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Skills/Traning required to be a project manager
11

Skills/Traning required to be a project manager

Skills/Traning required to be a project manager

(OP)
My background is as follows: -

Apprenticeship in Mechanical Engineering
BEng in Mechanical Engineering with Business Management
PhD in Mechattronic design in orthopaedic medicine
One and half years experience in overseeing the development of an injection moulded disposable medical device for use in the human eye.

I coordinated the entire project for the disposable medical devise, but have no training in project management. Consequently I am concerned that my skills are not sufficient to be a project manager.

Please can anyone advise me as to what skills and training are required before an Engineer can advertise as a project manager.

RE: Skills/Traning required to be a project manager

Here is my personnal experience :

BEng in Mechanical Engineering
Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering

2.5 years experience as consultant in Mechanical Engineering at various places/companies. For a few months, I am PM in automotive industry.

I admit I had a few classes of project management, but to tell the truth I really think you learn most of it by practice. Hopefully you will have people doing the same job as you in your company that may share their experience and help you.

Cyril Guichard
Mechanical Engineer Consultant
France

RE: Skills/Traning required to be a project manager

RMech,

Unfortunately the title Project Manager has been so generalized that any number of skills and fields are covered.  I’ve got an accountant friend that happens to be a project manager with in his bank as he is managing new credit card advertising.

So you see a PM title is somewhat nebulous………

If your thinking PM in say engineering design or construction, I can offer the following suggestions:  visit PMI’s website for project management training:

http://www.pmi.org/info/default.asp

if this is not possible/practical you should look to your peers and see how they are managing their projects.

For general advise:  Learn to listen to your client, delegate your work clearly and concisely to your co-workers and subordinates and document, document, document….

Mostly have fun with it, try not to lose too much sleep over it, it’s just a job……..

jjf

RE: Skills/Traning required to be a project manager

3
To follow up on jjf’s advice…

Follow up on the assignments and delegation given to subordinates. Don’t wait for the work to be due and then discover that they misunderstood the basic direction or were having trouble with the assignment.

Talk to them and follow up not only right after the assignment is given or just before it is due but during the process, keep your people on track.

The trick to managing technical people is to get them to stop playing with their design and getting it out the door. Most engineers will, if allowed, optimize their designs to the nth degree. Have something else shiny and interesting to get them to finish with one stage and to get started on the next.

The balancing wire act is to keep on top if what they are doing without suffocating them. Different people will tolerate different amounts of supervision so get to know your people and manage them with the least amount of supervision that is effective.

Rick Kitson MBA P.Eng

Construction Project Management
From conception to completion
www.kitsonengineering.com

RE: Skills/Traning required to be a project manager

Try to get familiar with some of the useful tools that help in PM.  As jif1 indicates PMI is a starting point and provides certification in Project Management.  If you do not have training or familiarity with PM software, try some courses.  If your company does not use PM software, it might be a good thing to obtain.  There are also numerous books available on the subject as well.

I know of no restrictions against "advertising" yourself as a project manager even now.  It as you point out, that you have not run enough projects to be comfortable/confident in representing yourself as such.  If you are looking to market yourself as one, Get a couple more projects under your belt first with your current employer.

Regards,

RE: Skills/Traning required to be a project manager

Thanks jjf1, I didn't thought about the PMI link. Good site there. Did any of you attempt their exam? I'm thinking about it for a couple weeks.

Cyril Guichard
Mechanical Engineer Consultant
France

RE: Skills/Traning required to be a project manager

2
My background:

BS in ChemEng
MS in Engineering Management (after working for 10 years)
Employed at a program and construction management company where my primary function is PM services to clients

I've been able to distinguish two distinct sets of skills required to be a project manager - I'll call them "project" skills and "manager" skills:

Project skills are technically based.  These are the things that you can learn out of a book and often have software packages written to help you out.  Some are fairly basic and all PM's should be able create and maintain the associate reports for tracking purposes during a project:

- work breakdown structures
- cost control (budgets, commitments, forecasts, actuals)
- scheduling
- scope of work documents
- contracts

(Contracts are an exception since these are often reviewed and edited by lawyers but PM's should be able to help guide the lawyers since contracts ultimately determine possible courses of action available in the case of outside firms used on a project.)

Other project skills are fairly advanced and not needed for the majority of projects a PM is normally asked to manage:

- discounted cashflow analysis with expected NPV
- optimization or simulation modeling
- decision trees
- cost reports tracking project spending by tax type (real property vs. personal property for instance)
- cost performance index and schedule performance index graphs

Many of these advance project skills are used when trying to figure out what type/scope of project to undertake.  Most PM involvement occurs once this decision has already been made.

The other set of skills are the "manager" skills.  These are soft skills that can be read about in books but really aren't learned until you've had a few projects completed successfully and had a few that blew up on you.  (Not literally - just overran schedule, budget, etc.  An actual explosion would let you learn other skills like litigation support.)  This skill set continues to refine and improve with each new project you take on.  RDK's advice on managing a team falls into this category and that "balancing wire" is something that changes with each new team and each new project.  Other types of skills that fall here:

- motivation
- leadership
- influencing people without authority
- team building
- comminucation (this is a HUGE one)

A successful project manager needs elements of both skill sets - either one without the other ultimately doesn't work.  I've seen far too many people that are great at working through schedule logic and managing activity durations but never communicate with the team so the schedule is meaningless.

As far as the PMI test to become a CPM (certified project manager), I've looked into it and had associates take it.  From what I can see, it looks like something any experienced PM should be able to handle assuming they understand PMI's terminology.  Be sure to look at the requirements for certification too - it's not just a test.  You have to have experience as a PM just as someone taking the PE test needs to have documented engineering experience.

Good luck as you sort through things.  I've found project management very rewarding and also very challenging.  It forces me to draw on my technical experience in engineering and PM while also using those "soft" skills that many of us engineers are thought not to have... wink

RE: Skills/Traning required to be a project manager

Read the books, "The Rules of Work" and "The Rules of Management" by Richard Templar. They get at the heart of just what it means to work for someone, to manage people who work for you, and where the worker and manager fit in to it all.

RE: Skills/Traning required to be a project manager

4
Don't worry about the"project management skills". Learn as much as you can about the process, not just design, but production. Go to the floor see it done and meet the guys that do it. Not just once, but a lot, until you understand it. Talk to the shop foremen and plant mangers. Go visit the client. See it being used. Talk to the professionals who are ordering it. Everyone will tell you that you don't have time for that or that other people do that. They are wrong. If you don't understand the product and the process, you will never truly manage it.

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