My Education: BA, Business working on an MBA
My Prior Experience: I started out in finance as a financial analyst, budgeting manager and director of pricing. Then I moved to operations where I held jobs in vendor operations, contract negotiations and, currently, program management.
My Company: Large specialty retailer with an on-line presence.
Job/Career Overview: I work in Information Systems (IS) for a large retailer (90,000+ employees), which has a website and sells to consumers as well as other businesses through our e-commerce channels.
I oversee 30+ systems projects across the globe that focus on integrating systems in the parent company with those of a large company we purchased. We examined what systems had overlap and picked one we were going to move forward on. This involved analyzing the pros and cons, including what costs were involved, how easy it was to use the system, and whether the vendors who supplied the system had a healthy financial future.
In the broader sense, though, my job entails collecting and analyzing status reports on all our projects and assisting with risk management or resource issues wherever needed. I make sure that the right people are receiving the right information at the right time. For example, if a project in Europe is already under way and a similar one is starting up in Canada, I share the lessons learned in Europe with the Canada staff. I would also make arrangements to bring the teams together so they could swap information and experience to make the process more efficient in both places. I would try to find out whether the same resources were being used by both teams and if the timelines for the projects complemented or hindered each other. In a large company like mine, it's not uncommon for a project team to have little or no idea how a similar project is progressing in another part of the country or the world.
I also report to our leadership team on the status of individual projects, highlighting risks and challenges as well as successes.
It's important that I understand some of the cultural differences between sites and individuals, since such differences can affect the process. I also need to add value myself. If I'm only asking for information and adding nothing of my own, it's difficult to get cooperation and collaboration from the project managers.
The best part of this job is getting to work with different people from different cultures. Relationship-building is fun and rewarding from both a personal and professional perspective. I'm also learning a lot about the company and how each part of it works and interacts with the others.
The worst part of this job is getting people to change. When someone has been doing a job for a long time and you ask them to perform it differently or do a different job, he can be reluctant, unwilling or unable to change. This resistance takes a number of different forms and can appear to be something quite different. There tends to be wasted time and energy when you don't realize that the behavior is a resistance to change.
Don't overlook the importance of interpersonal skills. While technical skills are important, real success depends on working well with people.
There are customers in almost all professions. Learn to listen to your customers, seek to understand their problems and how you can fix them. You can't solve all problems for everyone, but try to put yourself in their shoes.
Enjoy what you do and do it to the best of your ability every day !