Shaping a career as a project manager – an interview with Shane Poole
What makes a successful project manager? What qualities are essential to thrive in IT? Where to start and how to agilely steer your career path? We asked Shane Poole, an experienced specialist, Head of Delivery and Agile Consultant who supports Spyrosoft’s work in the UK market, about his professional evolution and tips for aspiring project managers.
What is the most exciting part of working in the Spyrosoft UK office?
Shane Poole (SP): What excites me most about working in Spyrosoft UK’s office, and the primary reason I joined the company, is the chance to collaborate with a diverse range of clients and undertake projects across various sectors. Simultaneously, I have the opportunity to work alongside different departments and individuals within the broader Spyrosoft group. The role I have offers a stimulating and dynamic work environment with diverse challenges and opportunities for professional growth and development.
How many projects have you managed in your career? What was your biggest challenge so far?
SP: To be honest, I’ve managed countless projects of varying sizes over my 29-year career, though I couldn’t recall the exact number. Every project presents unique challenges that offer valuable learning opportunities, but I personally found it particularly challenging to transition from a traditional project management approach to agile. Another common challenge for any new project is assembling the right team, which is a crucial aspect of my role to ensure successful delivery. I strive to make this process as seamless as possible.
What is your opinion on the waterfall vs agile methodology dilemma?
SP: The choice between using a waterfall or agile delivery approach ultimately depends on the specific needs and goals of a project, as well as the preferences and culture of the organisation implementing the project. Waterfall is a linear and sequential approach that follows a predetermined process flow. It is well-suited for projects with clearly defined requirements, a stable environment, and a predictable outcome. However, it can be less flexible and adaptable to changes in project scope or unexpected obstacles. On the other hand, agile is an iterative and collaborative approach that emphasises adaptability and continuous improvement. It is best suited for complex and dynamic projects that require flexibility and regular reassessment. However, it may require a higher level of collaboration and communication, which can be challenging for some organisations. In summary, both methodologies have their pros and cons, and the decision of which one to use should be based on the specific needs and characteristics of the project at hand.
Apart from Scrum, what other agile frameworks do you like and why?
SP: I really like Kanban as an alternative framework to use, this is a visual framework that emphasises continuous delivery and flexibility. Kanban is best suited for teams that have a steady stream of incoming work with varying levels of complexity, a great way to run a BAU development team for example.
What are the qualities one should have to become a successful project manager?
SP: To be a successful project manager you need to have a combination of skills, traits and knowledge, this includes leadership, communication, organisation, problem solving, time management, flexibility, attention to detail, people management, customer relationship management and subject and/or technical knowledge. Overall, successful project managers need to be skilled at balancing multiple competing priorities while maintaining a focus on delivering high-quality results on time and within budget. The qualities I look for in an aspiring project manager would be passion and drive for the role and field of work, the ability to adapt to change and adjust plans, a willingness to learn and develop and great communication skills.
What is the best way to start as a PM? What certification would you recommend for someone?
SP: To get started as a project manager you need to gain experience, build your knowledge, develop your skills and begin to create your own network. Start with learning the basics of project management, gain an understanding of the fundamentals of project management by using the internet, joining groups, attending meetups, reading books and taking online courses or attending training sessions. For some people, having a mentor to talk to and guide you is a great way to help with your personal development and career pathway. In terms of certification, this is partly your own preference and choice, but I would suggest looking at the job market and seeing what companies are looking for, examples may be PRINCE2, APM and PMI.
What advice would you give yourself at the beginning of your career?
SP: The advice I would give myself at the beginning of my career would be to stay open-minded, act like a sponge to take in as much information from various sources as possible, to have enough information and knowledge to decide on a career path. This may differ from what you originally planned and can change over time as you gain more knowledge and experience. I would ensure that you build a really good network both within your current organisation and the wider community, and lastly, treat everyone fairly and honestly, you never know whom you might need to help and support you or where your career will take you.
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