Interview with Caterina La Tona, BCS, PMP, PfMP

Chair, PMI Board of Directors, 2015-2020

Interviewed by İpek Sahra Özgüler
Istanbul, Turkey

Caterina La Tona’s career spans more than 30 years, serving multiple industries and characterized by successive global roles, setting strategy and delivering cornerstone initiatives. She is now an advisor, focused on realizing business transformation with IT executives and teams. As HP Executive Director, Ms. La Tona led the global transition/transformation and program/project management (PPM) capability, driving predictability and repeatability. People and process development were prime goals. Ms. La Tona strengthened the PPM job family to reflect success profiles and implemented a single global method and lessons learned process. As Transformation Executive for the EDS Manufacturing, Industrial and Energy Industry Group, she drove business results with IT executives through transformation advisory services and critical change initiatives. All facets of the business were affected, requiring strong leadership, integration and collaboration.

Ms. La Tona’s former roles included positions in global portfolio management, contract negotiations and global manufacturing/engineering function management. The breadth of Ms. La Tona’s experience positioned her to write and speak to diverse groups globally. Topics have included women in leadership, global project/program management, portfolio management, successful transition/transformation and management of change. She has traveled extensively, working with local teams, sharing knowledge and advancing objectives.

Ms. La Tona holds a Bachelor of Computer Science degree with honors from the University of Windsor and attended Thunderbird-American Graduate School of International Management’s program focused on managerial issues in the global enterprise. She is a founding member of the Project Management Institute (PMI) Global Executive Council and has supported multiple PMI initiatives over the years. She has been a mentor for 12 years at EDS, HP and with the Michigan Council of Women in Technology. Ms. La Tona enjoys cross country skiing, hockey and travel.


 Ipek Sahra Özgüler (Özgüler):          It appears that you have a wealth of experience working with different organizations worldwide. Can you provide some background on what your specific role is with the organizations you work with?

Caterina La Tona (La Tona):      My career has revolved around roles with global clients that want to be able to acheive their strategies and execute transformation initiatives successfully. These initiatives are critical to their ability to compete and their ability to deal with disruption. Today, disruption is the new normal.  Organizations that succeed are able to quickly adapt to the changing market, geopolitical and technological conditions. Whether you are the disruptor — or the one being disrupted — you must continue to innovate to stay relevant. While organizations have always had to deal with disruptions, the difference with today’s disruptions is the speed in which they come.

Helping organizations deal with critical challenges to successfully achieve their strategies and goals is my focus. The way that organizations do that is through change and tranformation. I’ve had the unique opportunity to work with a lot of different companies across a lot of different industries to help them successfully navigate the transformation required.

To enable organizations to transform successfully, I must be able to bring the breadth of my knowledge, background, experiences and the toolkit of what I’ve learned over the years to the table. A critical part of that is the ability to assess an organization’s culture, readiness for change, sponsorship and strategic alignment. As I look at embarking on a transformation, being able to say what will work for that particular organization is critical. It is a mistake to assume the same approach, tools and processes that worked for one organization will work for all. It’s really a blend of art and science, understanding the organization, their strategy, their culture and the magnitude of the change.

As I think about my career and what my focus has been, it’s been about helping organizations realize their vision through their strategic objectives. Each and every project was a stepping stone for those organizations and the ability to enable that is very rewarding.

Özgüler:          What do you look for when you evaluate an organization’s sponsorship?

La Tona:          Essentially, how actively engaged their executive sponsors are on a project. I’ve had experience with actively engaged executive sponsors — and executive sponsors that are not properly engaged with a project. The difference is drastic.

Actively engaged executive sponsors help organizations bridge the gap between influencers and implementers to significantly increase collaboration and support, boost project success rates and reduce risk. Having an engaged sponsor ensures continued alignment between the strategy and the benefits the project is expected to realize.

Research continues to show that investing in actively engaged executive sponsors is a top driver of projects meeting their original business goals. In fact, in the 2018 Pulse of the Profession® survey, a global survey conducted by PMI that uncovers the latest trends in project management, organizations with a higher percentage of projects with actively engaged executive sponsors reported 40 percent more successful projects than those with a lower percentage of projects with sponsors.

I was asked recently how you determine who should be your executive sponsor. I suggest your executive sponsor should be the executive who has the most to gain from your project succeeding. That will help ensure they are actively engaged given their stake in its success.


To read entire interview, click here


About the Interviewer

İpek Sahra Özgüler

Istanbul, Turkey


İpek Sahra Özgüler
graduated from the Istanbul University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Engineering and from Middle East Technical University with an MSc degree in Software Management. As a project manager, she has more than 10 years’ experience in various areas such as portfolio management, program management, project management, software management, business analysis. She became a certified PMP in January, 2012 and a certified SCRUM Master in 2014.

She has managed a variety of projects across manufacturing, defence, FMCG (Cola Cola), insurance (Euler Hermes), audit (Deloitte), telecommunication, ICT and aviation sectors and gained broader insights. In addition, she has worked as international correspondent for the PM World Journal since 2014.

İpek is based in Isanbul and can be contacted at [email protected].  Her portfolio is published at the http://ipeksahra.strikingly.com/.

To view other works by Ms. Özgüler, visit her author showcase in the PM World Library at http://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/ipek-sahra-ozguler/