June 18, 2012

Professional of The Week: A Project Manager & Engineer

This week, we're featuring a Project Manager as the "Professional of The Week". It was yet another enlightening interview and I encourage every professional or budding professional out there to read on.

Name: Nnanna A.
Location: Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
Profession: Project Manager

1. Why did you choose Project Management as your profession?
Growing up I always wanted to be an Engineer; a profession which runs in my family. My passion for Engineering started from an early age.
My father is an Electrical Engineer and I grew up watching him troubleshoot and repair faults with electrical appliances at home. It came as no surprise that in secondary school, my favourite subjects were Maths, Physics and Further maths. Upon completion of a Master’s Degree in an engineering-related field, I got a job as a Graduate Engineering Trainee. The graduate training scheme included a secondment in the Project Management section. It was during this secondment that I became infatuated with Project Management as a profession and upon completion of my graduate scheme, I was offered a job as a project manager. I was drawn by the high level of responsibility and decision-making involved with the job. Furthermore, instead of just being confined to Electrical Engineering, a career in Project Management offered me the opportunity to gain a better understanding of other engineering disciplines.

2. What is the best thing about your profession?
The aspect of my job I enjoy most is the interaction with people. As part of my job, there is a constant need for contact with Engineers, Planners, Quantity Surveyors, Cost Managers, Accountants, etc.
Naturally, I'm the sort of guy who likes meeting people & making friends and my job allows me do just that. A typical day consists of about 3 meeting with various combinations of the afore-mentioned stakeholders. Aside from my colleagues, there is also a need for frequent communication with external contractors. In order to get the best out of the people I work with, I have to cultivate good working relationships with them, regardless of their personalities and predispositions. I enjoy the challenge of cultivating relationships with people, especially as I work in a different country with a (very) different culture.

3. What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

As a project manager, I am responsible for the programme management of the projects I manage; this involves reviewing the progress of contractors using Primavera P6 and identifying any slippage as well as opportunities to accelerate the programme. On the financial side, I am responsible for ensuring that my projects are delivered within the approved budgets; this involves providing accurate cost forecasts for each accounting period as well as scrutinising payment applications received from contractors. Engineering-wise, I manage the handover of drawings/technical information from the contractors to my colleagues in the engineering department and chair review sessions to trash-out any issues that may arise with these documents. In the event of any contractual disputes with contractors, I also have to liaise with the relevant legal/commercial resources to ensure that the interest of my organisation is protected.

4. What qualifications are your working towards?
I have a Bachelors Degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering from the Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO) and a Masters degree in Automation and Control from Newcastle University, UK. I am currently studying for the APM Practitioner Qualification (IPMA Level C). After my APM certifications, I intend to pursue Chartered Engineer status with the Institute of Engineering and Technology, UK.

5. What advice will you give someone that is interested in Project Management as a profession?
Seeing as I didn’t have any formal training in project management, a lot of what I learnt in my early days as a project manager was as a result of my interaction with other project managers. As such, I advise those interested in Project Management to establish/maintain regular contact with experienced project managers. Aside from providing an insight into the daily challenges faced by project managers, such relationships provide a unique opportunity to understand and develop the skill set required in Project Management.

6. What skills will you advise current and aspiring students of Project Management to acquire/develop?
Excellent communication skills are a must for any successful project manager.  Project Management involves constant communication with people which is why the need for excellent communication skills cannot be overemphasised. In addition, a keen attention to detail, analytical reasoning, negotiating and the ability to quickly assimilate large amounts of information are skills which are essential in Project Management.

7. In the Project Management profession, is it a barrier if your degree is not Project Management?

No, both my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees are in engineering-related disciplines. While studying Project Management in university is advantageous, it is not a pre-requisite for a career in Project Management.

8. Do you have any other interests you pursue outside your profession as a Project Management?

In my spare time, I enjoy watching and playing football (fan of Newcastle United). I am also an F1 enthusiast (fan of Ferrari).

 The Professional Humanitarian (Part 2)

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