Case study

Project manager — David Smith

David reflects on the importance of being proactive to solve problems and overcome challenges

How did you get your job?

While at university, I made a point of getting as much work and voluntary experience as possible to gain a taste of different careers. My first role was working for a change and transformation business, which was demanding but taught me how to think commercially and appreciate the customer experience. I enjoyed it but was drawn towards IT as an exciting sector.

I used my skills from university and work experience placements to successfully apply for my current role.

I don't use the subject knowledge from my law degree but have found that many principles of law have carried over into almost every line of my work.

What's a typical working day like?

I start my day by catching up with team members to monitor progression on each project. I'll then focus on any challenges. As project manager I need to solve problems before a customer raises them. I stay in regular communication with customers to clarify requirements, answer questions or demonstrate progress.

I am also responsible for a range of long-term reporting to senior management and externally to key customers. This can be demanding as focus inevitably falls on the challenges, but this makes me proactive in using my problem solving skills to address them.

What do you enjoy about your job?

The entire team is fantastic. I consider myself lucky to work for an outstanding senior management team. Working with the latest technology to solve real-world challenges is always fun. I love working with customers to understand their problem, map the solution and see that through to completion.

What are the most challenging parts?

As a project manager I am ultimately accountable for removing obstacles, so I need good problem-solving skills. It's also important to manage stakeholders, who can be demanding. Customers often don't see the issues my team have to overcome to achieve a solution - they just want to know it meets their requirements.

How has your role developed?

As my company has grown, the size and scale of the projects that I manage has increased. This has meant taking on ever-increasing responsibilities requiring more effective time management. I am also working in new sectors, which is a great learning exercise.

What are your career ambitions?

I would like to get involved in programme management and contribute to the company's strategic and commercial decisions.

What advice would you give to others?

Take an interest in projects that are happening around you and look at how you can get involved. Colleges and schools have a range of projects ranging from being a student rep, playing for a sports team, or working and volunteering outside of class.

Use opportunities around you to develop your organisational, planning and time-management skills as these abilities are the keys to success in project management.

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