Lesson Learnt (essentials of PM) - Stress and Time Management

My work week has been extremely stressful and I feel completely burnt out. I have started realizing this craziness has led me to deviate away from myself- the inner me. I have been functioning in an automated mode in creating the work list, getting work done, write reports, document change requests, email clients, fret over problems  and coming back home so late that I almost never have time for myself anymore. 

I wanted some rest (for the sake of my over alert mind) and really felt I had to slow down. I needed creativity and free thinking back in my life. 

I decided to fight out the stress- I read somewhere that challenging your mind and your self brings back creativity. I didn’t want to do Sudoku for sure, my mind was already over functioning and I had to slow it down and relax. I gave my bedroom a makeover, not new stuff, just re-arrange the furniture so it makes me feel different- feel new. I shifted my study table nearer to the window, I wanted some open air and the view of the long stretch of trees, blue sky, natural light and the birds chirping. I changed what was constant in my everyday routine. I will even be lazy today and read what I want to read, listen to some good music, catch up on movies and eliminate too much surfing on the net, tweeting, IM and try to keep my mind as free as possible. 

I always go in for a haircut when I want or feel I am ready for a personal change. Don’t ask me why, I really don’t know but it sure does pick me up. I tried the hair -cut thing but it didn’t transfer the instant pick me up feel this time. Either I was too stressed out or the bad haircut at this really expensive place made it worse.  

So, I found this great new blog  and I started reading it first thing in the morning. Sometimes, hearing or reading positive things you -already- know helps. It re-affirms your belief and soothes you over. Reading some random writings on how you can be happy was relaxing. Happiness is expensive.

I finally get this collection of everyday inspiring thoughts in a spiral bound format which I keep in my cubicle; I flip through it and read a new one the moment I feel I am starting to fret. I like what it says and it calms me down. 

So, I decide to talk it out with the System Administrator. He’s a great guy, insightful, calm, pleasant, non- judgmental and his casual, smiling, shuffled hair look makes him very approachable. We talk quite often; from discussing new ideas to “suggest me how I can focus more” and “how much do you think I’ve improved in the last 6 months”. It’s not about how insightful he is, I think simply talking about some random subject breaks the routine and brings in freshness and gets me in touch with myself that I sometimes miss. 

I think there are 2 major lessons learnt from what’s been going on - stress & time management are two essential things that you have to know to become a Project Manager. You can’t be out of touch with yourself and everyday should be a learning experience for tomorrow. After all Project Manager’s aren’t perfect, how they handle imperfection is as close as it gets in trying to be perfect!

As Raven (Young) mentioned- "Project management is more than a full-time battle...and half the battle is finding ways NOT to let the field take over your life."

(Picture : Google Images)

Interview Questions for the to- be PM

This gets interesting, we have talked about how you can pave your way to getting into the coveted profession but here are some questions that you might face to get the JOB as a PM! 

1. How do you handle non-productive team members? 
2. How do you motivate team members who are burned out, or bored? 
3. How do you handle team members who come to you with their personal problems? 
4. What are your career goals? How do you see this job affecting your goals? 
5. Explain how you operate interdepartmentally. 
6. Tell me how you would react to a situation where there was more than one way to accomplish the same task, and there were very strong feelings by others on each position. 
7. Consider that you are in a diverse environment, out of your comfort zone. How would you rate your situational leadership style? 
8. Give me an example of your leadership involvement where teamwork played an important role. 
9. Tell me about a situation where your loyalty was challenged. What did you do? Why? 
10. In what types of situations is it best to abandon loyalty to your manager? 
11. In today’s business environment, when is loyalty to your manager particularly important? 
12. Why are you interested in this position? 
13. Describe what you think it would be like to do this job every day. 
14. What do you believe qualifies you for this position? 
15. What have you learned from your failures? 
16. Of your previous jobs, which one did you enjoy the most? What did you like the most/least? Why? What was your major accomplishment? What was your biggest frustration? 
17. Tell me about special projects or training you have had that would be relevant to this job. 
18. What are some things that you would not like your job to include? 
19. What are your current work plans? Why are you thinking about leaving your present job? 
20. Describe an ideal job for you. 
21. What would you do if you found out that a contractor was in a conflict of interest situation? 
22. If I were to contact your former employee, what would he say about your decision-making abilities?
23. Give me an example of a win-win situation you have negotiated. 
24. Tell me about your verbal and written communication ability. How well do you represent yourself to others? What makes you think so? 
25. Give me an example of a stressful situation you have been in. How well did you handle it? If you had to do it over again, would you do it differently? How do you deal with stress, pressure, and unreasonable demands? 
26. Tell me about a tough decision you had to make? 
27. Describe what you did at your work place yesterday. 
28. How would you solve the following technical problem? (Describe a typical scenario that could occur in the new position.) 
29. What strengths did you bring to your last position? 
30. Describe how those contributions impacted results? 
31. What are the necessary steps to successful project management? 
32. How do you plan for a project? 
33. What is important to consider when planning a (your type of project)? 
34. What are things that you have found to be low priority when planning for (your type of project)? 
35. What distinguishes a project from routine operations? 
36. What are the three constraints on a project? 
37. What are the five control components of a project? 
38. What qualifications are required to be an effective project manager? 
39. What experience have you had in project management? 
40. Name five signs that indicate your project may fail. 
41. Tell us about a project in which you participated and your role in that project. 
42. When you are assigned a project, what steps do you take to complete the project? 
43. As you begin your assignment as a project manager, you quickly realise that the corporate sponsor for the project no longer supports the project. What will you do? 
44. Your three month project is about to exceed the projected budget after the first month. What steps will you take to address the potential cost overrun? 
45. Tell us about a successful project in which you participated and how you contributed to the success of that project. 
46. You are given the assignment of project manager and the team members have already been identified. To increase the effectiveness of your project team, what steps will you take? 
47. You have been assigned as the project manager for a team comprised of new employees just out of college and "entry-level" consulting staff. What steps can you take to insure that the project is completed against a very tight time deadline? 
48. What is a "project milestone"? 
49. What is "project float" 
50. Your project is beginning to exceed budget and to fall behind schedule due to almost daily user change orders and increasing conflicts in user requirements. How will you address the user issues? 
51. You’ve encountered a delay on an early phase of your project. What actions can you take to counter the delay? Which actions will have the most effect on the result? 
52. Describe what you did in a difficult project environment to get the job done on time and on budget.
53. What actions are required for successful executive sponsorship of a project? 
54. How did you get your last project? 
55. What were your specific responsibilities? 
56. What did you like about the project and dislike about the project? 
57. What did you learn from the project? 
58. Tell me about a time when you ran into any difficult situations. How did you handle them? 
59. Tell me about the types of interaction you had with other employees. 
60. Tell me of an accomplishment you are particularly proud of and what it entailed. 
61. Do you have people from your past consulting services who would provide a professional reference?
62. What other similar consulting or independent contractor services have you rendered? 
63. Discuss how you would envision working as an independent contractor or consultant for us. 
64. What conflicting responsibilities will you have? 
65. What would be your specific goals for this new role as a consultant or independent contractor? 
66. What experience do you have that you think will be helpful? 
67. This assignment will require a lot of [describe]. Will that be a problem for you? 
68. This assignment will require interacting with [describe the types of people]. What experience do you have working with such people? 
69. What would you like to get from this new assignment? 
70. What are two common but major obstacles for a project like this? What would you do in the face of these obstacles to keep your team on schedule?
71. What is project charter? What are the elements in a project charter?
72. Which document will you refere for future decisions?
73. How will you define scope? 
74. What is the output of scope definition process?
75. What is quality management? 
76. Do you inspect or plan for quality ?
77. What is EVM? how will you use it in managing projects?
78. What is a project? and what is program?
79. What are project selection methods?
80. Which tool would you use to define, manage and control projects?
81. What is risk management and how will you plan risk response?
82. What are outputs of project closure?
83. What are the methods used for project estimation?
84. What methods have you used for estimation?
85. How would you start a project?
86. If you were to deliver a project to a customer, and timely delivery depended upon a sub-supplier, how would you manage the supplier? What contractual agreements would you put in place?

Need more tips newbies, try this link.

What a blog can do for you?

Jan 22, 2009 | | 1 comments |
It can get you an invitation to the "International Congress for Project, Programme and Risk Management" at London

If you would like to know more click here.

Sounds to good to be true, few days back I got the inivitation and accepted it ofcourse. The initial email said that the blog was being read by  "lots of people who are reading it and liking it".

I'm thankful for the oppurtunity to Kate Winter from Perceptive PR and it's my first Project Management
 seminar. It actually got me  nervous (I still am). With a few more days to get my visa and manage everything else, I hope I can be there.

It's happening on the 10 and 11 of February and I get to meet Elizabeth Harrin!

Want an inivitation, start your blog. 

On a serious note, it opens new doors for you, something you can only dream of. If it's happening to me, it can happen to you .

(Picture: The BPUG congress Brochure and Me)

Why Blog?

Jan 20, 2009 | | 0 comments |
If you have noticed, I have added a new section “Why Blog”? 

Blogging is emerging as the most popular and powerful tools to communicate and network among fellow professionals. Little did I know before starting, so I want more and more of you to have access to the information that I did not. 

Check out the links and who knows yours might be the next big blog!

(Picture: Google Images)

Advantages of working in a small company

To learn about projects, I firmly believe that working in a small company helps. You can always switch to the bigger one's after you have gained the right knowledge. Working in small companies comes with it's numerous added advantages.

Advantages of working in a small company are-
  • You get to see the entire project lifecycle upclose which is very important. Amidst few people, it's easier to learn (and grow).
  • You get to know every individuals work list  in the team and how it's handled.
  • You have (in most cases) direct access to the project manager- you volunteer to learn more
  • Easier access to information and knowledge from the team- you know everyone by their first names.
  • You are valued for your skill and chances are they're not a lot of people with the same skill set.
  • You have more creative freedom and you don't have to go through one layer after the other to get your ideas to work.
  • Greater exposure- to clients, to work- you name it!
  • Your have chances of your work getting noticed.
Most of it comes from my experince in working with a small company, while I would love to work for a Fortune 500 company , I think being here and doing what I do has  given me much more exposure that would have taken me perhaps years to get had I started with a bigger name. 

So, if you want to know more about Project Management and see it first hand before commiting and deciding to enroll in a degree/certification, getting into a small company might help.

Here are some other interesting articles that might get your attention- article 1 and article 2.

(Picture: Google Images)

Learning basics of database

Jan 12, 2009 | | 0 comments |
This year I will push the envelope a little more and I started it with learning database designing. 

I think having a good idea about the knowledge areas are required for a PM to be successful and understand and handle the project better. Since I work in IT- it was database time.

Things I did to learn database-
  • I told everyone that I was interested in learning about database.
  • The guy who handles databases the best (and a good friend) agrees to help me out.
  • So, he gives me a problem and I try thinking about it.
  • Next day- he explains me further and shows me how to start conceptualizing about it and excel is a great help. I implement the basics in a table format in excel- I get the basics correct.
  • I'm told to read Codds Law
  • I'm supposed to map out the relations among the tables- which I will get done today.
The bottomline is- if you are really determined in what you want make sure you learn as much as possible. No one said it would be easy, if you willing to learn it- work hard at it. So, whoever is helping you out is also encouraged by your genuine interest and learning pace.

(Picture: Google images)

5 New Goals for 2009

Jan 7, 2009 | | 0 comments |

It's New Year and I haven't posted yet.

There are five important changes this year-
  • I'm travelling public (on a try-it-out mode) and it's been ok.
  • Reading a book/week and learning something new everyday
  • Re-organizing and re-structuring my life to do a lot more. Finding out time saving tips and generally keeping myself happy. Being positive is important. 
  • Of course Projects- I'm handling projects under the supervision of the Senior Project Manager and I want to do a good job at it. New Year came loaded with more responsibilities which is something I'm happy about.
  • Getting fitter (Comes with public travelling, you tend to walk more and I keep time to medidate and exercise)
Since, I will be reading a lot this year I'm looking forward to post my 5 favorite links related to PM and Non- PM readings at the end of each month. 

To save some of your time, I decided to enable the "subscribe by email" feature. Now you don't have to visit my site to review the postings, it just gets delivered to you.

(Picture: flickr.com)