Spencer is a project manager in the engineering/construction sector.
I’ve been a project manager for nearly 10 years, and started the role a little further into my working life than others (I was previously a people manager). I remember when I first had the idea of a career change. I got together with some old friends to organise and reform my old rugby team. Turns out I needed a lot of planning and organisation skills to make this happen. It made me think: I’m good at this, and I enjoy it; could it become my career?
In 2009 I secured a place on Network Rail’s graduate scheme where they sponsored me to study an MSc in Project & Enterprise Management at University College London. A year later I got a placement on the King’s Cross Station Re-Development Programme, and I felt such enormous pride coming back to a launch event with Boris Johnson opening it. I remember sitting there thinking back to when it’s was just a building site. I thought – wow, I was part of this.
Now, I’m an experienced project manager, and still get a lot of pride from every project I deliver. I’m currently delivering the Cornwall Capacity Enhancement Scheme, which means lots of trips to the South Coast to see how the project delivery is developing.
Project manager, Network Rail
There really is no typical day as a project manager, your tasks and time can vary day on day dependant on what a project needs. But I often find myself on the train journey to work, trying to manage my email inbox. I suspect that’s the bane of most people’s lives. But it means, when I get to the office, I can hit the ground running.
I like to start the week with a review of my diary, and a team catch up, so we’re clear about what we’re trying to achieve in the week, what the priorities are, and keep an eye on any potential issues that might come up.
Later in the morning, I might hold a progress meeting with members of the supply-chain organisations delivering my project (e.g. design consultants, contractors, etc.) to get an update on progress and planned progress for the week ahead. We’ll need to resolve any issues that are brought up and carry out the many contract management duties typically required on a construction project.
I’m a stickler for running a good meeting. I’ve experienced so many bad ones in the past to know how frustrating they can be. For me, it’s important to have a clear agenda, so everyone understands the purpose of the meeting. And to show leadership skills; to know when to direct the meeting, and when to get input for those who don’t naturally speak up. Emotional intelligence is critical, and you can positively affect the whole dynamic of a meeting.
I then may attend a series of meetings with senior management and key internal stakeholders, such as the project sponsor, to update them on the status of the project and escalate issues I cannot resolve.
Or I might have to prioritise holding an ad hoc workshop to resolve a pressing/high priority problem (and no matter how well managed your project is, all projects are likely to encounter an unexpected problem at some stage). For this, I’ll get my team and our supply-chain delivery teams to work together collaboratively to develop solutions and eventually agree on one to resolve the issue.
In the afternoon, I’m likely to make a site visit to one of the many construction sites involved in my projects to check progress of the works. It always feels good to get out of the office, and see what’s happening on the ground. I’ll be looking to make sure the quality of the works is being maintained as well as do a safety and environmental inspection to check the works are being undertaken safely and sustainably.
My day ends with a train journey home where I catch up on the plethora of emails that I’ve been sent through the day. I get so much out of my job that it feels good to keep on top of things. There’s nothing like the feeling of successfully delivering a project that’s going to make people’s lives better, and that’s always a great motivation.