico. The US$910-million project began in 2008 and included the construction of a 672-foot (205-meter) tall concrete-faced dam. The first turbine for the plant was delivered in November last year.
Know before you go: Project professionals with the right credentials and a firm handle on project management standards will make their mark in the local landscape — as practitioners, and perhaps even as educators.
“If you explore the country's current educational offerings in project management, you will find there are many possibilities,” says Eric Montero, past officer of the PMI Puebla, Mexico Chapter. “Almost every mid-size university includes a [project management] postgrad course.”
However, Mr. Montero adds that not many experienced Project Management Professional (PMP)® credential holders are participating as qualified instructors.
“Most professors come from other knowledge fields and take the project management teaching opportunities only because they think they can teach it,” he says. He adds that in these instances, professors share practical tips without advocating standards or established approaches.
Improving educational prospects for project managers starts with organizational demand, according to Mr. Montero. “Mexican business owners should believe their projects need to be managed by professionals that deserve a salary and a secure place in the company,” he says.