Advice for the New Project Manager

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The best and brightest of your staff are the ones who will carry a company far into the future, and every time you promote someone, that act resonates through the entire organization.

This is one such of the “million stories in the Big City” – a Junior PM job opened up, and we promoted a billable supervisor to an overhead PM position. The following is a first-hand story about that transition, and what we as senior staff and managers can do to help the folks going through a similar transition.

Meet Ken Geary, retired Marine, and newest PM on the TAPE block.

What was the biggest change going from being a supervisor to being a project manager?

“I would have to say the scope of management. I went from directly supervising a relatively small team of five individuals performing a task that I was intimately familiar with, to managing a much larger group of people through delegation and direct communication.

Also management is no longer my sole responsibility. I work to not only provide exceptional service to our customers but also focus on business development, seeking to grow our current contracts as well as procure new ones.

I see this as a general trend, where business development is less one person’s specific role, and more rolled into all program management roles.”

A year later, what would you tell yourself when you were about to start?

“Keep better notes and to-do lists. When I first started in the program management role, I was assuming I could continue to just remember everything I needed to do, as I did when managing a smaller team and wasn’t being pulled in so many directions.

Now that I’m often switching from one project to another, I’ve found that writing everything down helps me to ensure that I complete all of my tasks. I can quickly see the  current status and be reminded of the key points that are relevant when working with different contracts.”

What do you think are the most important traits of a good project manager?

“When I was in the Marine Corps we affectionately changed the slogan from semper fi (short for semper fidelis – Latin for “always faithful”) to semper gumby (“always flexible”) and I believe that holds true here.  

As a program manager many things fall into your scope of work and you need to be ready to switch gears instantly, manage multiple things, and perform those tasks – proposal writing, performance reviews, and anything that comes along in day-to-day program management.”

What are the biggest benefits to having a project manager in place?

“One of the major benefits of putting a program manager in place is to provide a single point of contact for any issues. This is something that benefits our employees as well as the government points of contact by delivering to provide accurate information effectively and directly.

I can work with them to solve a problem directly, or find the answers for them without them having to get passed around. I know when I call up to get answers or solutions it can be frustrating to get passed around from one person to another.”

Is there anything else you would tell a new project manager?

“Ensure that you are asking questions daily. There is a lot of information to learn and if you don’t ask when you have questions people will assume that you know and understand the information and tasks that have been delegated to you.

If you’re not sure about acronyms or other shop talk, say so. Don’t be scared to ask questions, you need to make sure you understand everything.”

So there you have it – Ken’s story, a year later. Without blowing up his ego too much, he’s done a superb job. What he didn’t tell you is that several of our contracts were coming to a close and needed bridging, and his relationship skills with the customer saved TAPE a lot of problems that would or could have surfaced.


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