PM Guest Article April 2020

Wired to Lead

Reshmi Sujesh

Reshmi is currently working as IT Program Manager at Dell Technologies. She has 17 plus years’ experience across companies including Tata Consultancy Services, Amlaki and Nelco Limited.

As a project manager, Reshmi has several awards and recognitions to her credit. She is an active blogger and also writes stories for children. Follow Reshmi’s blog posts at  https://everyonedoesprojects.com/articles

“Nothing can dim the light that shines from within” said Maya Angelou, American poet, singer, memoirist and civil rights activist.

For a project manager, every day is a new adventure; and if you are a woman the adventure only gets more exciting, considering the balancing you do at work and at home.

When I look back at my career, I’m proud of the choices I’ve made, the experiences I’ve gained in my work and the core values I truly believe in.

In the roles of a project and program manager, I’ve had the opportunity to engage with a diverse workforce across global locations in service and product companies.

Using references from my personal experiences I’ve tried to look at three areas with women at the core.

Leadership is all about taking responsibility

I remember my earlier career days when I was getting mentored under a senior project manager. She wore additional hats of a wife, a mother and a daughter. In spite of the medical challenges at home–a bedridden parent–she never let her personal life come in the way of work. Always calm, composed and assertive, she kept the team in confidence and built consensus on how to resolve challenges. She was not the one to jump to conclusions until the root causes were identified. If the challenges were beyond her capabilities or scope, she did not hesitate to seek help immediately.

In his paper, ‘How can we get rid of the glass ceiling?’, author Mike Musial believes women are better students and willing to seek help. They juggle priorities better and have far better intuition to make decisions.

With a keen eye for details, my mentor never escalated a problem without a probable solution. She was always optimistic about the possibilities in finding a resolution. She had great interpersonal skills and was transparent in all her interactions with project stakeholders; who in turn were very appreciative of her work. She was a true leader in all aspects. Carrie Fletcher, Senior Director of the Enterprise Project Management Office at the Center for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, Ontario, Canada in a podcast interview says women are good at building relationships which are key to executing successful projects.

Take charge of your career

 As I grew in my career as a project manager, I realized at one point in time that it takes more than experience and intelligence to run an important project. How do I come across as someone who has the knowledge to manage and execute projects? That’s how I came across PMP certification and quickly learned how this credential would benefit my career. If not me, who else would take charge of my career? I decided right away to take the training and prepare for the certification. With a family to take care of at home and a day job as a project manager, I studied late nights and over the weekends. Finally, when I had the certification in my hand, it felt like possessing an academic degree which equipped me with the knowledge to manage projects.

In today’s world, knowledge is power, and it is important to invest in learning and building one’s competency to stay relevant in one’s field of work.

Patti Booker of Crane Payment Innovations says that if anyone is serious about a career in project management, PMP certification is highly recommended as it adds credibility as an industry standard.

Emotional balance and creativity

When a senior manager from a different team hired a woman project manager for an upcoming key project, he was questioned by his team members. This was because there were challenging expectations from their project stakeholders and the team comprised of only male project managers.

When I met the senior manager a few months later, he seemed happy with his new recruit. He confessed that the new recruit had a way of looking at problems from different angles and this opened a lot of healthy discussions within his team.

He further added that she was comfortable with multitasking, practiced different communication styles, was empathetic to the client’s needs and used latest technology to collaborate with teams across time zones.  Her ability to foresee the issues and risks and having the mitigation plans in place gave the team the confidence to deliver come what may.

In an interview to PM Network, Rob Van Duijl, Nuclear Build PMO Director at utility company EDF, London, says that as part of the recruitment and hiring process, he looks beyond the technical knowledge by testing for emotional knowledge and control. He says this is where he sees a big difference between men and women and that women outperform men in this area.

As organizations grow, it is important to provide opportunities for high potential women to continue learning and developing the skills to lead cross-functional projects.

As women, we need to understand that authority is earned for who you are and what you stand for.

The power is in each woman’s hands. We need to believe in ourselves, lift others up as we gain more experience, take charge of the choices we’ve made for our personal and professional lives and march ahead.