Project management has been an element of every job I’ve had.
As an events manager and global assignment consultant, planning and organization were key. But it was only when I took the leap to concentrate on project management as a career that I found out just how diverse, valuable and rewarding the role can be.
After working for over ten years, I took the decision to take a year out from paid employment and use that time to achieve two goals: a recognized project management qualification and relevant voluntary work experience to back it up, both of which would be needed for job applications further down the line.
Making it work
In terms of the qualification, I chose PRINCE2® and completed the online Foundation and Practitioner course in about six months. At the same time, I took a voluntary project management role with an amazing UK-based charity called Kicking Off.
I was involved with planning and running the organization’s first ever project in the Ghanaian town of Mpraeso, which meant it was a huge learning curve for everyone involved. The first phase focused on arranging a football tournament for 500 children from eight different schools in the local community. Each child who attended on the day received a free medical check, water and food as well as vital school supplies.
This provided the foundation to develop the second phase of the project designed to provide longer- term, sustainable support to improve sanitation and hygiene. This is now underway with the introduction of purpose-built, fresh-water handwashing units, along with plans to rebuild part of the local medical centre.
Learning in action
Studying for PRINCE2 helped me hugely in my day-to-day work with Kicking Off. The charity had only just launched and everything needed to be set up from scratch, so having a clear structure and a method to follow made all the difference. I was able to deliver each stage as I went along; from initial phase, to implementation, steady state and final handover to a local contact.
I couldn’t have delivered the project so quickly without the PRINCE2 model. With hindsight, I can also see that this project management knowledge would have been beneficial in my early career too.
Now that I’m working for Optima Group – the global leader in explosive threat mitigation – I am continuing to use the PRINCE2 principles. It’s just the context that has changed.
Take “Lessons Learned” for example: this technique was hugely valuable at Kicking Off. Every time I went out to Ghana for a scoping visit or tournament, I documented everything that happened and then talked through the Lessons Learned with the team to help us move forward.
The process identified just how important being fully organized before every trip to Ghana meant to the outcome. Equally, continual communication during each visit was also flagged as essential and prioritized.
It’s exactly the same at Optima. I’m learning from my mentors the importance of documenting Lessons Learned and actually circulating them, rather than just thinking about it and then forgetting. And it’s the same with risk; planning and having a risk register is something I’d never come across before and it’s very handy.
Far reaching benefits
Now that I’m “on the other side”, I know I made the right career choice. In fact, I think everyone needs a project manager. Having someone dedicated to making sure the organization gets from A to B, implementing the policies and processes to make it happen and stay on track is so important. And that’s equally true whether the role involves a specific project or Business as Usual.