Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Accidental Project Manager

When did you know you wanted to be a Project Manager, I can't say that I gave it much thought during my childhood years, actually I don't think I gave it much thought when I started working. I didn't study IT when I attended Uni, and only really stumbled into IT when I was employed to do another role for an international Oil and Gas Exploration company. I noticed the only IT guy in the company did very little, or it was perceived by me for what he got paid, that is really well for not doing much of anything, I wanted a piece of that action. So I asked the relevant questions, enrolled in night college and got myself a diploma in Data Processing, programming that sort of thing. It seems like a life time ago now...actually come to think of it, it's ancient history. The next few years was spent plodding about in Helpdesk roles, operations and general support, for those of you old enough, you might recall the "Tape Jockey", well that was me.

Then it happened, after working years on a Roster basis, night shift was the worst, I landed a role as a Network Analyst, I deserved it though, I worked hard and pleased as many people as I could with good service, so I started cutting my teeth on 2nd and 3rd level support, diagnosing problems setting up Networks (Novel at the time) performing maintenance routines and again offering good customer (internal staff members, are still our customers) great service. Open communication, that was my mantra, which still works for me today, keep everyone, customer and management in the loop, and tell them straight what is going on, and I found they normally give you latitude to do your own thing, and time to resolve the issue, it was great I was in my element. Before all this happened I didn't know I was cut out for this sort of stuff, but it came naturally.

Working for a large multinational fizzy drink manufacturer, there was plenty of scope to grow, and I would recommend to any "young player" out there, find yourself a home in a large organisation, move around, use them as much as they will use you, and learn, and learn and learn as much as you can about the way of the corporate world, stuff that just can't be taught in a text book. There it was my first Project Management role, I didn't know it at the was Accidental in a way. Called into a meeting by my manager at the time, and I was asked...well more demanded that I should work on a project which was going to revolutionise the way orders where going to be placed by the sales staff, 24 hour turnaround, gone was the old paper and pen system, to be replaced by a fully automated state or the art system.

It was great and exhausting, responsible for the build and support of each laptop, for a Sales force of over 150 people, and the knowledge transfer that went with it, travelling to the remote parts of the state for weeks at a time, teaching the "ins and outs" of the system, how to enter data and transfer it to the mainframe. How picking slips would be generated and the order placed onto a pallet and then onto the back of a truck and out the door to the customer. There were plenty of the "old guard" who weren't interested, which was expected..but its' how you handle them and the situation which stands you out from the rest.

Take the time, never dismiss, everybody has a story to tell and communicate with those who are in trouble as with those who are not, get to know your customer, both internal and external and you will find out more than you expected. Once you have this skill, project delivery shouldn't be a chore, anyone can drone through the process of delivering a project, kicking and screaming along the way, but it takes a special person to communicate, to open up and have people open up to them, and together you deliver a project, maybe sometimes just by accident.

Enjoy the ride.

Daniel Cerone, creator of cer1projectmananagement has been an IT Project Management Consultant since 1996, and worked on many and varied major projects. The website, provides informative articles and other resources on everything you'll ever need to know about Project Management.

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