8/23/13

Career Ideas – Project Management FAQ – Part 2

I am back with 10 more questions and answers concerning Project Management – a difficult yet rewarding career path. 

Do I need any prior training before starting Project management training?
Not necessarily. If you find a good company able to offer you a balanced, well-structured training session, you should be able to start working in the field soon after. Of course, as I said in my previous article, some personal skills are crucial (organizing and prioritizing skills, time management, decision making skills, communication skills, attention to details, problem solving, negotiation skills, leadership skills to lead the teams needed to implement the project, pro-activity) – some of these you need to just have, no training can help you.
However, some financial knowledge will help you understand budgets easier, some human resources and management knowledge will help you put your teams together more efficiently. And if your project is in a technical field (construction for example) not being an engineer with the proper knowledge will make it really difficult to organize the project in an optimum way because you won’t be able to understand the goal in detail.

What do you mean by assessing and mitigating risks? Is it difficult? Can I do it by myself?
First of all it’s not difficult, yes, you can do it by yourself, but discussing with the specialists in your team is better. Each item of your project can carry risks. For example, the risk of not finding the right people to do the job, not being able to meet deadlines, money not being enough for certain expenses, some work that has just been completed needing to be redone all over again, weather conditions delaying some stages, accidents and more like these. Assessing the risks means identifying what can go wrong during each stage of the project. Mitigating the risks means finding potential solutions to prevent or solve the problems when and if they occur. Each risk is being assigned a certain priority, probability, grade of impact on the project and so on, so each of them is dealt with accordingly.

How do I create a team for a project as project manager? Can anybody help me?
You just need to think as any regular team manager: what skills do I need the people in my team to have and where can I find them…the Human Resources department not only can help, but it’s their job to help. Just tell them what you need and when you need it. They will come to you with the best candidates for you to do a final selection.

I have the project start date and deadline. How do I estimate the deadlines for the sub-activities?
Just discuss with your client and your team specialists. If you have a clear list of stages for the project to go through, then deciding a proper deadline for each of them should be easy. Communication with the client and your team is the key. Just put everybody together in a room and decide.

How does Microsoft Office Project software work? Is it easy to learn?
It looks a little like Excel, but it’s really easy to use and it’s intuitive. You just need to insert the main activities, sub-activities, project start date, deadlines, which activity is connected to which and which should be completed before which, what resources you have – people, money, who is responsible for which stage. The software should help you track accurately your project course – it’s a useful tool to keep you organized.

What challenges should I expect to encounter as Project Manager?
You should be prepared for anything – literally. Your team can fail you (members not being prepared, members leaving the project when you least expect it, conflicts within the team, people wanting more money that initially agreed), your client may fail you (changes in deadline, decreases in budget, additional requirements when you least need it), external conditions that you can’t control may challenge you (weather conditions ruining your work, changes in legal requirements, strikes, unexpected economic issues like a sudden drop in the exchange rate, political turmoil) you name it – anything can happen when you least expect it, especially if your project runs over a longer period of time. Projects don’t always last for one week and that’s it. There are projects running for years.

Is the Project Management certification expensive?
No more than any other serious certification and you may agree with your company to pay for it. The prices below are taken just from one potential provider in my area (Eastern Europe), so make sure that you find one in your area and ask:
-         PRINCE2® Foundation (first stage of the certification) – 800 Eur / 1200 USD;
-       PRINCE2® Foundation+ Practitioner (both stages of the certification) – 1150 Eur / 1700 USD;
-          PMI® PMP Exam Prep – 5 days of training – 760 Eur/1100 USD.

Does the job of PM involve a lot of traveling?
If your client is in a different country or the location of the project is somewhere remotely in who knows which corner of the country, then yes. It all depends on the client and the project location. Chances I would say are 50-50 for you to do a lot of traveling. For instance, if you need to open for your company a new plant on a different continent, expect a lot of traveling. If your project involves creating some new accounting software, you may not need to travel at all. As I said, it all depends on the project. If you are not willing to travel, make sure that you have all these details set from the beginning just for you not to encounter any surprises.

Do I need to be a great computer user to do a good job as Project manager?
Normally, no. Only if your project is in the IT field. Then of course you need to be strong in IT to be able to manage the team and understand what they do. If your team needs to create some software based on Java, then of couse you need to know Java. At least to be able to understand if their path is correct. Not necessarily be top Java programmer, but having worked with Java previously will be necessary. On the other side, a construction project or opening a new business don’t need advanced IT skills. Just some Project management software and some basic skills in Excel, Word, Outlook, PowerPoint, whatever is necessary. I will give you another example – if you need to implement a new telephony system in your company, let’s say in all 10 subsidiaries, you need to have some telephony knowledge to be able to discuss the contract with the provider. Otherwise, who may know what they are selling you, right?

When can I say that I have failed in implementing a project?
Well, this happens when the deadline has passed and your project is not finished yet. Of course, if the deadline changes in the meantime and there is an agreement between the client and the Project manager, then all is fine. You haven’t failed. Failing is just then when you have promised something and you haven’t delivered it. Open discussions can always help you avoid failure. Just make sure that these discussions are carried out throughout the entire process and now a few days before final deadline.

I hope that these details will help you understand the topic better. Please find the first part of the article here: http://www.hr-faq.com/2013/08/career-ideas-project-management-faq.html
The topic is obviously not closed. Should you have more questions, please send them to me on georgianaflorina@gmail.com or post them as comments. I will also try to come back with more useful information in Part 3.

Take care,
Geo

8/15/13

Career Ideas – Project Management FAQ – Part 1

Project Management is seen as an attractive career by a lot of students, graduates, young professionals and even older employees that want a career change due to the large number of jobs available on the market and the high wages offered by employers. To offer you a deeper image into this career option I have put together a list of FAQs that I will answer in my next series of articles dedicated to Project Management – an attractive yet difficult career.


What is Project management?

I like the definition that Wikipedia offers, so I will give you here a small part of it: PM is “the discipline of planning, organizing, motivating, and controlling resources to achieve specific goals.” The rest is available here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_management


What does a Project manager do all day?

At first planning as mentioned above. A project manager is given a specific goal to achieve – for example open a new subsidiary of a company in a specific new location, build a dam, recruit and train a new team that will handle customer support for a new client, introduce a new drug to the market, you name it – projects are everywhere and project managers are those that are given the task to implement them. Planning means splitting the goal into smaller bits – activities, sub-activities, identifying the resources needed to achieve the goal: people, money, materials, creating teams and budgets, identifying risks to be overcome during the phases of the implementation.

Then, after everything has been planned and organized, all activities start and the project manager makes sure that all goes ahead according to plan or if changes and adjustments are necessary, these are implemented and communicated to the teams. Motivating the teams to do everything on time and according to plan and controlling daily that everything is done as required also falls under the responsibility of the PM.


Is the Project manager’s job difficult/demanding/stressful?

I dare to say yes. All because of the tight deadlines and the high level of responsibility involved. Managing people, money and materials and being responsible in front of the investor or customer for everything that happens is not easy to do.


Where can I find Project manager jobs?

They are available all over the internet on main job portals, professional networks, recruitment agencies, everywhere. A simple search with the “project manager” keyword revealed 9,000+ jobs in the US on www.careerbuilder.com, 13,000+ on www.simplyhired.com, 41,000+ on www.indeed.com, 5,000+ on www.linkedin.com and a few thousands again on www.monster.com
 

How much do the Project manager jobs pay?

PM jobs are seen as well paid jobs. Just a simple search on job boards reveals salary estimations/year in the US between $50,000 and $180,000 amounts depending of course on experience and skills required by the employer.


What skills do I need to be a successful Project manager?

Soft skills: all these are crucial - organizing and prioritizing skills, time management, decision making skills, communication skills, attention to details, problem solving, negotiation skills, leadership skills to lead the teams needed to implement the project, pro-activity;

IT skills: PM software such as Microsoft Office Project, Excel, other dedicated software;

Other skills: financial knowledge (income, expenses, assets, liabilities), budgets, pricing, general local and /or international legal requirements;


Do I need a Project management certification to be considered for a job?

At first, no. During the early stages of this career they will not require it, but later on if you want to be considered for a better paid job with more responsibilities, a certification really makes the difference between candidates. Sometimes, the company you are working for will be willing to pay for it. In terms of certifications, these are available: Project Management Professional (PMP) and Prince 2. They are similar. PMP is used mainly in the US while Prince 2 mainly in Europe.


Do I start my job as Project manager or are there any intermediary steps?

Starting your job as PM without any experience is rather difficult even if you are certified. A small project in a small company could be an exception, but don’t count on it. You may start as Project assistant – doing administrative project work and being the assistant of the Project manager, then Project coordinator – handling only a small project or part of a larger one, Project consultant – being involved as consultant for some of the activities (for example financial consultant for the budget part) and only then Project manager.



I will come back with more FAQs in my next article. I will focus on more detailed notions like risks, milestones, budgets and more. Questions from your side are more than welcome.


Take care,