How did you decide which career to pursue?
When I was growing up, I loved to build models of aircraft, ships and cars. The process of making something interesting out of a disparate set of parts, selection of paints and sometimes vague instructions appealed to me. While sometimes the final product did not look exactly as I hoped, the journey helped build cognitive and visualization skills that made the next model turn out better.
Projects are not unlike model building. You have a set of parts (people, process and technologies), paint colors to select (requirements, communications) and quite often limited instructions from stakeholders on how to achieve success.
What helped you to decide this career was for you?
Previous to becoming a manager, I was most commonly tasked with creating and implementing specific project deliverables. I was rarely on a project long enough to see the complete implementation and final results.
When I became a project manager, I began to see how I was responsible for the outcomes that created visible results. The notion of producing visible results from a project can be very exciting. I was once involved in leading several projects that touched on the health and safety of employees. There was no greater professional and personal satisfaction than to complete a project that someday might save someone’s life.
What skills did you develop along the way to becoming a project manager?
As a functional specialist, I began to observe how effectively selecting, engaging and guiding people had a great impact on the project’s outcome. Often, the ability to produce a good team had more of an impact than my individual contributions.
One of a project manager’s most powerful skills is the ability to form and lead a team. While processes and technologies tend to behave in a somewhat predictable manner, people often do not. As I grew as a project manager, I found that in addition to core project management skills, I needed to also build soft skills. These included: verbal communications, presentation skills, clarity in written communications and more.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of your career?
Working with people on project teams to achieve successful outcomes as well as helping them grow professionally has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my project management career.
In many ways, projects mirror situations we face in everyday life. By learning to adapt to ever-changing conditions, we grow in our ability to deal with difficulties, be they in a project plan or missing the train to work. I found that when I became a project manager, my professional and personal skills grew at an accelerated pace.