Showing posts with label women in project management. Show all posts
Showing posts with label women in project management. Show all posts

Interview with Valerie Thorn

I have always believed that Project Managers given their interest in running a business can do it really well.

Today’s interview is with Valerie Thorn BSc, FRSA- CEO and founder of AND Technology Research Ltd (UK) who personally has a 30 year practical experience in software and embedded engineering runs a company successfully. 

That’s not all, she started her business when she was only 25! 

Keep reading for inspiration, lessons learnt and what you should know if you are planning your own business.

Hi Valerie, please tell us something about your organization and how you started it.
We are AND Technology Research Ltd, a small private company – currently 10 staff situated in a small village between London and Cambridge in the UK. I started the company in 1980 when I was 25. I saw great potential in the use of distributed computing power within businesses, for communications and control. I began with some funding of my own and practical support of my parents and sister.

Since you have been managing a company and also running projects, which do you think is more challenging and why?
Running the company is in some ways just the same as running a project so both are challenging; however there are some differences Projects have an intensity and significant time pressures. For instance if you don’t start a project on time, then you shouldn’t be surprised if you don’t finish on time; running a company in which you have a long term interest does not normally suffer from this sort of intensity. However overall I would say that the number of variables and the effects that your decisions have on people’s lives makes running a company more challenging.

How important are mistakes in trying to run a company?
If you don’t make mistakes then you don’t learn, what’s most important is how you deal them. The main thing to remember is that mistakes have to be managed or corrected for the best interest of the company, not for the best interest of the manager/owner. Personal conflict can inevitably occur but handling the conflict should add to the learning. So mistakes are important, you have to learn to recognise when mistakes occur, accept them, deal with them and not get hung up on them.

Do you think a good project manager can also be successful business person?
Yes I do, in fact they can make excellent business people, but they have to be able to cope with uncertainty. Project managers have to engage with a variety of project stakeholders and manipulate resources and time to make to project work. A good business person needs to be able to do this; however business people also need generally to cope with uncertain situations where either the resources or the time are just not as they would like them to be. They have to be a little more creative and inventive and be prepared to take the responsibility for risk.

Three important qualities that both project managers and entrepreneurs should have?
  • Vision and focus for what is to be achieved.
  • Organisational skills which allow them to stay focused but include enough flexibility to accommodate change
  • Ability to inspire others and to carry the message of the vision forward.
One thing you wish you knew when you started out.
The importance of the supply chain to a business. By this I mean, not just where your market is but how to navigate supply chains within the market in order to maximise business potential.

So, when organizations like you hire newbies- what are you looking for?
People who, given a necessary skill level, then demonstrate the potential to learn and to adapt to change, plus an ability to laugh.

Valerie is also an active participant in a number of creative and electronic industry organisations. Her career has involved creating digital and electronics based solutions for consumer, industrial and telecommunications products. AND has received numerous awards for innovation over its 30 year life-span and Valerie’s achievements in small business management have also been recognised. Valerie’s expertise lies in embedded software and the role played by software as Intellectual Property. She is engaged in research into technology management and innovation. 

To know more about AND visit their website here.

(Pic Courtesy: Valerie Thorn)

Interview with Elizabeth Harrin

She got me started on project management and is one of my favorite person who inspires me everyday. She is a great person to talk to, email for some advise and meeting her last year in person was the best thing ever- meet Elizabeth Harrin.

Her second book  is out and she is providing a free course, if you want to ramp up on your social media skills today.
Enjoy the interview.

Elizabeth, congratulations on your new book! Tell us something about your book and why did you choose to write something so specifically about project management and social media?

I’m part of PMI’s New Media Council and at the Congress in Orlando last year we did a presentation on the uses of social media for project teams.  It was amazingly well attended and people were standing up at the back as the room was so busy.  There were other presentations at Congress on new technologies that also had their rooms packed out.  It made me realize that there was an appetite amongst the project management community to learn about how we can embrace new technology and specifically social media to help with the way we manage project teams.  There are lots of books written about how to use social media for marketing and communication with customers, but nothing about how to use it behind the firewall for collaboration and communication between colleagues.  That’s the gap I was trying to fill.

I know you are an advanced user of social media, however how much of it do you use in ongoing projects and how?

I use Twitter and LinkedIn for personal development and information seeking, to stay in touch with relevant people, and to keep abreast of industry developments.  My blog allows me to connect with industry colleagues and other project managers.  I use Highrise as a contact management system - it's not 'pure' social media, but it includes several social media-y features like tags and as it is cloud-based it is good for multiple people keeping the same records up to date.  We also use wikis for keeping track of project

I am personally inspired by simply observing how much you are doing everyday- the book, the Otobos Group (your company), the job - how do you manage to keep everything together? Do you plan on a regular basis or yearly? Do you make a list of things you want to do and achieve every New Year and follow the plan or is it more instinctive?

I have two jobs and a life!  

I’m Head of IT Programme Delivery for a UK healthcare company, and I run my own company, a business writing practice that supplies content to websites.  We do other writing-related things too; recently I wrote a project management case study for a professor to use in her university classes, for example.  

Do I plan?  Well, as a project manager I should say yes, but it is a pretty flexible plan.  I’ve been blogging for nearly 5 years and this is the first year I have drawn up an editorial calendar.  I have a spreadsheet with a tab per month and in each month I note what I want to publish when, notes for the following month and so on.  So I can tell you that I have already started thinking about what A Girl’s Guide to Project Management will be doing for its 5th birthday in January!  I do regularly review what I would like to achieve, but new opportunities come along all the time and the plan gets reworked.  For example, Social Media for Project Managers is officially launched on 11 October, and I wanted to do something alongside that, so I wrote a course which you can get as a series of emails or as a short e-book.  That needed to be done in time for the launch of Social Media for Project Managers, but I have more flexibility with other deadlines.

In terms of fitting it all in, I believe that people make time for things that they love.  I love my healthcare job and I love writing.  It’s all about prioritizing your time.  I still have enough hours in the day to fit in the rest of my life, family, hobbies.  We waste a lot of time not doing the right things.

Tell us about a day in the life of Elizabeth Harrin.

OK, I’ll pick today.  I got up, checked my emails, and responded to a client who is enquiring about some website content for his site.  I left for the office, and read a bit more of The Get-it-Done Guy’s 9 Steps to Work Less and Do More, which is the book I’m currently reviewing.  I picked up a coffee on the way, and got to my desk about 8.45am.  

The office day comprises of project planning, financial management and budgets, a team meeting, prep for a meeting next week, following up on outstanding tasks, catching up on emails, reviewing documentation and speaking to suppliers.  I left the office after 5pm and head home, reading a daily paper on the journey.  
Once I’m at home, I reviewed personal and Otobos Group emails that I received through the day.  Many of the Otobos Group’s clients are in the U.S. so they are still at work by the time I get to their messages.  I do a bit of writing or office admin, catching up with sources for articles, talking to editors or editing video content.  Dinner, more work, an episode of CSI and bed!  Like many people who run their own business, I work long hours, but I love what I do so I don’t notice it until someone like you asks.

Did you always envision being who you are today as a child? What did you want to be then and what do you think changed you goal?

I never grew up thinking I would be a project manager.  Who knew what one of those was?  I wanted to be an ambulance driver.  My goal was changed when I realized I could join the ambulance service straight out of school and I really wanted to go to university first.  At university it changed again.

What inspires you?

What a difficult question!  I like learning, so I’m inspired by new things.  And snow.  I do like a good snowy landscape.

Do you have a new list coming up for New Year?

I expect I will re-work an old list and see how well I have done.  As I said, next year is A Girl’s Guide to Project Management’s 5th birthday, and the 5th year that Project Management in the Real World has been on the shelves, so I think I’ll be doing something around that.

Thank you for your time Elizabeth, always wonderful to have you here.

Thanks for having me!

To read her award winning blog click here and to see more on what she is working, visit her shop.  

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

Why is there a lack of female PM's?

It has always been discussed why there is a shortage of women in certain industries, more so in project management .

Of course most interviews I have read about have more than often say- its true but I have been very lucky and haven’t encountered it personally. Sure- because those few chosen women are lucky, so you interviewed them in the first place.

This is always not perhaps true with 60 million working women (in America alone), it’s strange why women are not seen in lead roles. The Glass ceiling report found 95-97% senior managers of the Fortune 1000 Industrial and Fortune 500 were male.

Factors that you cant avoid and women in the work force encounter everyday:

Pay Gap

•Glass ceiling effect- During 1991 to 1996 the Glass Ceiling Commission studied how the barriers applied to women and minorities for real.

•The discrimination against women at the workplace result in a lack of career progress, inappropriate job assignment and training opportunities available for women. The discrimination is not only against women but race comes in most cases. Though most women face the glass ceiling, how it effects women depends on the race as well.

•It’s well known that trying to balance work and home is always a women’s job and the difficulties of combining work and family are obvious in most women’s life.

Low level of motivation, self-confidence, and career aspiration are also considered as reasons why women don’t get to the top of the ladder.

So, to get over the hindrances, there is a Genderless possibility of new leaders who should possess the following traits:

• Speaking and Paradoxical ways–these leaders are consistently tough and empathic, flexible and orderly, patient and timely, diplomatic and candid, competitive and collaborative.

• Community builders-promote interactive leadership; create a strategy to bring people together, believing that an organization without weaving unravels into dysfunction. These leaders believe power is to be shared. It is power within-not power over.

• Holistic thinkers-are adept at building trust, and understand it to be a key element for creating a productive and creative culture. They see beyond the obvious and connect the dots between important issues.

• Relational intelligence-they hold themselves and others to high ethical standards, and believe the integrity of relationship is paramount. Third possibility leaders demonstrate relational intelligence by being sensitive to context, expert at clarifying issues, but willing to be confrontational and compassionate as necessary.

I know it all sounds so serious, I am just glad I live today, in this age- were at Least I have a fair share of chance to come extent. The glass ceiling still exists but when someone at least tries to break it, you know, I know- we women know there’s new hope and a chance for all of us there.

So, thank you to all women and men you there, who have made our job easy and paved the way for us and shared the responsibilities at work and home to create a happier space, so that we can do our job and ask for a raise.