Lindsay Scott is the director of program and project
management recruitment at Arras People in
A good coach can help you find the solutions to
messy real-world challenges, because real life
doesn’t always work out the way training courses
and books would have us believe.
agement style and techniques you use with your
teams. Trial and error is part of the growth process, and a mentor can be a great way to help you
navigate as you find your individual approach.
Another area to consider is coaching. You may
find that preferable to a mentor, especially if you’d
rather turn to someone outside your organization. A
good coach can help you find the solutions to messy
real-world challenges, because real life doesn’t always
work out the way training courses and books would
have us believe. Being able to talk through situations
with a coach will help you get the best out of the
knowledge and experience you already have, give
external validation to your thought processes and
give guidance on the way forward.
A final piece of advice comes from an ancient
Greek philosopher: “We have two ears and one
mouth so that we can listen twice as much as
we speak.” It’s one of the best pieces of advice I
received as a novice project manager. Respect can
often be earned by saying no words at all.
I’ve been working as a cost engineer in the oil
and gas industry for a while and am concerned
about its downturn. Any advice on how to
make a move away from this industry?
Cost engineers—along with project controllers,
schedulers and planners—are very common in what
I like to call “heavy project management” or highly
regulated industries like construction, engineering,
manufacturing and, of course, oil and gas. Your experience in the oil and gas industry should suit these
other industries perfectly, so I’d suggest focusing
on them for your initial research. You may also find
that the terminology for roles within these respective
industries varies slightly, so make sure you understand differences before tweaking your résumé and
approaching organizations or applying for a job.
You may find it more difficult to branch further
out into industries such as IT or finance. These sectors are often worlds apart from the more regulated
industries when it comes to how projects are managed. Of course that depends on how determined
you might be to try a completely different industry.
Be forewarned: Most organizations are biased toward
applicants with prior experience in their industry.
I’m hearing a lot about agile. Should I be train-
ing in this project management area?
I’m asked this question a lot. Agile approaches to
project management certainly have been in the
spotlight over the last few years. Project managers, especially those working in the IT industry for
a number of years, often will say that they know
enough about agile to manage the increasingly
common situation of an agile development element
within a larger waterfall project, but not enough
to fully manage an agile team. (In fact, many argue
that the project manager shouldn’t even be managing the team at all—that should be left to the
Scrum Master, for example.) Project managers also
are concerned about missing new opportunities
because they don’t have formal agile training or
development on their résumé.
So what’s my advice? It depends. If you’re working within IT or software development, formal
training in agile approaches is probably a good idea.
If you’re at an organization that doesn’t use agile
now and likely won’t in the future, a good book and
a few websites should do the trick for filling knowledge gaps. You always can turn to more formal
training if circumstances change. PM
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