Case study

Project manager — Joe

Joe explains how his engineering background helped him secure a role in project management

How did you get your job?

My first degree was in manufacturing technology from the University of Limerick. I later studied a Master of Business Administration (MBA) at Newcastle University Business School. During my first degree I undertook an industrial placement, which put me on my initial career path in manufacturing engineering.

By keeping in touch with contacts from previous roles, I became aware of an opening for a project manager, which is how I secured my current role.

I work for a manufacturing company within the oil and gas industry so my engineering background is very useful. My MBA then gave me commercial understanding, so it all tied in well to being a project manager.

What's a typical day like?

A lot of my day is spent ensuring that the project teams are on track. There are a lot of meetings to discuss any issues and I spend a lot of time talking to people in the supply chain to ensure that everything is running smoothly. Most of the day is spent at my desk or in meetings.

It's not unusual to have four or five projects on the go at one time. You need to be able to handle a lot of information and manage your time to keep on top of everything.

What do you enjoy about your job?

I like having a varied work life and I enjoy how project management allows me to work across different departments and really get to understand how the business operates. I also enjoy the pressure of my role as I manage some significant projects for major clients.

What are the most challenging parts?

People - particularly when project team members report to both me and their line manager. Your people skills are what will make the difference between a successful and an unsuccessful project.

What are your career ambitions?

I am currently looking towards the next five years and I anticipate progression within project management up to programme manager level, where I would expect to manage a number of project managers.

Luckily, as a project manager I have developed a lot of transferable skills and experience.

What advice would you give to others?

Work on your people skills. You are not just managing a project; people make projects happen.

Also, get certified by a recognised body in project management, even if you have to self-fund. This gives you a background process and structure to help run your projects. It requires a level of training combined with study and there is a rigorous exam to pass, but it's worth it.

Above all, have some fun - you'll spend a lot of time at work, so you're better off enjoying it.

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