Try project management for a 'fun' career

"Projects don’t fail, the expectations do," says freelancer project manager Tom Klein.

A forty-year veteran of engineering and project management says more people should consider the career because it is fun job that yields tangible results.

Freelancer project manager Tom Klein, completed his engineering diploma in 1967 and has worked in project management for the past 15 years on large infrastructure roll-outs.

“The number one thing about project management is it is fun and something that, at the end, you see a result,” Klein said.

“It really is fun. When I started it was based on my engineering background, but today it has progressed somewhat and some sort of accreditation is a must.”

Klein says a lot of what project managers do is “common sense and logic” and timing is critical.

“When you receive a project the main thing is to remain calm for a few days. People get a high heart rate and want to do everything now,” Klein says. “Once they calm down they need to understand what the project is and put together a project charter. And if you don’t do it and don’t understand it, that’s where problems start immediately.”

Klein has worked on a GSM roll out for Vodafone, data centre build outs, switching equipment installations for PowerTel (AAPT) and a 700 kilometre fibre optic cable deployment for energy Australia connecting 200 substations.

He says there are two types of project managers – generalists and specialists.

“When people ask a specialist, someone who ‘knows everything’, having a person somewhere in between would be good. And the best qualification is the knowledge of however the project can be achieved.”

Klein believes people should think of all tasks as projects and manage them that way.

“Did you ever prepare a dinner? You project manage everything. You should see everything as a project,” he says. “Lately people interchange the words of project and event. You do the same in project management as with event management.”

Klein sees people as more conscious of delivering things on time and on budget and require services of professional project managers.

“In times like this where you have the financial crisis it will be more and more important,” he says. “There are lots of project management jobs. Here in Australia there are many infrastructure projects happening.”

On project management software and tools, Klein says “keep it simple and it’s 'horses for courses'”.

“If you go to the desert with a Ferrari you will fail,” he says. “You need the tools which enable you to control and monitor flexible delivery.”

“Collaboration and knowledge sharing is an absolute must for project management,” Klein said.

When asked why so many projects fail, Klein said: “Projects don’t fail, the expectations do.”

“The most important task of a project manager is to manage expectations and don’t promise to over deliver,” he says.

Klein recently finished working on projects for NSW RailCorp and is now looking for another challenge “because project management is fun”.

Tom Klein spoke at the Project Management Institute Congress - Asia Pacific, held in Melbourne in February. His paper "Right on Time; Right on Money - Personal Experience" can be downloaded here: