Overcoming misconceptions, navigating bloated processes and ultimately finding my vocation.

Becoming a Project Manager.

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Lucy Nye

The global marketplace has become more project-oriented and in turn there is an increase in the number of jobs requiring project-oriented skills.

Many people misunderstand what the term ‘project management’ involves.

A report published by the PMI found that project managers are key contributors to productivity, but some considering this profession may be surprised to learn of the transferable skills that can set them on this career path.

As the newly appointed Digital Project Manager at Fuel, I am the first to admit I came into the profession somewhat reluctantly. However, to my eternal surprise, I adore being a Project Manager and I can’t imagine myself doing anything else.

When growing up and deciding what I wanted to be, of course Project Manager never appeared in my shortlist – not exactly the most exciting/glamorous sounding job title is it? After University I settled into Event Management – initially aiming to someday organise awesome concerts and festivals, but surprisingly finding my niche in the significantly less rock and roll world of scientific and medical educational conferences. This led to an offer to relocate to Chicago to work with a software provider I had previously been a client of. I was in my element working with clients involved in large scale congresses attracting up to 60,000 delegates (events of a size that we can but dream about in Blighty), building strong relationships, advising on best practice – flexibility and variety. Thinking on my feet floated my boat, but processes and rigid structure did not sound like much fun at all.

When I was promoted from Systems Analyst to Project Manager, I was concerned I was getting in a little in over my head. As a Business school graduate I was more than aware of the fundamentals of project management, and the seemingly never ending different methodologies, but having no professional qualifications in the subject meant I felt a little like a fraud.

Aren’t Project Managers bogged down in process? They just organize; they don’t DO, right?!

I pride myself on being a bit of a grafter, someone willing to pitch in and get my hands dirty, but I struggled to see the tangible output my new role would bring to the table.

Misunderstood.

Indeed, many people misunderstand what the term ‘project management’ involves (including my own Mother, who thought I’d moved Stateside to work on building sites). Most accepted definitions of ‘project management’ always includes similar key characteristics – that a project is planned, temporary, unique, controlled, result-oriented, and follows a path of defined milestones. It is truly one of the most transferable jobs out there; one that can lead you to a variety of industries. So, Mother, while I may not work on a building site now that’s not to say I couldn’t whip those guys into shape either!

So after almost a decade as a card-carrying Project Manager, who recently moved into the world of creative agencies, how do I feel about my job title now? Honestly, I cannot think of a role better suited to my skillset. Of course, events are a unique project type in themselves. Unlike the issues that plague Crossrail, for example, you cannot miss deadlines and keep adjusting your timeline if people have booked flights, taken time out of their busy schedules  and are turning up at your venue whether you are ready for them or not. It’s the ultimate baptism of fire for the project professional and maybe those Transport for London folk would benefit from organizing a congress or two?

One size doesn’t fit all.

And what about my perceived minefield of process? The fact is, while many smaller businesses will benefit from hiring a dedicated project manager (as trends are showing), they really do not need a complex methodology when it comes to managing a project.

When implemented effectively, project management can prove to be instrumental in crafting productive processes but I have found while there are many methodologies, there is no ‘right’ one.

There is no one-size-fits-all set of processes that should always be used for every project. If businesses are varied in their scope and deliverables, and they are approaching projects with an open mind, then that works for me.

To me, the best methodology is whatever makes sense and is most suitable for the project, team and customer. Fuel is a great fit for me, because the scope of clients and projects we are involved with are so varied. I am enjoying the challenge of putting together customised plans and working with a fantastic, dedicated team to ensure we are delivering excellence every time.

About the author.

Lucy Nye is a Digital Project Manager at Fuel Integrated.

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