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Project Management: A Smart Career Move—Q&A with Sherolyn Sellers

August 16, 2019

Project management

The field of project management is undergoing enormous growth. “By 2027, employers will need nearly 88 million individuals in project management-oriented roles,” a Project Management Institute report states. To learn more, AMA’s Women’s Leadership Center recently spoke with project management expert Sherolyn Sellers, an AMA instructor and president and CEO of Pivotal Performance Group, a project and product management consulting firm. Sellers talked about the skills needed for project management and why women may do well in this field.

Project management seems so hot right now—why is it valuable to become skilled or certified in this area?

Sherolyn Sellers: This skill set has become increasingly in-demand as organizations realize that being able to consistently deliver key business drivers to market is essential to remaining competitive. Being certified in project management and/or agile project management signifies an in-depth knowledge of global best practices in delivery and serves to increase probabilities across the board for successful project outcomes.

It seems like any division of a company could benefit from project management for its special projects—should project management be part of any manager’s skill set?

Sellers: Leadership skills, such as team building, negotiation, relationship management, or critical thinking, are embedded into the daily life of great project leaders. Any leader in an organization can definitely benefit from learning more about project management as a skill set, because every facet of it translates into an asset for their careers.

What skills might an employee need to become a successful project manager?

Sellers: To be successful at project management, there needs to be a balance between what I see as the “art” and the “science” of project leadership. The art side are the soft skills that come naturally to some great project leaders. The science side is the methodology used in the project lifecycle. This is a matter of consuming the PMBOK (A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge®, Sixth Edition, PMI, 2017) and going forth to gain experience on projects.

After spending over 20 years in this profession mastering various aspects of it, I can safely say that the best project managers have strong base skills of relationship management, communication, multitasking, attention to detail, and negotiation. Any of these skills can be learned; however, those that possess them naturally or have a job that currently requires use in these areas tend to transition quicker into the role of project leader.

Are there typical issues a project team leader might face, and how do you handle them?

Sellers: Yes, there are several “knowns” that kind of come with the territory. They are resource constraints, scope creep, unmanaged stakeholder expectations, technology impacts, and mandatory (regulatory/law) constraints. To handle them, 1) make sure you understand who your stakeholders are—and who is for or against your project; 2) manage these relationships vigorously to stay on top of issues before they happen; and 3) communicate clearly, communicate often.

Can you say more about stakeholder management?

Sellers: Often overlooked is the stakeholder analysis exercise, and it’s extremely valuable. Its conducted early in the lifecycle and it allows us to understand each stakeholder’s position in relation to the project, and to better manage the relationships well before any issues arise. It’s a step I don’t miss. I have never said to myself, “Gee, that stakeholder analysis was a waste of time!”

Are there any specific challenges that a woman may face in this field?

Sellers: I may be a bit biased here, but I feel women are superior at managing projects because we are built with a sort of “sixth sense” about things. We absorb trends over time and can typically see well ahead of destruction when things on a project may go awry. Now, formally, we conduct risk management sessions where the entire team can provide insights, and this is extremely valuable for all project leaders. I have found that women can juggle more issues at once while keeping track of detailed tasks to keep projects moving at a sustainable pace.

Do you have additional advice about the skill of project management?

Sellers: Combining project management skills with process and change management skills is highly effective in shifting the probability of success for projects. If anyone has the opportunity to learn more in these areas, it will enhance their project leadership experiences.


AMA’s Women’s Leadership Center works with individual women ready to move up in their careers and organizations that wish to train women in leadership skills. Email us at customerservice@amanet.org or call us at 877.566.9441 to learn how we can help you achieve your goals.

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About The Author

Jan Arzooman is a proofreader, copyeditor, and writer in AMA’s creative services/marketing department. She has worked in editorial for more than 20 years. Arzooman also is a visual artist.

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