National Careers Week – project manager

Project ManagerTell us about your current role

I’m a project manager. This means that I manage projects which lead to new and improved programs. Project management is about making sure that the work that needs to be done gets done but in reality you do get your hands dirty because there are always jobs on the project that need doing. A lot of people think that project management is about administration but it’s really all about people. It’s about understanding people and helping them to achieve their best work.

You have to be a good communicator to help people understand what they need to do and also empathise to understand why they have the opinion that they do.

The thing that I like the most about my role is problem solving. You have to look at things logically and find the best solution whilst always keeping the end goal in mind.

What was your journey from education to your current job like?

I really didn’t enjoy secondary school and I didn’t do very well in my exams. I wanted to try something different so I went to technical college.

It was difficult to find work but I did a two-year contract in a role which involved co-ordinating projects and that’s where I got the bug for project management.

I then returned to college to do an HNC in Business. I really enjoyed it, so after the first year I went to talk to Swansea College of HE about doing a degree. I was 26 at the time but they were happy to take me on because I had benefitted from being in work and I understood that doing the course was about more than getting the certificate at the end of the course.

I did a sandwich course and in the year I spent working, I ending up working on what was at the time the world’s biggest information systems project. I was working for an electricity company and we were developing the system which now enables consumers to switch energy supplier. It was a high profile project, backed by government policy. I managed one of the individual projects that were part of the whole programme and I loved it. I also discovered that I was quite good at it – we were scheduled for a full week’s audit of the project but my project passed easily after just three days.

I found it quite easy to apply what I had learnt on my course to a real work environment.

After I finished my degree, I started my own company with other members of my family but there wasn’t enough work to keep me occupied so I went to work for a large college looking after their hardware and software projects. Over eight years, I progressed to programme manager. I enjoyed dealing with lots of different people with different backgrounds, competencies and motivations and bringing them all together to produce successful results.

I then moved to CASCAiD, where I have been working for five years.

What advice would you give to a young person who was interested in your career?

Before you decide if project management is the right role for you, you need to make sure you’ve got the right mindset.

You need to make sure that you’re the type of person who can work systematically whilst also being curious. You have to want to find out why things are done they way they are and challenge this in order to improve the way that things are done.

Managing projects is demanding. You need to know the subject matter and become an expert in it.

But most importantly, you need to be a ‘people-person’. You need to be a sounding board for people who might have a wide range of different viewpoints and bring them together to achieve the end result.

And finally, what career did you want to do when you were younger?

At one point I wanted to be a nuclear scientist, other than that I’ve never really had a specific career in mind – I’m still not sure what career I want to do!

For me it’s always been about what makes up the job rather than focussing on a specific career title. I’ve never focussed on a specific industry or role.

I know what I like – working with people and solving problems – and what I dislike and that’s what’s led me to what I do.

Ironically, that’s exactly what CASCAiD programs do: they help you identify what you like and show you which careers involve that.

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