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A career in PPM: Making a difference

Image of project manager's head, arms and hands as he types on laptop at desk with project documents, smartphone and pot plant beside him

You could say I’m an “accidental project manager.”

I studied philosophy at university so when I first came into the workforce I used my critical thinking to see problems and find ways to fix them. It didn’t take long for the fix to require significant planning on top of thinking, and here I am. Twenty years later, the underlying principles haven’t changed, but the scale of the problems I am tasked with is now much more complex. However, it has always been the opportunity to “make things better for people” that motivates me.

Don’t get me wrong, project planning, control and governance are vital but, ultimately, we do projects for people, we do them with people and we hand them over to people. The whole point is to make a positive difference. When we realize improvements within our organization, our client’s business, and/or staff careers, that is enormously rewarding for me.

I firmly believe that it is important to keep growing and building knowledge and I often say I’m 20 years “new” to the profession as a result. Working on the international stage, I deal with people from all walks of life and levels of understanding on project management; this has been invaluable in learning to take on board different perspectives and thoughts.

It is also true that completing a number of certifications through AXELOS has been a helpful part of my journey.

Build knowledge

For me, these courses were principally about gaining greater understanding of different approaches; allowing me to find common ground with my clients and move projects forward effectively. For example, PRINCE2® helped ensure I spoke the same language as many of my public sector clients who were familiar with this method.

I also recommend Managing Successful Programmes (MSP®) Foundation for anyone keen to move from project into programme management. It gives you a good sense of what is different about the role from project management; not just technically, but contextually too and understanding the level of uncertainty which is much higher than a project. This makes MSP a good stepping stone into programme management.

I certainly found it invaluable when I was advising one client who wanted to build a programme management framework. MSP helped me guide them and provided a solid reference source for us both. The case studies were also useful to draw on; showing how other organizations approached similar challenges and helping to develop a better understanding of why they took that pathway.

Earn the right to proceed

In Australia, our Industry Certification as project managers is competency, not just knowledge-based. That means requiring a clear understanding, conversational competency, evidence-based portfolio and being assessed by an independent body rather than an exam-based process.

Stepping stones along the way in the form of qualifications like MSP not only show you are informed about current industry practices, but signal to your employer and clients that you take your career seriously. And this is equally true whether the goal is career progression or simply keeping your skills up-to-date.

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