The role of an engineering project manager

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Project management is the discipline of planning, organising, securing, and managing resources to achieve specific goals. In the engineering and mining sectors, project managers are instrumental to ensuring the project goals are achieved.

With the volume of mining and infrastructure projects underway, the demand for experienced project management professionals is increasing. We speak to Fathima Ansur to see what life as an engineering project manager is really like.

What does a project manager do?

A project manager very simply delivers projects on time, within budget and according to specified quality requirements. This is achieved by preparing and managing project budgets; building and maintaining timing plans by monitoring and tracking project milestones and deliverables; allocating and directing activities of project personnel; management of resources; liaising with customers and suppliers as well as negotiations; ensuring that every phase of the project is carried out according to customer requirements and specifications, governmental regulations and laws as well as safety, operability and maintainability.

What skills do you need to become a project manager? 

Excellent leadership qualities; ability to manage crisis and conflict effectively; the ability to manage your time, project time and time of others; the ability to multi task when required; highly computer literate with skills in various programs such as MS Excel; MS Project, etc.

For an engineering project manager an engineering degree is essential.

There is no “typical” day for a project manager as there are so many requirements of the project manager during the different phases of the project

How did your career progress and what training did you have? 

I started as an experiential learner and quickly progressed to industrial engineer for new projects in the technical department where all industrial engineering aspects of all new projects were handled by me. Thereafter I was promoted to project manager due to the extra responsibilities undertaken with past projects as well as initiative and leadership skills shown.

Describe a typical day

Depends on the phase of the project for example during the planning phase much time will go into building a timing plan based on details supplied by internal project personnel, customers and suppliers. Planning includes simulation of production or tools; determination or verification of customer requirements including testing requirements, etc.

A typical day during the product and process validation phase This would include many trials of the process and the product repeatability; ensuring product conforms to specification and placing countermeasures for any areas that do not meet specifications.

Therefore there is no “typical” day for a project manager as there are so many requirements of the project manager during the different phases of the project; all of this is also dependant on the project itself.

What’s the best thing about your job?

The best thing about the job is the variability; each project comes with its own set of challenges. As a project manager you’re always handling a different project from the last and therefore are experiencing new products, new processes and sometimes different project personnel. There are routine tasks every now and again however they are rare and far between.

Any piece of advice you would give to aspiring project management professionals?

  • Develop the ability to simplify; taking a complex problem and breaking it down to both efficiently and accurately handle it
  • Develop a balance between routine and variety as a project manager this is critical

Looking to make the next engineering career move? Search all our current engineering jobs available.

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For more career advice please contact:

Nic Sephton-Poultney, Country Manager (South Africa)
nic.sephton-poultney@robertwalters.com
+27 (0) 11 881 2414

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