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The beating heart of business: why Project Management is essential to the global economy

Project Management is increasingly recognised as a vital business function. In fact, a study by PwC found that the gross value added to the UK economy by project management was an estimated £156 billion. But as the demand for project management talent increases, so too does the skills gap. With industry experts forecasting growth of more than 30 per cent, is now the time to consider a career in project management? Here, two Project Managers working in different sectors tell us why it’s such a fulfilling and varied career.

Written by Allie Fitzgibbon |

Biochemist staff inspecting a plant
“Talk to people and find out if it’s the right thing for you,” Claudia said. “In my experience, if you ask someone if you can spend a day with them most people say yes."

The UK-based Project Management Institute (PMI) predicts that as many as 25 million new project management professionals will be needed in the next decade. However, with the talent gap in the sector growing, the PMI warns of a potential loss of as much as 345 billion US Dollars in global GDP by 2030.

The University of London in partnership with member institution, Royal Holloway, University of London, has designed an innovative online MSc in Project Management. The programme offers an overview of a number of different project management frameworks that can be adapted to suit a wide range of industries, giving students the best possible opportunity to take advantage of the predicted job market boom.

But other than a wealth of future job opportunities, why should you consider a career in Project Management? We spoke to two experienced professionals to find out.

Dr Claudia Alen Amaro is a Biochemist by background. It was during her undergraduate studies in her native Uruguay that she first became interested in the management of science, and having completed her PhD in Biochemistry at the University of Oxford she began looking for opportunities to work within research infrastructure.

Claudia said: “My plan had always been to return to Uruguay to pursue a career in the governance of science, but I met my husband here and my plans changed. After working for a few years as a Postdoc Researcher my first Project Management job was on a European Union FP6 research project looking at asthma that involved researchers from Europe, South America and China.”

After more than a decade working as a Scientific Project Manager at both the University of Oxford and Imperial College London, Claudia is now Senior Project Manager at Instruct-ERIC, a pan-European research infrastructure in structural biology. They manage access to some of the most expensive and high tech laboratory equipment in the world, and Claudia’s role is to facilitate this work – from interacting with scientists, to reporting back to the Commission and the 14 member countries who fund their work.

One important thing I’ve learned in my career is you have to be open-minded when you’re working with people from all over the world. There are big cultural differences and you have to embrace that and enjoy it if you want to bring everyone together for a common goal.

During Jeevan Jayanthan’s nearly 20 year career he has had a number of different roles working in the NHS, including NHS England, hospital trusts and clinical commissioning groups. In his current role as Head of Transformation and PMO at the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB) he and his team are supporting the establishment of two new statutory organisations.

“My job is to oversee how we are organised in order to deliver our goals within the timeframe,” Jeevan said. “That includes knowing where decisions are made, where reporting has to happen, keeping track of performance, risks and issues that we have as part of the programme and having weekly meetings to see how individual projects are progressing.”

One of the most important skills project managers need is the ability to juggle multiple priorities at once, as Claudia described.

Multi-tasking is key,” she said. “You will have to be able to do many things at the same time and to a professional standard. You have to be focused and task-oriented. You can’t spend months crafting every sentence of every report – that’s not your job. Your job is to make sure things get done on time and on budget.

Jeevan explained why people skills are also very important.

“One of the biggest challenges you can face is helping people understand why they need a Project Manager in the first place. People often jokingly ask ‘Are you here to tell us what to do?’ and I have to explain that I’m there to work with them to deliver their priorities, not mine.

So being a people person is really important – you have to interact with people at all levels of the organisation and make them feel they can always pick up the phone to you. And on the flip side you also have to hold people accountable to make sure they meet key deadlines and deliver within the timeframe and budget. Sometimes you have to be the bad cop.

So what advice have they got for people considering a career in Project Management? Start by networking.

“Talk to people and find out if it’s the right thing for you,” Claudia said. “In my experience, if you ask someone if you can spend a day with them most people say yes. Even better, do an internship – it’s a great way to see if it’s the right career for you.”

“There are big career opportunities available,” Jeevan added. “It’s important to learn the theory but also to be adaptable and flexible to meet the requirements of your job.”

Find out how you can gain the skills that global businesses need with the University of London’s MSc Project Management.