Want to be an effective project manager? (7 min read)

By Julian Faita

What is a project manager?

A project manager is responsible for the procurement, planning, and execution of a project that has a defined scope, start date, and finish date. Generally, any problems that arise during the completion of the project are brought to the project manager before being escalated to a senior-level peer or professional. Here are some tips and tricks from experienced individuals on how to be an effective project manager.

What makes an effective project manager?

An effective project manager has exceptional skills in collaboration, verbal communication, written communication, and problem solving. Working with people, as well as having the technical knowledge for the project that you’re working on, makes a truly effective project manager. Managing people can be as complicated as the project itself. Being a savvy people person, possessing emotional intelligence, being able to hold people accountable, and working effectively with multidisciplinary stakeholders are all traits that make a strong project manager.

Interview with Jeffrey Lee, CAPM

Jeffrey Lee, CAPM

1. Introduce yourself.

My name is Jeffrey Lee. I am a 5th-year Aerospace Engineering student, an avid student leader, and have been involved with several Ryerson student groups and external organizations. I am also a Peer Facilitator with the Peer Network Program (PNP) and a volunteer with the Project Management Institute of Toronto. Prior to the pandemic, I also enjoyed hanging out with my friends on campus, playing intramurals with my volleyball team, and skating at Lake Devo (if you haven’t, you should really try it!)

2. Explain your project management experience.

My Project Management experience stems from my student leadership involvement and my co-op experience. Beginning in first-year, I participated in multiple student groups and positions, including Ryerson Engineering Student Society (RESS), First Year Engineering Office (FYEO), and Engineering Student Societies’ Council of Ontario (ESSCO). All of these roles required a large amount of project management in various different forms. As a result of my experiences, I learned the importance of focusing on the vision and goals of a project in order to create a dedicated team and a meaningful solution.

During my time as President of ESSCO, we had an ambitious project to create a strategic plan for the next 3 years. I led my team through a process of brainstorming and idea generation, gathering feedback from all members equally, and analyzing discussions among member schools with contrasting opinions and diverse backgrounds. Having everyone contribute throughout the process led to a dedicated team with a shared sense of ownership to the goal. It also led to the development of a better strategic plan. Since we collectively developed our vision and goals, the team was fully aligned with each other. Not only did I learn a lot from my experience with ESSCO and my other extra-curriculars, but the project management skills I gained helped me achieve my goal of landing a co-op with Novocol.

Not surprisingly, my experience in the industry was more complex than my student leadership experience. As a Project Manager Engineer for Novocol Pharmaceuticals Canada, I led projects for clients and turned their ideas into market-ready pharmaceutical products. I dealt with projects ranging from 50 thousand to 3.5 million dollars, and led cross functional teams of 10 – 20 members. The projects I led at Novocol had strict timelines, complex and challenging technical problems, and a more diverse (multidisciplinary) team. It was quite challenging for me at the beginning and I made many mistakes at the onset of my term. However, I made sure to learn from each of my mistakes, and by the end of term I completed two projects from beginning to end for my client.

3. What makes you a good project manager?

Empathy

I put this first for a reason. I think it is the most important takeaway for any developing project manager. Leading with empathy improves team dynamics and idea generation, and leads to fewer mistakes in execution. This means creating a space for team members to understand each other’s strengths, weaknesses, and barriers. Building empathy into the team allows your team members to bond better and creates a more inclusive work environment where everyone is comfortable sharing their true opinions. This is essential for idea generation because everyone on your team brings a unique perspective to the project. This also leads to fewer mistakes during the execution of your project because team members are quicker to inform you of issues or concerns.

Communication skills

Over 90% of your role will require communication across many forms, such as written communication (emails, texts, posts), verbal communication (phone calls, meetings, etc), facilitation, and feedback, etc.. It is important to master this skill to achieve success as a project manager. 

Conflict management and humility

As high-stakes projects get tougher, pressure increases for the team and the project manager. As such, conflicts can arise that you as the leader of the team will have to resolve. It is important to know the best way to approach, manage, and negotiate conflict. It is also important to understand that we are all human and will make many mistakes. You will also make mistakes as a Project Manager. It is crucial to have the humility to admit when you are wrong. This will allow for an early intervention of an issue where people senior to you or other team members can help fix the mistake before it becomes too severe. In addition, telling your team you made a mistake and taking ownership of your action actually improves your trust with the team and overall honesty among team members.

4. What are your tips for becoming a better project manager?

To become a better Project Manager reflect on the recommendations I have made and identify what skills you can advance in yourself. If you decide that project management is the route you want to take in your career or you are simply interested in this skill set, I would recommend getting hands-on experience. There is no better place to do this than in post-secondary where it is much more acceptable to make mistakes. I would recommend trying to employ some project management practices in student groups, lab groups, design teams, job placements, and even personal projects. The more practice you put into it the more you are going to get out of it!

I would also attend the Masterclass series on Project Management  hosted by the Peer Network Program (PNP). I will be facilitating both sessions and demonstrate Project Management methods for both a extra-curricular setting and also what I learned to be effective in my coop.

5. How does one go about getting their PM certification and what are the benefits?

There are several different ways to learn methods of project management such as learning Scrum or gaining you official Project Management Professional (PMP) Certification. It is important to understand the best one for you by doing your research about all the different certifications and the job prospects of each one. In terms of my experience, I decided to get my CAPM (Certified Associate in Project Management) with the Project Management Institute. To achieve this certification I had to complete 23 hours of class (which I completed through a course on Udemy), study for my test (which took about 1 month), and complete a 3 hour 150 question virtually proctored exam. This certification lasts 3 years with an option to renew if you complete additional professional development classes. The benefit of acquiring a certification includes gaining skills that are transferable to diverse roles in industry, as well as opening doors to opportunities that specifically require the credentials. 

Getting your project management certification

Getting your project management certification can be an important way to becoming an effective project manager. To find out more, follow this link here to the Project Management Institute and review the benefits and what it takes to be an effective project manager mentioned above!

Project Management Masterclass Series

Join the Peer Network Program (PNP) for a two part workshop on all things Project Management.

Part 1

Date: Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Time: 5 p.m.- 6 p.m.

Experts and Facilitators: Jamal El Ali, Lecturer at the G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education and our Peer Facilitators Jay and Jeffrey.

Part 2

Date: Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Time: 4 p.m. – 5 p.m.

Experts and Facilitators: Peer Facilitators Jeffrey and Nika. Jeffrey will be sharing his experience as a Project Manager Engineer for Novocol Pharmaceuticals in Canada.

Investing 101 (5 minute read)

By Iyvan Chandran

What is Financial Literacy?

Possessing competence in financial literacy generally means understanding and being able to apply saving, budgeting, and investing strategies. It also includes understanding the importance of saving and planning for your retirement and having a general understanding of taxes.

Keep in mind that being in good financial health does not necessarily mean being rich.

Building Healthy Financial Habits

The basics of good financial health can stem from:

  1. Not living beyond your means. Make a budget and stick to it! Your budget should account for your expenses (e.g. rent, student debt, food, etc.) and saving for your short and long-term goals. People often live above their means because they haven’t calculated the amount of money they need in the future to reach their goals. 
  2. Create an emergency fund. Part of building healthy financial habits is to have a cushion for the unexpected. This means building enough savings to get you through 3 – 6 months worth of expenses in the case of an emergency. Do you have 3 to 6 months worth of rent and food expenses set aside in case you lose your primary source of income? If not, then now is a great time to start thinking about this.
  3. Save 10%-15% from each paycheque. This is the minimum amount I recommend to save from each pay cheque to be used towards future goals such as buying a house, or for a dream vacation. This may not be possible in all circumstances, but ideally this is the range you are looking to set aside. 

Investing Basics

I was fortunate enough to have the chance to interview Michelle Hung who is an author, Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), entrepreneur and former investment banker. She gave us a few tips on how to kickstart your investment journey. Michelle will be conducting a masterclass to explore these topics in more depth. Details can be found at the bottom of this post.

What should students know about investing?

Educate yourself when it comes to investing. Education builds confidence. Following trends and news online can be reckless and dangerous at times. The news can create a FOMO (fear of missing out) effect which can cause stress and can lead to gambling. The more educated you are the more confident you will feel in your decisions to take calculated risks. 

How can someone educate themselves?

Be careful who you get your financial information from. Some great ways to start learning include robo advisors (digital platforms that provide automated financial services using algorithms), following certified influencers, or reading books. You can also attend classes for personal finance from experts or schedule a fee only appointment with financial planners. 

A list of books that are great to start with are:

  • “The Sassy Investor” by Michelle Hung J
  • “Beat the Bank” by Larry Bates (Canadian author)
  • “I Will Teach You To Be Rich,” by Ramit Sethi
  • “The Automatic Millionaire,” by David Bach
  • “Retire Before Mom and Dad,” by Rob Berger
  • “When She Makes More,” by Farnoosh Torabi
  • “You Are a Badass at Making Money,” by Jen Sincero
  • “Spend Well, Live Rich,” by Michelle Singletary
  • “Your Money or Your Life,” by Vicki Robin
  • “Get a Financial Life,” by Beth Kobliner
  • “The Financial Diet,” by Chelsea Fagan and Lauren Ver Hage
  • “Clever Girl Finance” by Bola Sokunbi
  • “How I Invest My Money” by Joshua Brown and Brian Portnoy

How much money do you need to start investing?

You do not need to have a huge sum to invest. Even $20 is enough to get your feet wet and get started. Take that first plunge. 

What will be covered in the Masterclass? 

There are many different options available today. It all depends on the amount of risk you are willing to take and also the amount you are investing. During the Masterclass I will cover the topics below:

  • Basics of investing
  • The best strategy to invest and how to start
  • The purpose of investing and aligning to one’s own values and goals
  • Ethical implications of investing

My Own Journey Through Financial Literacy

As for my own journey through financial literacy, I was always interested in trading in stocks due to various success stories, but never knew how to get started. When I told my parents I was interested in hopes of receiving some advice and resources, I was shot down because they believed it was gambling. Unfortunately this was due to a lack of financial education which translates to anxiety and fear. According to GlobalNewsWire 85% of respondents in a study wish they personally had the opportunity to learn more about finance and the economy while in school (Joyce, 2018). I took initiative to educate myself and my parents about stock trading which gave me their blessing to trade. 

Initially I started using WealthSimple Trade, but I switched to Questrade as it provides more trading options. A few weeks after getting started, I bumped into an old friend who founded a start-up to address gaps in financial literacy by gamifying financial education and making investing a social experience. I was instantly moved and told him about the struggles my parents had with financial literacy. After evaluating my technical skill set I was recruited to become the CTO and Director of DaisyLABS and am currently preparing the launch of our mobile application and pre-seed raise for Spring 2021. Feel free to check out my start-up Alpha Libertee and follow us on instagram @alphalibertee.

For more information with specific examples on how to get started on your investment journey check out our masterclass below:

Is Wealth Really Simple? (Financial Planning: Investing) 

Date: Wednesday February 17th, 2021

Time: 5:30 PM – 7:00 PM

SME: Michelle Hung (Author, CFA, Entrepreneur and Former Investment Banker)

Instagram:@thesassyinvestor