Meet a Project Manager
We caught up with Christopher Stone, who has worked as a project manager for over six years. He currently works in a project management role at Open Colleges.
What courses did you study to become a Project Manager? And tell us a bit about your current role?
- A Bachelor of Information Technology, Majoring in E-business and Networking
- A Masters in Information Management Technology, focusing on corporate strategy
- Prince 2 Foundations and Practitioner
- P3O Foundation and Practitioner
What does a Project Manager do on a day-to day basis?
A project manager has many roles; the main focus a PM has is ensuring that the daily tasks that are required to meet the project completion date are achieved. I myself have a very large and integrated project. I deal with eight departments and engage with around 30 people a day. I also have a lot of responsibility around risk and load management – it’s not just all Gantt charts and timelines.
What are the three things you absolutely love about your job?
- The first thing I love about my job is the strategy. When a project starts you get handed a huge piece of work that resembles something like a ball of tangled extension cords. You have to be able to come up with the best strategy to untangle them all in the fastest way possible.
- The second thing I enjoy is being able to help people in a project. It’s a double-edged sword really; you’re the first point of contact in a project when something goes sideways. People expect you to have all the answers and sometimes you end being a meat shield for management about people’s frustrations. But this is far outweighed by the satisfaction you get when a business achieves this huge piece of work.
- Third is the adrenalin. I enjoy the fast-paced life of being a project manager. One minute you’re in a marketing meeting, then you’re dealing with IT about something and then you run an engagement meeting with the general managers. Not to mention while you’re doing all this the other half of the building is on fire because someone went on leave and didn’t mention it! So it’s never a dull moment.
What do you think are the skills a Project Manager should have?
As a project manager, the single most important skill you need is the ability to lead from the middle. I will be dealing with executives one minute and then have to fix a problem in the call center another.
To be a good project manager, you must have high emotional intelligence and resilience. You will be dealing with some very heated discussions sometimes, so being able to emotionally remove yourself and keep the long game insight is very important.
What makes a project successful from a management perspective is how the people are managed. It’s sort of like playing four chess games at the same time while being able to move the pieces between the chessboards.
What advice would you give students aspiring to work in the Project Management industry?
Persistence and not being worried about failing, I have bombed projects, been fired for doing my job and been punished for doing the correct thing. Project management is one of the hardest and most thankless jobs in the industry. People have their own agendas and will attempt to push them onto you. But just remember you are there for a reason, and the business needs you just as much as you need it.
It’s a hard industry to get into. Find yourself a good mentor and use them for everything you can. The key is to just keep trying. Unfortunately, everyone thinks they can manage a project, but the key is to be a good project manager; they are worth their weight in gold.
What is next on your career horizon?
What’s next for me? I would like to take on larger global contracts. I am fortunate enough have had good opportunities and great mentors to look up to, especially in my current role at Open Colleges. But I would like to take on bigger and greater things; I am also a great believer in continual education so maybe an executive MBA in the next year or so.
Thank You, Christopher, for sharing your story with training.com.au