Rational Risk Takers
Seize the opportunity to transform health outcomes. Become an ARPA-H Program Manager.
At ARPA-H, we’re tackling the biggest, hardest problems in human health, led by visionaries who can take the measure of that challenge and wrangle it into real-world solutions. We call those visionaries Program Managers, and in the few years a PM will work with us, they’ll have the opportunity to propel a health breakthrough, with people around them to help shape the problem and resources to fund the best ideas for solutions – and then get them into the hands of people that need them. If you have a vision for the health problem whose moment has come, click here to apply.
"My time as a DARPA PM was probably one of the most inspiring periods of my professional career. I cannot think of a more noble endeavor than to work as a PM for the newly created ARPA-H to solve the grand health challenges that society faces."
Darryll J.Pines, Ph.D., NAE
What Makes a Successful PM?
A successful Program Manager combines imagination, drive, and proven expertise to create revolutionary ideas and breakthrough technologies. Qualified individuals typically join as experienced professionals from academic labs, government R&D, or industry to immediately leverage their technical knowledge and professional networks to drive the creation of new programs, bringing teams together to solve some of the toughest challenges in health today.
As a PM, you are not expected to know everything, but you must quickly understand new topics, and deep expertise is one good signal you can do that. You will also need to have firsthand knowledge of the pros and cons of being an expert, since you’ll likely be managing dozens of experts.
To be a successful PM, you will not let obstacles, hurdles, naysayers, or hiccups keep you from getting to the goal. This doesn’t mean you’re unable to change your mind or adopt a new approach if you discover that the current one isn’t working as well as it could, but it does mean you wake up every day driven to be closer to the goal by the time you go to sleep.
As an ARPA-H PM, you are rarely satisfied with the status quo or answers like “because that’s how it is” or “that’s what everyone does.” Instead, you’re a “What if?” and “Why not?” kind of person. The hardest problems are rarely as straightforward as they can seem, and curiosity is needed to not take things at face value but unearth The Real Problem.
Interdisciplinary Track Record
You are rarely comfortable being constrained to a single field or discipline. Many of the best innovations draw from disparate fields and ideas. You should have some evidence that you can build teams and break down silos.
Metrics and milestones are key so you must be a rigorous, evidence-based thinker. This means being able to answer the ARPA-(H)eilmeier Questions, coach your performers through obstacles and, frankly, to recognize progress, success, and failure. It’s easy to become attached to projects and become a salesperson for your ideas. But the real value is in breakthroughs, not theater, so you do everything you can to stay transparent and objective, especially with yourself.
No Fear of Failure
To be clear, nobody wants to fail, especially if they care about something. Which is why many people and organizations won’t even try. What about you? Are you willing to put forward bold ideas that you believe in, but which might not work out? To open yourself up to constructive, and often public, criticism?
A Program Manager champions a core idea to improve health, frames the challenge, and awards projects to new multidisciplinary teams, with measurement and evaluation conducted throughout the process to ensure the best solutions advance. Program Managers coach program performers through obstacles and efficiently define and recognize progress, success, and failure.
We like to think of Program Managers as “rational risk-takers,” people who don’t let obstacles, hurdles, naysayers, or “no” distract them from working towards a goal. Program Managers know that there’s no path to success that doesn’t go through failure. Therefore, successful Program Managers know how to fail fast and take constructive, and often public, criticism for their bold ideas. Yet, as fast as our PMs and programs innovate, we always exercise caution when it comes to people’s health.
ARPA-H welcomes applications from a diverse group of individuals from around the country who will bring bold ideas with the potential to be the next transformative health solution. We are seeking a wide range of experts, including biomedical scientists, physicians, social and behavioral scientists, physical scientists, biostatisticians, librarians, data scientists, mathematicians, economists, engineers, criminologists, anthropologists, public health specialists, and others, who will bring unique perspectives to ARPA-H programs and pose specific problems to address health burdens and inequities.
Program Managers will serve an initial three-year-term, renewable up to six years maximum, to design, launch, and run all aspects of their “high-uncertainty, high-reward” programs.
We are actively engaging with prospective Program Managers across the country, representing diversity backgrounds, ideas, location, and expertise. If someone has an idea, they can apply below. Submissions require a cover letter, CV, and pitch addressing the questions from the “Heilmeier Catechism.”
If you know someone who you think would be a great Program Manager, please encourage them to review the information on this website and apply. If they have a question not answered by this site, they may send their name, contact information, and inquiry to email@example.com.
Based on questions developed by former DARPA Director George H. Heilmeier, known as the “Heilmeier Questions,” the ARPA-(H)eilmeier questions provide potential ARPA-H Program Managers high-level guidance for what information should be included in their pitch and a framework for communicating to ARPA-H leadership what they hope to accomplish with their program.
When you join ARPA-H, you join a team
Once accepted to come on board, you will not be alone. ARPA-H has a suite of services to support you: training, market intelligence, research, systems access, human support, contracts. PMs don’t have a lab (ARPA-H has no labs), but are “full contact” managers of the projects they pursue — this job is about leading brilliant people who are piloting solutions to each ARPA-H problem and helping them do great things.
At ARPA-H, we’re invested in your success, which includes understanding that not every project will be successful! With each failure, we investigate, we learn, we adapt, and we drive toward a better solution.