Most people will lead a project or initiative at some point in their professional career, even if they do not have the words “project manager” in their job title. If you’re not officially leading a project, you may not realize how often you are using project management in your daily life. The skills that make an effective project manager—communication, time management, problem solving—are transferrable to many other roles, both at work and at home.
On May 25th, I hosted the latest meeting of the Aite-Novarica Women’s Network on Mastering the Many Facets of Project Management. Panelists Caty Hartley, Senior Project Manager at Harford Mutual Insurance Companies; Jennifer Ramos, AVP, Portfolio Manager at Global Indemnity Limited; and Amy Aluyi, Director of Strategic Portfolio Management at Pekin Insurance Group shared their perspectives.
Qualities of an Effective Project Manager
Our discussion of project management began with the qualities that make a good project manager. With the transition in methodologies from Waterfall to Agile, the skill set of a project manager has evolved; project managers need to be strategic thinkers, able to keep track of all the work that needs to be done in the short term, but also be able to see and articulate the bigger picture. Being an effective communicator is now more important than ever, especially when it comes to tailoring communications to various audiences: from front-line teams to executive-level updates.
One panelist mentioned that a good project manager needs emotional intelligence to diffuse conflicts and good leadership skills to generate buy-in for a plan. Additionally, a genuine curiosity and being a lifelong learner are important—as a project manager you need to be doing many things at once and also need to know what the people on your team are doing.
Challenges of Project Management
Our panelists also discussed the challenges that come with project management, including defining roles and expectations for everyone on the project, especially with different types of Agile implementation (e.g., project manager vs. scrum master vs. product owner). One panelist shared that making sure everyone has a seat at the table and defining everyone’s roles and responsibilities has been one of their organization’s biggest challenges over the past year.
Another major challenge of project management is delivering tough messages to executive leadership, especially related to missed deadlines. Knowing when and how to communicate to leadership that a deadline is unreasonable or that it’s time to pull the plug on a stalled project are vital skills for people in this role. Other obstacles include resource allocation, project scope changes, and setting clear project goals and deadlines.
Project Management as Career Development
We ended our discussion on advice for younger professionals and project management as a career path. Project management is a great career development role, providing experience and exposure to various aspects of IT and business units, both strategic and operational. Projects offer the unique opportunity to work with many different skill sets across an organization, and they can provide exposure to executive leadership that you wouldn’t get in other roles. Panelists agreed that being a project manager opens doors on your career path.
You can be known for a lot of things, but what you want to be known for is being someone that gets stuff done. As project managers, we get stuff done, and in your career, that’s going to be an important skill set. There are not many other roles where that is the crux of your experience.
The next virtual meeting of the Aite-Novarica Women’s Network, Insights on Executive Coaching and Stories from the Field, will take place on June 29th, 2022. The session will include two executive coaches as guest panelists and will be led by Aite-Novarica Group Senior Principal Nancy Casbarro. More information is available at https://aite-novarica.com/womens-network.