Interview with Susan de Sousa (My PM Expert)

Susan is dynamic and fun- see her portfolio here and you know she is way more than some boring project manager who does one project after another.

She has delivered complex high profile cutting edge projects and managed numerous large infrastructure and software development programs and projects successfully to budget and deadlines. She has also consulted in the UK, Europe, US and Dubai.

I interview Susan as she talks about how she got into project management and the willingness to achieve can be the driving force to pick up the phone and cold call to get the dream job. Wow!

How did you get into project management?

Well having been a derivatives trader, freelance journalist, freelance TV producer and entrepreneur (before 26) I landed up doing an HTML course. Not my idea of fun but by doing it I would be guaranteed a place on the Photoshop course. I was really clueless, but then the tutor mentioned how much you could earn for being able to code an HTML table in notepad, and I suddenly got very interested.

Of course it didn't take me long to realize that I was undoubtedly the world’s worst programmer, (I wasn't even sure how to turn the PC on!) And that if I wanted to succeed I would need to move into project management fast. So when I saw a PM contract advertised I went for it bagged the interview and landed the role at MTV. I've always been really delivery focused and up for a challenge so took to project management like a duck to water. And the rest as they would say is history!

In your span of being a project manager, has there been an incident where you wanted to give up project management?

On every single engagement usually in the first week when I discover just what a huge horror story I've walked into, and just how much work it will take to put it right and get it delivered. Sadly I'm really competitive and hate to lose so I don't do the smart thing and walk away. Instead I get stuck in and get it delivered on time and to the right quality. It's a bit like childbirth. After the event you only remember the great result, which is why you keep going back for more!

Tell us more about your site and why you started it?

As an Interim I move around a lot as my specialty is turning around high profile troubled programs and delivering the undeliverable. At each engagement I always need to quickly bring the project teams up to speed as well as ensure they begin delivering the way I want. As you can imagine it quickly gets boring having to say the same thing over and over again. So it occurred to me that setting up a project management website would deal with this, as well as allowing me to pass my "wisdom" onto others.

Plus I had a spare 30 minutes a day on the train each day commuting to work and instead of daydreaming this seemed a rather more productive use of time!

I’d like to know more about the programs have you managed?

Well I've done a lot, which makes me sound really old (and I'm only 21, really!). But I've delivered everything from Interactive TV for BBC, the IT Platform for the global launch of 3, the Hallmark HiYa cards globally, live TV to a mobile / cell phone for BSkyB (the first time done outside South Korea) and of course most recently the re launch of Euro Millions in the UK and creation of the Millionaire Raffle, amongst others. The latter is now taking an additional 9 figures in sales a year, but sadly no, I don’t get a percentage as my commission otherwise I'd be retired on a beach in Barbados.

Nor do I know the winning numbers in case you were wondering!

What do you think is the best way to get into project management?

I get asked this a lot. The reality is that project management has become a very sexy profession. It's also extremely lucrative and there is a huge demand for the top people who have the right experience.

As someone who likes going places fast, thinking about how I would get into the profession if I were starting out now, well it would be simple. I wouldn't bother with getting PM qualifications, I would simply approach people direct using LinkedIn. Yes it takes guts, but I’ve never been one to put my future in someone else's hands. I like to make things happen myself.

So when I wanted to become an investment banker I knew no-one in the profession and didn't have the right qualifications or experience. I sent out about 4,000 resumes in 6 months and cold called loads of people. I even offered to work for free and you know what? After 6 months I was in at a top investment bank as an equity derivatives trader. People were just so stunned at my chutzpah and passion for the role they were willing to overlook the fact I didn't fit their entry criteria.

So it can be done. One simply needs to be persistent and determined. So spend the time on the phone pitching yourself and less time gaining qualifications or hoping someone will notice you. Do that consistently over a period and time, remembering to sound totally confident and You’ll get into project management.

So since you are working in the project management , what keeps you coming back to the profession?

Oh yes. Each time I think I'm leaving it for good I get offered something really interesting which entices me back in!

You see I'm an interim project management troubleshooter. I get brought in to either turnaround troubled high profile programs or projects, or else to manage deliveries which are hugely complex but which must be delivered on time. I've recently just started an engagement as the Interim Project Director managing the global delivery of a new server based gaming platform as part of a recent JV between Scientific Games and Playtech. So I now have a large team of PM's in the US, UK and Estonia to manage and a delivery date which must be met. So no pressure!

Why do you think social media has become so popular with the Project Managers?

I'm not sure Face book and Twitter are that popular but really where would we be without LinkedIn? As an Interim I find it invaluable for serious networking.

Three things you wished you knew when you started out in your career.

1. Knowing how to manage expectations successfully

2. Knowing how to manage expectations successfully

3. Knowing how to manage expectations successfully

Susan- thank you for your time and the invaluable tips. You brought in something amazing here today-the focus, the determination and the fact that anyone willing to walk the extra mile can do it. You can find Susan, also in twitter here.

Want to have fun and learn more from real life Project Managers, check out