For the past 4 months, I have been working on a new role as a Project Manager in the Information Technology division of my company. My interest in this position evolved naturally after 2 years working as a Senior Business Analyst and 8 months as a Project Consultant.
I am now only 7 months away from obtaining my Professional Engineer provincial designation (P.Eng.). Inevitably, since Industrial/System Engineering is not a common profession in my province, there seems to be a common confusion about what these types of engineers actually do.
An Engineer working as an IT Project Manager? It is a question that people constantly asks me. Please allow me to connect the dots between these two professions:
As defined by the Institute of Industrial Enginners, “Industrial engineers figure out how to do things better. They engineer processes and systems that improve quality and productivity. They work to eliminate waste of time, money, materials, energy and other commodities.” This profession developed quickly after World War two from what was previously know as Operations Management or Management Science. It evolved thanks to the previous efforts by Henry Ford; after figuring out how to mass-produce vehicles in a cost-effective manner; and the subsequent work on industrial efficiency by Frederick Taylor.
Systems engineering is a subspecialty within engineering. It refers to the study of complex systems (not necessarily Information Systems). It is a science with an underlying philosophy known as “Systems Theory”. It allows engineers to identify and manage complexity within a system, understand the life cycles, understand the flow of information and data, the interrelation of its components and the dynamics of such and the system as a whole.
So what does all that has to do with Project Management? (Spoiler alert) Actually, Project Management is a discipline/profession that evolved from Engineering, Industrial Engineering to be more precise. The beginning of modern Project Management was marked by the planning and control techniques introduced by Henry Gantt (yes, the guy of the Gantt chart) and the use of the management functions developed by Henri Fayol (and that are the foundation of the PMBOK). Both were Frederick Taylor’s alums and the three of them are fathers of Management Science/Industrial Engineering. In fact, many other elements of IE are present in PM such as the WBS, resource planning methods, PERT analysis, and more recently the Theory of Constraints (TOC), etc.
So, that might explain why I ended up choosing Project Management as a career. It is actually quite common for engineers to become project managers in different disciples such as construction, aerospace, public infrastructure, manufacturing, etc. For me, Information Technology was the next natural step and an area where I see myself learning and growing the most.
I really enjoy my new gig. I plan to continue to develop my project management skills in the next few years and at the same time find opportunities to incorporate my engineering skills such as:
· Finding better ways and tools to manage a project.
· Incorporate “Theory of Constraints” concepts to better manage the three project constraints: cost, scope and time.
· Exploring the complexities of budgeting and resource optimization.
· Introduce simulation to estimate project outcomes.
· Understand the complexity and interrelationship between projects and within the program.
· Develop long-term sustainable technology plans and strategies.
I will keep you posted with my experiences as I gain knowledge in becoming a Project Manager and obtaining my PMP in three years down the road.