Project management includes various tasks, from leading a team to communicating with stakeholders or overseeing possible risks. And the purpose of project management is to achieve raised goals despite challenges or changed circumstances. Even if project managers have a lot of responsibilities, it’s a very exciting job. Also, the demand for project managers is constantly rising because companies seek professionals who can help them find order in chaos.
If you’re interested in learning what skills are needed or the future of project management, you’re in the right place. Janina Kulikian, a smart meter deployment program manager, agreed to answer our questions and dive deeper into the project management world.
First of all, can you tell us more about yourself? How did you end up in your current position?
It wasn’t always my intention to become a project manager. I experimented with a variety of professions when I first started my career. At the right time, I met a fantastic project manager, and her approach to project management impressed me. I was surprised how everything was planned and under control. We knew our goals, the team was motivated, and the tasks were done on time. I was genuinely interested and knew that all my personality traits would fulfill a project manager’s role.
Afterward, I researched the profession: requirements, training, the path to becoming a successful project manager. I started as a junior project manager, and now after many years and different projects, I am a program manager of one of the biggest energy transition programs in Lithuania – the smart meter deployment program.
It’s not a secret that the demand for project managers is on the rise. Why?
Yes, the demand for project managers is constantly rising. According to the Project Management Institute (PMI®), there will be around 22 million new project management job openings by 2027. This role is required in a wide range of fields. In addition to the IT industry, where it’s a common practice, project-oriented work is famous worldwide in the commercial service, oil and gas, finance and insurance, manufacturing, construction, and utility industries.
From the 1950s, when project management was first recognized, it was always about keeping the work done. Over the years, the profession became more mature. Companies need project managers to organize chaotic environments toward goals, achieve better performance in different initiatives, and control quality and costs. Highly experienced, specialized project managers can bring real added value to companies.
What skills must a project manager possess? Did the requirements change over the years?
About ten years ago, project management was more about technical skills – planning, budgeting, risk management, time management, quality, etc. However, nowadays, it’s not enough to only deliver successful project results. Soft skills are as necessary as technical skills. Project managers need leadership, empathy, teamwork, negotiation, organization, prioritization, and communication skills. In the different phases of the project, different skill sets are needed. For example, you need various technical skills to create the appropriate project plan and interpersonal skills to build a dynamic team at the planning stage. Later in the project execution phase, the project manager needs to bond the team, solve problems, motivate, control project tasks, and communicate with stakeholders.
Various sources confirm that project managers spend about 70-80% of their time communicating. And it’s true. It’s important to understand that it’s not just making calls and chatting – it’s all the work with the team, managing stakeholders, project progress and issues reporting, phase reviews, etc. And every time communication differs by the audience, message, or type – different soft skills are required.
Companies will search for technologically savvy project managers capable of managing hybrid or remote teams in the future. On the other hand, project managers will always need a bunch of traditional hard and soft skills to be successful.
How did the pandemic shift the course of project management?
Pandemic made a significant impact on project management. Many project managers were forced to adapt to hybrid or remote work rapidly. The good thing is that project managers are good at adapting to the changes.
The control of work and forming the team was one of the biggest challenges. Project managers needed to find a way to communicate when a chat over a cup of coffee was impossible. What’s more, we needed to control the work without micromanaging. Finding the best tools for task management, a balance between meetings and emails, and, of course, helping the team members to adapt was (and still is) the top priority for project managers.
I believe one of the newest skills for project managers is adaptability. It’s becoming more important over time, and a pandemic revealed that it might become crucial in the future.
Team’s emotional well-being: why is it becoming the priority for project managers?
The team’s emotional well-being was always a top priority. Project managers act as people managers all the time – they need to form a team and find the most effective ways to work with people. Every single person on the team is important. During the pandemic, team members encountered new difficulties – working from home with the whole family in one house and changing the standard routine. Project managers must support team members when they are in need and help search for solutions. Only with the involved team, effective results are possible. Accordingly, project managers have to trust their colleagues.
What project management principles are stronger than ever and won’t change in the future?
Communication skills became essential and will remain very important in the future. Project managers need to practice new ways of communication and balance when is the best time to write an email, make a call or have a meeting. It’s crucial not to be disruptive.
I believe that all the standard technical skills will be essential as well – you can’t reach your goals without scheduling, risk management, or controlling and monitoring. Softs skills will need to adapt depending on the team and organization. But primary soft skills such as leadership, motivation, communication, and teamwork will always be essential in our work.
What trends do you see in project management?
As recent changes in the world showed, project managers and all the project management routines will need to be adaptive. We need to strive for new knowledge, be interested in the latest trends, and not be afraid to try new methodologies, tools, or approaches. The strength of the project manager always was and will remain to find order in chaos, to make things happen despite the situation. With the help of a motivated and involved team, all the issues will be bearable. As companies also need to be competitive and always launch new initiatives, project managers with a good mix of hard and soft skills will be those who can effectively manage and help reach the desired goal.