Posted by Lauren Socha on Saturday, December 23, 2017
I graduated from university three and a half years ago and aside from a few months off to travel and wind down right after school finished, I have been working ever since. In that time, I've gained valuable work experience and have refined my ability to solve problems that I haven't encountered before. I have also learned that project management is really quite an art and that you have to use a lot of tact and diplomacy to successfully juggle so many competing interests. Recently, I even applied for my P.Eng and am almost finished applying for my PMP. All in all, I think it has been pretty successful so far.
However, this year has also turned out to be one of the most challenging. I had worked on small projects on my own before, but they had been primarily baggage-focused, which is what the majority of my post-graduate experience has been in. For my main project this year, I was getting pushed outside of my comfort zone by also managing the building modifications required for the project, including architectural, structural, electrical and mechanical scope.
If you were to ask me about my strengths and weaknesses, one of the top ones would be that I am a people-pleaser. I like to try and make everyone happy and I really care about what I am working on, which is a strength. I also have a hard time coming to terms with the fact that it is not always possible to do so, which usually means I either put off saying no and get stressed out over the anticipation of having to do so or I expend way more energy than I should trying to make something happen that I should have said no to in the first place, so my people-pleasing ways can also be a weakness.
Things were going pretty well on the project for the first few weeks of construction. I was pushing myself to be more direct with the contractor, something that has been a challenge in the past for me, and was managing to deal with all of the submittals, site instructions and request for information that were coming across my desk in an efficient manner. I was also managing the expectations of my stakeholders and successfully delegating certain tasks to a new colleague while she started to get involved in projects, both of which were skills that I had been working on developing. Working at a major airport, a facility that operates 24/7, comes with it's own unique challenges, but I had always been good at managing the operational impacts that were bound to happen.
One of the biggest impacts was having to take an elevator out of operation. Originally it was supposed to be a two-week outage, which ended up stretching into four weeks. However, as we were approaching the date we were supposed to reopen, the concrete pour for the new elevator machine room wall kept getting delayed. Finally, after weeks of preparing for the concrete pour, which impacted a major vehicle thoroughfare, it went seamlessly due to it being well planned, communicated and executed. It finally felt like we had something to celebrate, but this feeling was quickly quashed by the contractor requesting to do the same thing three days later. It was unexpected, as they were planning on doing it manually for the second pour. In the past, I would have said yes and made a few of my colleagues slightly upset along the way and wasted a lot of my own time to make it happen. This time, I had had enough and decided that I had to be more assertive. Right away, I told the contractor no and explained why. It was incredibly tough to do in the moment because I knew they wouldn't be happy about it, but I also knew it wasn't fair to my colleagues and our customers to say yes and force it through. Although the contractor and I had some back and forth, they accepted my decision and I spent a lot less time sorting out the details than I would have otherwise, so I was able to effectively use my time elsewhere.
I wanted to write this story down to remind myself of all of the good work I did on this project, even though it was incredibly hard and at times felt almost insurmountable. I also wanted to make sure that I acknowledged the good people I am surrounded with, including my husband who supported me when I had some rough days, helped me figure out next steps and backed me up about making the right decisions and my manager who gave me “pep talks”, handled the fact that I cried in his office (something I'm pretty sure I'm not supposed to admit happened) really well and reminded me that I was in control of my project, even when it didn't really feel like I was. Elevator #18 represents an immense period of personal and professional growth for me and I want to be able to look back and remind myself of how it felt to be there.
See something that needs to be corrected? Have a comment? Get in touch with me at laurensocha(at)outlook(dot)com.