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Back Issue 2, 2018

Roses in Project Management

In this special issue focusing on women in project management, we invited more than 30 women project managers at home and abroad to share their life and career experience. ...


The 2nd issue of Project Management Watch (PMW) is a special issue focusing on women in project management. Welcome to the third season of "Steel Roses" in project management. In this issue, we invited more than 30 women project managers at home and abroad to share their life and career experience. Are you eager to know why they choose this profeesion and climb the career ladder? How they balance life and career? How they deal with challenges in work and what are their life lessons? This issue of PMW covers all the above topics. 

Project Management Watch (PMW), as a “soul station” for project managers, is a platform to share their reflections, emotions, insights and doubts. As a practical, instrumental, readable and interesting magazine, PMW strives to help project managers upgrade their competence and plan their career roadmap through relaxing reading. 

The following is a selection of two articles from this issue. 

Women Can Make a Difference in PM 
By Ewa Serwa
Start without Knowing 

I have been dealing with projects for over 12 years. Nevertheless for most of the time I was not aware that I was performing the role of a project manager and even a program manager. It all started in 2006 when I took over the role of financial management specialist in a public sector. The projects I led were under the direction of European Union Commission. All of these projects were a huge challenge to me. Today I know I learned how to manage projects without even knowing the standard project management methods. At that time actually I was not aware such things existed. Starting from financial management specialist through senior project specialist and finally program manager, I got to know the best practices, proper names and gained extraordinary experience in project management field. This made me feel that I love such profession and that the game has only just started for me. Being a project manager seemed exactly what I wanted to do in my life.

To improve my project management knowledge I studied and graduated from Project Management University, I took part in various project management courses and I am certified in Prince, ITIL, PM User Experience and Professional Product Owner. What is more, I am going to pass PMP exam. Constant development in this area helped me to take on new opportunities such as new positions in different industries (IT, Bank Sector, NGO’s and Health and Government Sector). 

Additionally, I am proud to have been involved in Project Management Institute Poland Chapter (PMI PC). My journey with PMI PC started in 2014 from the volunteer position supporting many projects and events such as conferences, seminars, workshops and other initiatives related to project management. My engagement was appreciated with offering me the role of Project’s Director in one of Polish branches of PMI PC. Since 2017 I am the Board Member of PMI PC responsible for Regional Development. 

I am passionate about projects, building connections, making relationships, networking, sharing best practices and professional development. I love sharing my project management knowledge and at the same time learning from other wonderful people in this area. But I must admit that pursuing the career path of a project manager was not an easy ride. I have faced many challenging situations which helped me to identify my strengths and weaknesses. I realized which of my values can contribute to the role of a project manager. 

Women and Project Management

Due to the growing need for diversity and overall high expectations to manage projects with collaborative approach and teamwork style, women will become a vital part of project management community. The way how women work shows us how important meeting style, team development, motivation of people, dealing with complexity and multi-tasking should be. The contemporary business requires managing relationships and trust. A lot of these skills make women great project managers who can make a difference within marketplace. On top of that, being a woman project manager is still not that common. Due to lack of confidence, many women dare not to apply for the role of the project manager. 
I have to stress that women often create so-called “glass ceiling” which is an invisible blocker existing in our conscience. It keeps qualified woman away from being promoted and achieving goals. Sometimes there are obstacles in working environment which cause such limitations. It seems that some organizations haven’t recognized the gender gap and do not offer enough support to encourage women to take on new challenges.

In my opinion, all the women in any country in the world performing any role and having any experience level deserve an opportunity to be very good project managers. I strongly believe they are able to elevate their positions and will have a huge impact on the project management field. I myself know many women who are proven leaders and great qualified project managers. They are living proof that regardless of who they are or the challenges they face in projects, they have their projects well done. 

On the other hand, I have to mention that men and women have different management styles when it comes to managing projects and managing projects team. Sometimes men can be more authoritative while women work through coaching and soft style. By saying that, I am convinced that both genders can learn from each other. Knowing your good and bad behaviors is crucial to deliver the best management style and to be more flexible and able to adjust to different situations. 

The key skills of women project managers I appreciate are:

Excellent communication – women have great social skills. They like to talk to people and have regular conversations with the project team or stakeholders. Having good communication skills is desired and helps to avoid many communication problems. Women are willing to discuss openly how to be up-to-date with projects facts. Communication is the core of project management. Almost all of the reports show that the main reason of project’s failure is miscommunication. Excellent communication is a base to connecting all parts of a project together.

Motivating team – a motivated team is more likely to deliver successful outcomes. Women can build a particular environment based on trust and honest feedback

Empathy – women have deep needs to maintain good people relations. Relationships, networking and partnership are their key to success. Women take efforts to truly understand the other person. 

Organizational skills – women take care of details and make what seems to be complex simple. Their multitasking abilities give them advantage in project management fields.

Female project managers are different from male project managers. For me, the most important is diversity! We ought to learn from each other and benefit from mutual cooperation. The key to success is to turn those differences into strengths. 

Balance between Work and Life

Very often women struggle between career and family. In fast-changing environment, women have too much on their shoulders, which is not very healthy for them. Balance between work and family is important and hard especially for working moms. The right arrangement is different for every mother. Companies should support flexible work hours to make it easier for women to juggle career and family in a way that it helps them to feel fulfilled and organized.

The world has been changing a lot and people have been changing as well. Nowadays women have an important part to play. They are more and more represented in all branches of professional life. Women’s presence in the project management world is growing and I hope that this trend will keep rising because project management field is still male-dominated.  

Being aware of this I have decided to open a program for women in Poland which will help to actively promote quality education for women interested in project management. Women in Project Management is a new initiative of the PMI Poland Chapter aimed at women who are involved in business, project management and team building. PMI PC would like to create a space where they can enhance their competences and skills. We are building the community of women which constitute an extensive network where they can introduce their ideas and discuss their roles and challenges in project management.

Bio of Ewa Serwa:

Certified Project & Portfolio Manager. Board member of Project Management Institute Poland Chapter, responsible for Regional Development. She is creative and full of various ideas, able to spot a potential in each person and situation. As a leader and mentor in projects and programs, she has vast experience in various industries such as finance, IT and government sector. 

The Lucky Project Manager

By Marisa Silva

People often ask me why I call myself “The Lucky Project Manager”. There are, of course, different ways to answer it, yet, the simplest would be “how could I not?”. I’m a passionate, high performing, results-oriented and people-driven PMO professional and trainer trying to succeed in my biggest project: life itself. In fact, I have been lucky in my profession for a number of reasons and today I’m lucky enough to be sharing them with you.

Firstly, I’m lucky to work in an amazing profession – project management. As an industry, project management is an industry in exponential growth and of critical importance for the global economy. After all, projects are a prevalent form of organizing work and getting things done and the world has now become a projectified place to live in, with new projects being conceived and delivered every day, from major infrastructure initiatives spanning international collaboration to smaller transformation projects that drive our organisations forward. To work in project management is to make a valuable contribution and to build the future, one project at a time. Projects help organisations to create and move to a new desired state but doing it with predictability and in a consistent way, which enables them to achieve their full business potential and deliver projects on-time, on-budget and on-scope and aligned with their core strategy resulting in a positive business impact and a lasting legacy. 

Also, from the economic perspective, project-oriented industries are in a leading position to improve a country’s productivity, with a recent report from the Project Management Institute (PMI), suggesting that GDP contributions from project-oriented industries forecast for 2027 amounts to US$20.2 trillion. Likewise, according to PMI’s ‘Project Management Job Growth and Talent Gap Report 2017-2027’, there is an increasing demand for skilled project professionals, which create an extraordinarily positive outlook for new talent entering the industry. Indeed, PMI anticipates that by 2027, employers will need 87.7 million individuals working in project management-oriented roles. Thus, to be at the forefront of such a future-oriented profession is not just fascinating but also very rewarding. How not to enjoy an exciting and dynamic environment where you can learn something new every day and contribute to a bigger purpose at the same time?

Secondly, by working in project management, you are exposed to so many different stimuli and experiences and meet and lead so many extraordinary people. No project is the same and I have been very lucky so far to have worked with talented individuals who shared the same mindset. Sometimes we tend to forget the important role that luck plays in our lives. Having been mentored at the beginning of my career, nowadays I’m trying to give back to the community by returning the favour and, in addition to my day-to-day Project Portfolio Management (PPM) and Project Management Office (PMO) consultant role, I’m involved with a couple of volunteer organisations in the project management space, such as the Association for Project Management (APM), Project Managers Without Borders (PMWB) or Project Managers Against Poverty (PMAP). Non-governmental organisations are usually in much need for better project management practices that could allow them to make a more efficient use of their scarce resources, hence, I’m proud to be able to assist with my skills to make the world a better place. One project at a time.

This gets me to the third point why I call myself a lucky project manager. I do it because I don’t believe in good project managers. As the saying goes, “there are no good project managers, only lucky ones; the more you plan, the luckier you get.” While this is a funny quote, there is some truth to it. You career is what you make out of it and, while luck is important, hard work, commitment and persistence, are fundamental ingredients that you should not neglect. Knowing where you want to be, how you want to be perceived, and, more importantly, what your values and principles are can make the difference between a career built by accident and a career where you are on top of your game.

Since we are approaching Women’s Day, it’s also worth noting that I’ve never felt prejudice based on my gender, but I appreciate that there is a lot of work to do in that area and that others may be experiencing challenges. To my fellow women colleagues, either trying to stand out as project management practitioners or with an interest in joining this industry, I invite you to dare to be different and exceptional in what you do. Women are naturally positioned to be high-performing project leaders – we have the multi-tasking, empathy, communication, and influencing skills, all the necessary elements that make great professionals. So, let’s do it. Make no mistake, woman or man, young or old, in the West or in the East: each of us can be the change we want to see in the world. Our projects are our future. Let’s make it a good one.

Short Bio
Marisa Silva is an experienced certified PMO and PPM consultant, trainer, and speaker, with a track record of building capabilities in complex organizations undergoing transformational change. A passionate advocate of the value of PMOs and project management, she is Secretary of the APM PMO SIG, a Senior Consultant at Wellingtone, and Programs Director at Project Managers Without Borders. Marisa is the author of “Bedtime Stories for Project Managers” and the founder of in2PMO, a specialist PMO and business transformation consultancy firm dedicated to help organizations deliver impactful and sustainable business value from their PMOs, projects and programs.

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