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Newcomers event at The University of South Wales, Newport campus

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The University of South Wales Newport City campus was host to a number of inspirational talks from members of the APM South Wales & West of England branch which included breakout discussion sessions with the aspiring project managers. The theme of the event was entitled the Newcomers aimed at those within the university and others from outside seeking to embark on a career in project management.

In his welcoming address Martin Gosden, the branch chairman 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 more than 2450 individual and 37 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.

The first speaker of the evening was Paul Johnson, the Newcomers representative on the branch committee works for the Ministry of Defence, a Chartered Engineer and Registered Project Professional (RPP) with over 10 years' project management experience.

By way of an introduction Paul explained the fundamental aspects of a Project, in so much that it was a unique, temporary endeavour, undertaken to achieve planned objectives and an effective way of managing change, to turn strategic intent into reality through effective leadership and teamwork. He went on to explain that projects need to be controlled to meet their stated objectives which enable the delivery of the required benefits with objectives defined in terms of expectations of time, cost and quality. He concluded by saying that the role of the project manager primarily involves controlling the introduction of the desired change. This involves:

  • Understanding the needs of stakeholders
  • Planning what needs to be done, when, by whom, and to what standards
  • Building and motivating the team
  • Coordinating the work of different people
  • Monitoring work being done
  • Managing any changes to the schedule
  • Managing risks and delivering successful results

Following Pauls introduction to project management the principal guest speaker for the evening was Mike Donnington from Babcock International Group who shared his knowledge and experience of embarking on a career path in project management following his graduation from the University of Plymouth and his Masters degree in Nuclear Safety from Lancaster University. Mike described the Babcock business structure and the diverse industrial base in which the company is engaged.

Mike is currently based in Devonport, Plymouth and is a programme manager with the Submarine Business Unit responsible for the initial dismantling of designated Royal Navy nuclear submarines when the vessels reach the end of their service life.

He described his chosen career in project management to date as a well structured process and fully supported by the company at every stage. The diagram shown here broadly identifies the steps which his career path has taken him in respect of gaining the required level of APM and other professional Institutions qualifications, coupled with the continuing hands on experience and gaining the related competences to effectively perform his work efficiently.

Career progression in project management

Mike went on to summarise his personal reflections and the satisfaction he gets from his position working within the Babcock International organisation. He embraces the challenges the job offers and gets a sense of achievement managing a team, evaluating and mitigating risk making meaningful decisions to achieve his given objectives. Professional development continues to be a key objective whilst learning from experience.

Mike supports the professional community as an Industry Liaison Partner with Plymouth University, a company assessor and mentor for graduate engineers as well as being an IMarEST accredited interviewer for chartered engineers.

After the above tutorials the whole group were divided into groups of between 6 - 8 people to discuss the following topics and provide brief feedback on their thoughts on the questions;

  • What makes a successful project manager - qualifications or experience?
  • What three core 'personal' competences or attributes must I demonstrate to have a chance of success as a professional project manager?
  • What does project success look like?
  • I want to be a successful project manager and I'm ambitious; what are the three core 'management' competences I should focus on?
  • What are the challenges for managing a project which is highly complex and technically challenging?
  • Are project managers born or bred?

A spokesperson for each group presented their findings to the entire audience. Following the individual group responses a question and answer session was held providing the opportunity for all attendees to ask any questions of a panel of members, comprising; Martin Gosden, Mike Donnington and Nick Malinowski.

The evening concluded with refreshments providing an additional networking opportunity to all attendees to hopefully inspire a new generation of project managers in the making.

Allan Reid FAPM
South Wales Chapter Co-Chair

Please find the presentation slides from this event below:

For the University of South Wales' article on this please click here.


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