Project Management has taken off faster than Looney Tunes’ Tasmanian Devil. In a Q&A with Cor Scheepers and Colleen Spolander, two of AllAboutExpert’s lecturers, we hear about why this career is such a hit, and why all of us can expect it to be the next big thing.
How did you get involved in Project Management in the first place?
Cor: My whole working career has been an involvement in projects. I trained as a computer scientist and progressed through the ranks of programmer, systems analyst and later business analyst. After being involved in an e-commerce pilot project, I was asked to take on the role of project management of similar projects. I also received (as an unexpected surprise) the responsibility of project management of the ATM software of the same bank. This was in March 1999, nine months before Y2K.
Colleen: I discovered Project Management about 28 years ago in the military and was instantly hooked. We used to create project schedules with thumb tacks and pieces of wool.
Have you seen Project Management (PM) increase in popularity as a course, as a career, and generally in awareness?
Cor: Project management has always been performed, even if it was not called by that name. Over time it has become a career choice with a specific and clear purpose, and internationally recognised accreditations and certifications are very sought after. Recognition and application of skills is an important differentiator though. Not only have you got years of experience, you also have the “papers” to prove that you know what you are doing. Project Management is applied in almost every industry and also in any size of organisation/business.
Colleen: I have. When I started in project management it was a male dominated career, mostly in the IT space. Now it’s both a male and female career field and is found in all industries, organisations, and different departments within organisations. Training has evolved from short courses to professional certifications over the years.
Do you see this as a stand-alone value course, or as an addition to other credentials?
Cor: Although valuable as a stand-alone course, the real value-add will be as an addition, complementary to other credentials.
Colleen: Definitely a combination of both.
As a lecturer, have you seen changes in the kinds of people who seek out these courses?
Cor: Yes, we have an exciting mix of delegates. We have well experienced people wanting formal accreditation, people in mid-career looking for a change of direction and opportunity, junior people wanting to know more about the project environment in which they are working, and even school leavers seeing projects as a starting point in their working life.
Colleen: Yes! We are finding that more and more ‘non project’ people are attending our courses. The beauty of Project Management is that you don’t need to be a project manager to use the tools: They are valuable in all careers and in your personal life.
Do you feel there is a need for PM, and if so, are there jobs available for graduates or do they still need to get into jobs in more traditional routes? What is the future for people studying PM?
Cor: The need for project managers is ever growing. Many strategic initiatives are delivered using a project approach. You can combine formal training (and early accreditations) with growing experience and confidence. Project Management provides a wide variety and scope for ongoing career development.
Colleen: There is definitely a need, and it’s a growing one. For those studying PM, focus on getting a professional PM certification and then build on your experience.
What, in your opinion, makes a successful Project Manager? What kind of personality does this suit?
Cor: A well balanced, multi-skilled, adaptable person who enjoys the exciting challenges that projects bring. A person who is able to identify the best in team members and individually guides them to contributions that serve the purpose of the project. A mentor/coach/guide who leads through example, sharing success and recognition with all involved.
Colleen: Attitude, Attitude, Attitude! A positive, nothing-is-impossible driven individual with a great team and team building skills.
What advice would you give someone who is thinking of going into this field?
Cor: You can not only learn PM from books and courses. Become exposed to the daily actions by joining a project. An interesting starting point is to become a project administrator. You will be very close to the daily actions of the project manager. Through observation and support, you can learn a tremendous amount. This can then be formalised through formal training.
Colleen: Project Management is not an academic field, it’s a hands-on, practical one. Spend a good 6 months working as a project administrator before moving on to the role of a project manager. This is the best way to build a firm foundation in the knowledge, skills, tools and techniques of project management.
- To read more about these leading Project Management gurus, check out their blurbs here:
For more info on Colleen Spolander, click here.
For more info on Cor Scheepers, click here.
If this is something you could see yourself doing – we’d definitely recommend it! In the end it’s all about finding out what your strengths and weaknesses are. We encourage you to explore your interests – go out and conquer the world. As mentioned by Colleen, the beauty about project management is that, this skill can be used in any job you decide to pursue. Either way you’ll be doing yourself a favour and gaining a new skill.