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Kick-Start your Project Management Career event

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Stoke Gifford Village Hall hosted an inspirational presentation, 5 June 2019, from the APM South Wales & West of England (SWWE) Project Management (PM) Challenge 2018/19 Winners, Team Babcock.

Supported by members of the SWWE Branch, Team Babcock discussed their winning Project that had the objective of increasing the efficiency of Help for Heroes, enabling more support to beneficiaries. Following these presentations, participants split into breakout sessions to discuss various PM topics.  The theme of the event was entitled “Kick-Start your Project Management Career” and was aimed at individuals seeking to embark on a career in project management. 

In his welcoming address Paul Johnson, the SWWE Newcomers Representative, set the scene for the evening by explaining the nature and structure of the event along with the proposed agenda. He went on to point out that the branch is one of the most active in the APM covering a large geographical area in the South West with nearly 3800 individual and 42 corporate members. The branch organises around 20 member events throughout the year suitable for all levels of experience. It continues to have extensive engagement with academia and corporate members alike providing many individuals with the opportunity to network with employers across many different sectors of industry.

Bruce Phillips, the organiser of the SWWE PM Challenge, followed Paul with a presentation that provided a brief history and overview of the PM Challenge.

This introduced Team Babcock (represented by Gemma and Greg), the guest speakers for the event. Team Babcock’s presentation focussed upon three key areas: the project itself, lessons learned and the benefits that they felt they would personally realise from participating in the Challenge. 

Team Babcock took us through the decision matrix that they used to select Help for Heroes as their preferred Charity before introducing a quick quiz for the audience regarding Armed Forces veterans. After selecting Help for Heroes, Team Babcock engaged the charity and agreed the objective for their project – increasing value-adding time for Help for Heroes beneficiaries by 20% in 6-months.

Overcoming the lack of capacity and enthusiasm of Help for Heroes to implement and maintain changes was identified as the main barrier to success. Through wider stakeholder engagement, Team Babcock were able to understand the reasons for the current position and developed the requirements for their project. Outputs, such as restructuring the Help for Heroes Community event and their Governance structure were agreed, with Help for Heroes expecting the following Benefits:

  • Increased beneficiary support
  • Increased communication and collaboration
  • Less time spent in meetings

Once the Benefits Map was agreed, Team Babcock developed their plan, including their approach to assumptions management, tools and processes they adopted and the deliverables they produced for Help for Heroes. Throughout the presentation, Team Babcock highlighted the APM competencies that they were developing as they undertook project activities.

From a lessons learnt perspective, Team Babcock highlighted the effective use of resource, minimising scope creep and the application of APM Standards as the key lessons they would take with them to their next project. Team Babcock finished the presentation by highlighting the following aspects as areas of personal development that they achieved through delivering their project for Help for Heroes:

  • Hands-on experience running a project – development of project management skills
  • New levels of working professionalism
  • Expanding company contacts network
  • Recognition - Appreciation and acknowledgment from managers and directors
  • Enhancing CV – greater opportunity for interesting roles in the future


After the presentations and some questions from the participants for Team Babcock, Paul split the room into 4 groups to discuss the following topics:

  • Group 1: What makes a successful project manager - qualifications or experience?
  • Group 2: What three core 'personal' competences or attributes must I demonstrate to have a chance of success as a professional project manager?
  • Group 3: What does project success look like?
  • Group 4: What are the challenges for managing a project which is highly complex and technically challenging?

Following 20 minutes of exploring the questions posed, a spokesperson for each group presented the key points of their discussion to the entire group, prompting further discussion around the groups’ findings. The keys themes to emerge were:

  • Group 1 (Qualifications or Experience): Group 1 saw ‘experience’ as the slightly more beneficial leading element on the basis that if you have experience you should have already addressed many of the characteristics and competences that a training environment would offer. However, it was acknowledged that the best PMs have strike a balance between experience and qualifications, and that this balance unique to the individual PM.
  • Group 2 (3 Key Personal Competencies): The group identified leadership, particularly the ability to make decisions and delegate, communication and trust as the three key ‘personal’ competencies required to become a successful Project Manager.
  • Group 3 (Project Success): Group 3 identified that the traditional Time, Cost and Quality metrics were important in defining success. Scope creep and poor/unclear requirements were viewed as the things most likely to prevent project success.
  • Group 4 (Complex and Technically Challenging): The conclusion drawn by the group was that understanding the requirement, managing stakeholder expectations and dealing with higher levels of uncertainty are the key challenges for a PM who is managing a highly complex and technically challenging project.

The evening concluded, and members of the APM SWWE branch remaining behind to answer 1-2-1 questions with aspiring Project Managers.

Paul Johnson, SWWE branch Newcomers Rep


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