Do you want to be a project manager? Before you say “yes”, do you know what being a project manager entails? Project managers have a great responsibility—if they fail to manage a project well it could literally come crashing down (especially on a construction site). Project managers, make sure their projects run smoothly, adhering to timescales and costs. They plan, organize, monitor, and control resources in order to achieve specific goals, usually in a business or non-profit environment. They often need to coordinate large groups of people and distribute their efforts and skills effectively.
I have managed many construction projects in a stressful environment but I survived. A skillful project manager can make any project a success under any pressure if you if you have the right characteristics.
Characteristics of a Great Project Manager
Leadership. A successful Project Manager must be able to inspire, coach, and assess other people, in order to effectively bring a project and team together. They also must be able to command authority and encourage others to bring their best performances.
Have you ever heard of Theodore Judah? I am familiar with him because I have worked in many Telegraph jobs in engineering and have been inspired by him. Judah was the chief engineer for the Central Pacific railroad. Without great project management and engineering skills this railroad’s projects could have gone very wrong. What Judah enabled was incredible—he surveyed the whole route over the Sierra Nevada Mountains and managed the complexities. (The route climbed and descended 7,000 feet over the summit.) Imagine having this responsibility on your shoulders—it takes a great leader and engineer to get this right.
Creativity. Projects have rapidly-changing sets of challenges, setbacks, and unexpected shifts in priority. Many of the projects I have worked on required creative thinking and come up with fast, workable solutions to large-scale problems. Steve Jobs, the creator of the Apple brand, is a good example of a great project manager here. He insisted that projects have a DRI—a directly responsible individual.
Project managers can only do so much, and need sub project managers to assume some responsibilities. After Steve Jobs death it was reported he had left behind four years’ worth of plans and new products.
Confidence. Confidence is a key skill for project managers to have. Resolving conflicts and confronting problems are paramount to a successful project and a great project manager must be able to do both with alacrity and fair-mindedness. When you show confidence people not only take notice of you but feel inspired by you and your work. I have always been inspired by the women of engineering and science, who struggle in a male-dominated environment, yet push the boundaries to succeed. These women inspired me along my career path and enabled me to dive into projects with confidence.
Communication. A great project manager must not only be able to listen and absorb information, but also communicate effectively to others.
Enthusiasm. Enthusiasm speaks volumes and reflects positivity, which are great qualities for creating a good working environment, which enables people to be more productive. A great project manager sees obstacles as challenges and embraces them with vigor and enthusiasm. Considering a job in Project Management
Project managers are always in demand. Many project managers find successful careers in the engineering, information technology, construction and manufacturing fields. The engineering and construction fields in particular are often in need of capable project managers, as large-scale projects require precision and coordination in order to be successful. The growing field of consulting also draws many project managers, who hire themselves out to a variety of disciplines in both the public and private sectors.
Taking a project management course is a must. While there are no traditional academic degrees for project management, organizations such as the Project Management Institute (PMI) offer certifications in project management. Online and in-person courses in project management core competency and advanced skills are available from a number of training organizations.
Project Management Resources
When it comes to learning project management, there are a wealth of training videos, seminars, ebooks, and other online resources for sharpening and expanding one’s skill set. Many already-established project managers are embracing sophisticated software tools to help manage their scheduling, resource allocation, and communications.
One of the most popular project management suites is Basecamp, which allows project managers to track time, share documents and files, send messages, and interact directly with employees. Other software suites, like Lotus Software, MMPM, Teamwork, and Feng Office offer similar services, most of them web-based.
3 Tips and Tricks for Future Project Managers
Don’t forget the human element. Some project managers get so caught up in cold equations and numbers they forget projects involve humans. Communication, leadership, understanding and “people skills” are vital.
Take risks early. Any risky elements of a large project should be moved as close to the beginning of the project as possible, to minimize possible impact on deadlines or budget. Being able to foresee potential delays or snags can be a critical skill.
Use the technology. Project management software applications can be an enormous time and resource saver. Just as adaptability to changing circumstances is a central skill of a great project manager, project managers must also be willing to learn and embrace new technologies to further streamline their processes.
Author: Jenny Beswick is experienced in engineering and project management and has a scientific and engineering background. She’s worked in engineering jobs and studied and qualified in her project management telegraph courses. Follow her on Twitter @jennybeswick