Thought Leadership in Project Management: with John Farris, Senior Security Specialist with Air Force Materiel Command


Farris, John 5x7 160128-F-AL359-002John Farris is Senior Security Specialist at Headquarters, Air Force Materiel Command, Wright Patterson Air Force Base Ohio. He has served the Department of Defense as active duty, military, a contractor, and government civilian for almost 38 years. He has fulfilled many roles and many different locations over that time. His current role he uses many of project management tools and processes to advance security practices and policies. Before that he acted as a subject matter expert overseeing multi-million dollar Air Force electronic security system design and installations. He spent three years working for the Missile Defense Agency developing and managing security system projects. He has He has filled various capacities within the project management realm. He has completed a BS in Project Management from Bellevue University and in near completion of his Master’s in Project Management from Bellevue University. He is married with 3 children, and 9 grandchildren. He intends to use his experience and education to help develop future project managers.

1. How did your project management career get started?

Answer: It didn’t start in a traditional way where I said “I want to be a project manager”. I have worked for the DoD for a number of years as Active Duty, a contractor and as a government civilian. I various roles, I participated or led project that touched on various aspects of project management.
2. How did you obtain your project management education and training?

Answer: Much of what I have learned is through experience. While employed by SAIC, I did take some of their project management developmental courses. It wasn’t until I enrolled in the Bellevue University, Project Management Accelerated Bachelor’s Program did I receive formal education.
3. Can you please summarize your industry, and share how organizations are applying project management in the workplace?

Answer: As I said earlier, I have worked in the DoD for 37 years, over that time, my focus has been on developing security solutions to protect people and resources. This area is diverse and ever changing. I have worked as an active duty member, a contractor supporting a military organization, and a contractor in a corporate project office with DoD contracts.

4. Do you see any trends in your industry as it relates to project management and other related methodologies?

Answer: As I continue to learn about project management and various practices and trends, I find that the principles of project management are sometimes misunderstood. For example, many times projects are selected based on the perceived financial gain of an organization, rather than if the project can be executed within the budget and time frame established.


5. What is your advice to people that are interested in pursuing a career in project management within your industry?

Answer: The skills that are taught for project managers are beneficial to anybody that develops requirements, assesses risk, develop quality management plans, works with stakeholders. I have found that project management skills are used in other functional duties.

6. I noticed you have earned several certifications. What type of value has these certifications provided to you in your career?

Answer: The certificates I currently hold are security specific. My goal once I have completed the Bellevue University Master’s Degree is Project Management is to gain my PMP certification as well as my Scrum Master certification. I believe the Agile methodology will soon migrate to many project management disciplines.

7. Do you think the industry is catching up to better understanding the benefits of program management and portfolio management?

Answer: I think many industries are beginning to understand the strategic importance of project management and how project selection can influence the success of a company.

8. What are some of the major gaps you still see in the project management profession and what can industries do to address them?

Answer: Training and knowledge are the two shortfalls that still effect every industry. Most industries are challenged to complete projects on time, within scope, and within budget. Properly trained project managers and teams are critical to increasing success. Of course, putting someone in the “front office” with a project management background can help determine what projects offer better business opportunities. Many times, projects appear to satisfy the business case, but from a project standpoint, it may be difficult to execute with the time and budget allocated. This adds to the statistic of unsuccessful project, but didn’t have the chance to be successful from the moment it was selected.

9. What type of things do you do to stay current in your field (professional development)?

Answer: Because I work for the DoD, Defense Acquisition University offers a remarkable amount of computer-based training.

What are your last thoughts or closing remarks to our project manager subscribers?

Answer: I have worked in project management in some form or function for several years, but only recently decided to pursue formal education and certification to further my knowledge and improve my abilities. I hope to apply this new-found education to my current position as well pursue collegiate teaching opportunities. I encourage young adults to evaluate project management as an educational goal and a profession as it spans many business sectors and the role and importance of project management will continue to grow as it provides all the tools to deliver projects successfully.

– By Dr. Emad Rahim, PMP, SCM, APMC

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