- Strategic Advisor
"Don't see yourself as a "woman" in the project management industry. See yourself as a professional that is equipped to deliver projects that meet stakeholders expectations"
A couple of years ago, I was interviewed at an organization for the job of a project manager. The organization needed an experienced project manager to drive the implementation of a large-scale community development project. Before applying for this role, I had over six years of experience in managing similar projects and was quite confident I would get the role without any difficulties.
I was interviewed by an all-male panel and as expected, I was asked several questions to ascertain the details on my Resume. However, members of the panel seemed curious to know if my being a "woman" would get in the way of meeting the frequent traveling and other requirements of the project. I was told that a female project manager led the execution of a similar project that failed. It sounded like the project failed just because she was a woman. I responded to their concerns to the best of my ability.
I eventually got the job and was determined to demonstrate that gender does not contribute to project success, competence does.
I made inquiries about the failed project and reviewed the lessons learned. I found out that the project did not have the buy-in of the project stakeholders. Beneficiaries of the project also had some cultural reservations about the project. Thus, they sabotaged various aspects of the project leading to a surge in project cost and an extended schedule. When the project was eventually delivered, it was abandoned by members of the community.Based on my findings, I realized that I had to do things differently. I played the role of a change manager and actively identified, analyzed, and managed resistance.I also focused on raising awareness of the need for the project and showed the end-users and other members of the community what they stood to gain on the successful completion of the project.I identified project champions in the community and ensured I got their buy-in. I also had sessions with them to ensure that they understood their role and the need for the project to succeed.I ensured timely and effective communication of progress and issues. This made all parties aware of the challenges faced and I realized that trust was built in the process.As expected, I coordinated various aspects of the project, but also keenly ensured that risks were properly identified and planned for.I adjusted my personal schulede to reflect the huge requirements of the project.The project was successfully completed and more importantly, benefits were derived from the project.
1) Gender does not contribute to project success; the competence of the project manager does. So, as a woman, it is not enough to see yourself as someone trying to thrive in a male-dominated industry. See yourself as a professional that is equipped to deliver projects that meet stakeholders' expectations.2) As the nature of projects evolve, having change management skills gives the project manager a competitive advantage. Change management equips a project manager with the relevant knowledge, skills, tools and techniques needed to manage the people side of change, and not all projects can afford to have both a project manager and a change manager.
3) The quality of stakeholder engagement and communication can make or break any project. Even the experienced project managers are at risk of project failure if they take these aspects for granted.