Alistair has also been a long-standing and supportive member of APM who has contributed at the highest level, previously as deputy chair of the board. He is the APM representative for International Project Management Association (IPMA).
During his time as an APM board member he chaired the professional conduct and strategic policy committees. He has also served as a director of the Major Projects Association, chairing their programme committee.
Alistair contributes to APM by actively listening and engaging with a wide range of professionals. He thinks strategically, with energy and passion grounded in his experience as a programme manager delivering projects and programmes for over 30 years. He has worked in aviation, transport, IT, business change, construction, mining, rail and nuclear. Alistair has advised and led improvements, project competency and delivery effectiveness, conducted project and organisational reviews as well as led the assurance for a multi billion pound portfolio.
Alistair's passion is to drive the profession of project management forward for the benefit of society and all project professionals.
APM board member interview
- Why and when did you decide to go into project management? I started out as an electronics and communications engineer studying as an apprentice working on civil air traffic control and navigation systems. After a few years I did not think this was for me and thought that software engineering was the way to go, and so resigned and completed a degree in computing science. My next role was managing the design, procurement and instillation of high integrity safety critical systems and I thought that this was what I wanted to do, I have found my vocation. I then did and MBA in project management. It took me a number of attempts at finding my career before I got into project management, it was not the first thing I thought of, now it is becoming a career of first choice.
- Who was your first employer? My first employer was National Air Traffic Services Ltd (NATS) who I joined as an apprentice when I was a naive and impressionable 17 year old. I was lucky enough to have two offers of jobs at the time, one from the RAF and one from NATS. My Dad, who had been in the army, said that he did not think that military service was for me, for me and my questioning outlook, these were wise words indeed. This was one of the best choices I made and had a great time with NATS.
- What are your career highlights? One of my career highlights was picking up an award on behalf of the team I was leading for the delivery of a SAP implementation. Having been the 3rd programme manager in charge of this, the team and I managed to turn it around and guide it through some difficult times to be a success. The second was leading the redevelopment of the project controls systems for a multi-billion USD Iron Ore mine in Brazil. Waking up in a hotel in Ipanema Beach in Rio de Janeiro, looking out to palm trees, white sand and blue sea in 35C heat and thinking “I’m getting paid to do this, how good does it get!”. However, my biggest highlight was being awarded an Honorary Fellowship of APM.
- When did you become a member of APM and what are the main benefits? I became a member of APM in 1995 after I had completed my project management studies to get the recognition as a project professional and to continue to learn about project management. The benefits of being a member of APM are that I am always learning new skills and approaches, my thinking is always challenged and I get inspiration from many of the talks, books, blogs and events I go to.
- How important are professional project management qualifications? I think that the qualifications and designations (e.g. MAPM and RPP) are vitally important to mark the stages in an individual’s career and growth as a professional. This helps to show others how your level of competency and what you are capable of.
- How did you decide to stand for election? I was working with someone who at the time was on the board of APM and persuaded me that I had something to offer and give back to the profession. I put myself forward and was fortunate enough to be elected; it was one of the best decisions I have made.
- What difference do you make to APM as a board member? As I board member I like to think that I bring a strategic outlook to help prepare and guide APM to maximise the value of APM to the membership and to the public. I am able to do this through working in a wide range of sectors (mining, aviation, rail, nuclear, Defence, petrochemical and infrastructure) in a wide range of roles (programme management, project management, PMO, capability development and assurance). I have worked for large corporates and SMEs as both client and delivery organisations. This has been built up in a number of countries around the world working with different cultures. Through APM I am also able to influence the development of other project professional member associations around the world, I am regularly in touch with furthering their development and APM and its members interests.
- What keeps you interested in project management? Project management is the best career there is! It is dealing with people, it is never the same each day, projects are all about change and you get a real sense of achievement when you deliver. As Martin Barnes said, what could be more boring than doing the same thing every day, that is operations, projects are about change and making a difference. The profession is changing all the time, which makes it even more exciting.
- What advice would you give to someone starting out in project management? Do it! Learn the basics but do not slavishly follow fads be they PRINCE, Lean Six Sigma or Agile. They all have their place in your armoury, but project management is about organising and dealing with people to get things done. You can do this in any sector in any industry, the skills you learn you can take anywhere.
- Who has been the most influential in your career? There are three people who have influenced my career; Alan Dale who was my first boss who taught me how important people are and to understand t he real issues and to make sure they get the most out of the change. The second is Ian Mills who taught me how to be focussed and make sure people deliver, holding them to account. The final and most influential one is Mike Nichols who taught me that anything is possible.
- What does chartered status mean to you? Chartered is the recognition for the profession, it allows us to be recognised as the professionals we are and develop more confidence in the public and sponsors to get things done.