Alumni Spotlight: Many Paths, One Destination
Graduate Justin Lim
pursued several career
paths on his way to
becoming a Certified
Contract management might not sound as exciting as some higher-profile careers. Many newly minted grads and aspiring business professionals may not be aware of it at all. But when you consider the advantages — high demand and career prospects across multiple fields, to name a couple — it starts to look downright attractive.
In fact, contract managers (CMs) are rock stars in their organizations, interfacing with multiple departments from marketing to finance, legal to HR, creating and negotiating contract and procurement strategies on the buying and selling side that can streamline operations, potentially saving companies millions of dollars.
Far from a dry routine of paper-pushing, contract management requires a great deal of innovation and on-the-fly strategizing, said Justin Lim, Contract Management Program Graduate and current Subcontracts and Commodity Manager in the Strategic Sourcing team at Parker Aerospace - Military Flight Control Division in Irvine.
“A contract manager is the one who executes leadership within an organization to resolve business problems from a contractual perspective,” Lim said. “The position does require a good deal of innovation and creativity. With contracting, there are some cases that are similar, but every situation is in fact different. Every case has its own uniqueness, so a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work.”
Contract managers are invaluable assets to their organizations, and with a large percentage of current CMs due to retire soon, demand has never been higher. Consider that nearly 480,000 open positions were listed in the most recent EMSI survey, with about 10% annual growth projected through 2029 (Emsi Burning Glass – economicmodeling.com).
“We definitely need more talented contract managers,” Lim said. “The demand has always exceeded and will continue to exceed the supply. So many CMs come from the Baby Boomer generation and are beginning to retire, so the job market will continue to accelerate.”
An eclectic skillset
There’s no single roadmap to a career in contract management. In fact, blazing your own trail can be an advantage, but some basic hard and soft skills are essential. According to the National Contract Management Association (NCMA), the position requires effective writing and interpersonal communication, strong customer service, business acumen and human relations.
“Getting a solid foundation in a range of proficiencies is important for succeeding as a contract manager,” Lim said. “And in the end, it’s important to find a program that ties it all together.”
Contract managers come from a range of backgrounds; a degree in law, finance or accounting can be especially helpful, Lim said, but not necessary.
“Definitely a background in contract law and finance can be helpful for contract management, but there are many paths to a successful career,” he added. “My undergraduate major was economics, and I loved my major, but I wouldn’t say it’s the most advantageous for a career in contract management. You should take any challenging subjects which can give you opportunities to think outside the box and come up with creative business solutions.”
Once established, CMs can easily transfer their expertise from one industry to another, anything from military and government agencies to multinational corporations, small businesses and even nonprofits.
One man’s journey
Inspired by his father, a pro basketball player and coach in South Korea, Lim initially decided to major in physical education at Korea University. After his sophomore year, he joined the country’s army for a mandatory 26-month term, then decided to travel abroad following his discharge.
“I wanted to see the world and explore different cultures, so I moved to the U.K. for nine months and had a great experience, made a lot of friends. After that I went back to Korea and started thinking about my future. That’s when I decided to transfer to University of Hawaii and shift my major to economics with interests in international trade and finance.”
After graduation he returned to Korea and met his future wife, who grew up in Calabasas. The two of them later made their way to Orange County.
Newly resettled, Lim found work in procurement and subcontracting, but he always intended to develop his expertise in contract management with a program providing applicable theoretical and practical training. When the COVID pandemic shut down the world, he felt the time was right to make a move, and he chose UCI’s Contract Management certificate program.
“I decided to invest my time during lockdown developing a strong foundation of contract management knowledge,” Lim said. “My company suggested that the UCI program would be a great option. Based on my research and our company’s recommendation, I started class in spring 2020.”
To realize his goals, Lim felt he needed to augment his education with certification from the NCMA, a highly valued credential that puts qualified candidates at the front of the pack. After completing the program, he was armed with enough credits to take, and pass, NCMA’s Certified Professional Contract Manager™ (CPCM) exam.
“CPCM certification™ shows that a contract manager has a great passion and seriousness for their work,” he said. “I think it’s a great career foundation for anyone with a four-year undergraduate degree who wants to pursue this career more seriously. The NCMA holds many events and seminars, so it also provides great opportunities to network and make connections.”
“We definitely need more talented contract managers. The demand has always exceeded and will continue to exceed the supply.”
Justin Lim, Contract Management Program Graduate
Providing a comprehensive path to this lucrative career, the Contract Management certificate program addresses the core competencies and subject matter recognized in the NCMA Contract Management Body of Knowledge (CMBOK), the bible of the industry. This includes contract formation, negotiation, financial analysis, and risk management.
Coursework covers the latest advances in commercial and government sectors, including innovative approaches to international business. Students get a solid background in managing federal contracts, strategic alliances, global outsourcing and more. And course credits can be applied toward the CPCM exam.
“I think UCI offers a well-structured contract management program,” Lim said. “All my instructors were more than willing to help and were very responsive to any questions students asked. I highly recommend the program for anyone who is interested in contract management, or even contract professionals who want to advance their careers.”
Learn more about the Contract Management Certificate Program.