Curry Chips from Swan and Firkin – Curry Chicken on fries – this is what I ordered!
Yesterday was the very first meet up of the “GTA Project Managers United“, the group I created in Meetup.com. I was surprised to find there were no existing Project Managers group in Meetup! So I just opened the group just as an experiment and been pleasantly surprised at the response I have been getting from project managers or aspiring project managers around the Greater Toronto Area.
Our very first meet up was a great success! Much more than my expectation. It was a cozy group of 6 project manager from a varied background but we all got along really well in a short time. We talked about quite a few things regarding the world of PM! The venue was Swan and Firkin at the Bloor west area and the staff were extremely friendly and accommodating. We had a whole corner to ourselves underneath a greenhouse like terrace. Even though it was raining outside we stayed warm with the heating system cranked up. Following are some of the thing we talked about with great good and drinks:
Challenges a PM faces:
Being a PM can be a thankless job. When the project goes well and ends well – it is to the credit of the Project sponsor or the project team. No one really cares to thank the project manager, sometimes comments – “of the project manager what do they do? they just show up for status meeting and boss everyone around”! We all laughed and nodded in agreement. One of the PM’s had a direct stories to tell in this regard. How she worked day and night very hard at completing a project but when it was done successfully the project lead who she reported to got a bouquet of flower as a recognition and not her. I think it is important to thank each and every one of the project team as every one equally does a great contribution in their own domian – INCLUDING the project manager. The moral of the story: If you are a project manager you have to do it because you love doing not – not in expectation of recognition or money even because a project managers salary isn’t always higher than that of the rest of the team mates.
Being a PM you have lot of responsibility but no authority (unless you are the functional manager and the Project manager at the same time). How do you get resources to listen to you and keep deadlines when they are not really reporting to you. Sometimes team members or stakeholder creates hindrances because of their own gain/politics/agenda. How do you deal with that? Well the answer is it depends from person to person and situation to situation. You have to have a LOT of soft skills, like communication, likability, relationship building in order to get the work done. Like if you are personable and have a great rapport with the team members you can casually check on them and say “hey, I would really appreciate if you can do this by ..” So being a diplomat and peoples person is make things easier for a PM. If this fails you can talk to other PM’s in the office or the team members functional manager “off the record” to see if they have experienced something similar and what have they done in that case. Often times the functional manager will say to “CC” him/her in emails when dealing with that particular team member. It will work for sure but the risk is that you may anger the team member and he/she will feel like you are “outing” him/her to their boss. Here one of the PM’s commented that once after finishing a project successfully she hated to go into the office because she thought everyone was hating her. So being a project manager is a constant juggling act. I think to make a project successful you have to have 50% method 30% expertise and 20% soft skills (like communication, relationship building, negotiation)
There were couple of really good questions, such as -
What sectors often require you to have PMP certificate? Ans, so far in my experience I have seen Government sector and banks asking for PMP more and more. I know Deloitte also requires their PM’s to have PMP certification. We had one attendee from the government section from the municipal side and she mentioned that in her team there were PM’s that didn’t have PMP certification. So the case might be relevant for Provincial government and not municipal.
Does having a PMP certification increase your chances of getting more jobs? Ans, Yes and No. The job searching methodologies are still the same in terms of landing a job such as networking, applying, working with recruitment firms. However, I have applied to positions where PMP is mandatory. So in that sense I would say that it increased my chances cause I can apply to jobs that has PMP mandatory and also where it is recommended.
It seems like the HR professionals doesn’t always know what PMP entitles for! Discussion, yes PMP is still not so widely recognized. But in the world of “Project Management” professionals it is pretty well known.
How do you get into project management profession from another profession? Ans, I shared my story. Since I was in IT I was always exposed to projects. The nature of IT is that we are often responsible to enroll a new software of a build a new solution. You need to promise the clients a delivery date and a plan to help them adopt. So in IT project management is absolutely necessary. Also there’s the cost involved. Often times IT resources comes with a high price so it becomes absolutely mandatory to put in proper project management principles to have a strong hold on the cost. Another industry where project management is crucial is Construction industry. I’ve been taking project management courses with Sheridan College for a while now and I met quite a few project managers from the construction industry. In that industry you have deadline and material and resources that comes at high cost and not just that the timeline of one task to be completed before another is absolutely crucial to success. Similar to custom building software.
Can a project manager from one industry can work in projects in another industry? Ans, Depends!!! For example, I am an IT project manager however, lately I’ve taken on projects that are more “business” side such as managing an RFQ project for a printing company and also a startup plan for a Technical Consulting company. However, I would be kind of skeptical to venture into lets say project management in the construction industry because I know it will be a steep learning curve and I have a make sure I have a good SME or a project lead to work with me. The debate was why? Project management is still the same no matter which industry! True, however, me and another of my team mates agreed that if you are really relentless in getting the project finished in time you may need to “roll up your sleeve” and dive deep into solving roadblocks (technical or otherwise) and a background in the industry you are in brings a lot of value from you to the project along side of that of your skills as a PM.
I’m an analyst and I now when if I switch to a PM by salary is going to go down! Yes, that is rue, if you have been an analyst for 10 or 20 years you do bring a lot of value as a PM however, your salary as a PM will be measured by the years you have worked AS a PM! So if you have the goal to be a PM I would say start as soon as possible making a move in that role. But how?
1. By talking to your HR team and other teams to see if you have take on some project management/coordinator roles along with your current role! The fact that you are already in the company and are used to the processes and the business already adds to your value.
2. Search online for Project coordinator/manager roles and see what skills sets those position is asking for. Do a gap analysis with your own skill set. See what you have and what you need to improve upon.
3. Take a course! There are many courses out there offered by universities and colleges in Project management. In my career when I was working as a Senior Analyst for Microsoft I started taking Project management certification program with Sheridan college. My first course what Introduction to Project Management and the professor was a PM from World Vision. She had us work on case study and gave example of real like projects from her work. Also she made us write project charters, project plans, stakeholder analysis and all sorts of project artifacts that I found really important to build my foundation as a project manager. Also it eases your way into the PMBOK book for PMP if you are inclining in to write that certification program. These courses also offers you PDU (professional development units) which you need to also write your PMP certification exam. So you are killing two birds with one stone. Actually 3 birds, because you can put that in your resume or tell your HR manager in your company and the company will see that you are serious about making a move as a PM as you have investing your own time outside of work in the pursuit. Some companies have an programs and courses regarding PM you can also take advantage on those. There are few online resources that are free but not enough. A lot of it you have to pay.
4. Volunteer! Try getting involved in a community event to help organize an event. Put your project management learning to good use in a practical event. Or get together with friends and organize a charity event. Few years ago few of my friends organized a charity singles mixer, raised funds and donated that to Global Medical Relief Fund. So you take charge of your learning and skills and create your own opportunities. The more you manage few project the more confident you will become. The last thing you want to do is take on a project as work without being prepared for it and create a stressful situation for yourself and your company.
5. Find a mentor! Talk to another PM. Either in your company or outside. Talk to them find out what it is like. How they go into the role. What advice they have to share. I have done that initially in my career. One of the participants shared that PMI org offers regular meet up and mentor ship program. But at the same time we all agreed that the PM community is very dispersed even though there seems to be just few of us. What the participant felt was the events organized by PMI were too big and it took him about 6 month to get the advice he needed from the mentor that he got in our meet up group in about 15 mins! Also it cost money to be part of the PMI org! One of our team member said she calculated that it would cost her 2k to just upkeep her PMP cert through PMI. I am personally not part of the PMI org and I don’t have to really worry about my PDU (as you need a certain amount to keep on renewing you certification) as I still have 2 more courses left with Sheridan, which will give me 36+42 = 78 PDU (much MORE than I need) AND on top I will get a PM certification from Sheridan for LESS than 1k.
How do you handle the situation when you take on a project in the middle of execution and don’t really have a lot of support from the previous PM because they are no longer in the company? Ans. Been there, done that Sometimes it is what it is. And when you are faced with such a situation unfortunately its a bit chaotic. It will be hard to absorb all the artifacts that there were from before, like Project charter, plan, req docs, tons of docs that you will feel overwhelmed. And you might not have the time you would like to go through these because business is eager to get the project finished. Also project stakeholders MIGHT take the opportunity and try to persuade you to push in their own agenda. In this case, I sort of start working like a lawyer dealing with a case.
1. Scan the documents as fast as you can. Take a note of few key points that are important to you at this moment.
2. Meet with key stakeholders/team members INDIVIDUALLY first. Jot down the notes on what their take on the project. What they think is going well and what is not. Where they are in terms of contributing to the project. Brace yourself as they might put a lot of blame on the old PM. Just be objective. Stay on the project deliverable as much as possible. Initially DO NOT put the whole team in one room to get the update of the status. It will be a huge chaos (specially if the old PM is not there and the project isn’t going that well). Its more productive (even if you think it will take up a lot of your time) to meet separately and you will be able to cross reference everyone story.
3. Now you go back to your project notes and compare it with the meeting notes of your team members. As a PM/Lawyer/detective you might start seeing the issue and start an appreciation of the story. At that point – you start bringing two or three sub-groups together and start coming up with an action plan. Once you have done that you go back and either apply it to the original project plan or produce a modified version. If you feel confident – bring the whole team and share the plan with everyone. Here it is crucial that you have already shared parts of it with the subgroup so that the meeting doesn’t get bogged down with questions but more or less everyone listens and agrees. This will establish you as PM in the group and the whole team will be in unison. Don’t afraid to be a very positive and cheerful! As we all know all the hats that we wear as a PM one of them is definitely that of a Cheer leaders!
4. Never forget to keep the project sponsor in the loop! and ALWAYS check your budget. Once the initial issues are ironed out you should be good to just follow the PM methodologies for the rest of the project.
I’m working as an Accounting analyst and want to get in PM. Is that a good idea? Yes, one of the big parts of being a PM is able to manage budget. A strong accounting background will definitely be a great asset for you as a PM. I know few PM’s who are good with technical or BA side but are afraid to take on multimillion dollar projects. It usually takes a strong budget skills, and subject matter skills along with methodologies and soft skills to be a successful PM.
In conclusion, I would say the PM’s meet up was a great success! We had lots of laughs believe it or not along with the above really great discussion. I am looking forward to the next meet up and can’t wait to share more resources with the aspiring PM’s through my website here!