When did you join the company?
I joined in September 2006 as a Senior Consultant. There was an entirely flat organisational structure then, with only the Managing Director and the Operations Director sitting above the remaining 9 employees. I was the eleventh person to join the company.
As a new starter in such a small company, were you able to request the training that you wanted? Presumably your line manager was one of the Directors? Did that make training requests difficult?
Not at all. I was strongly encouraged to do my own research into what training I was interested in was available and crack on with it. Likewise, with joining the Association of Project Management and the Institute of Risk Management. It was a very supportive atmosphere and no reasonable request was turned down. That said, most of the ‘training’ in my earliest days with the company was on-the-job. I was working on a multi-billion pound programme at the MoD on my second day.
Did you have a training plan or a Personal Development Plan?
Not at first, but I knew that I wanted to develop my capability skills and be recognised as a risk management expert. So that’s what I did. I got myself involved in risk management Special Interest Groups, observing and learning from people who had been doing this all their professional lives, and who had literally written the book! I then soon began presenting at national conferences. One highlight was being asked to present at the 2012 Scottish APM National Conference in Edinburgh. I always set myself annual objectives which I review with my line manager. More importantly, I set myself high level strategic objectives that focus on the short term 1-2 years, medium term 3-4 years and longer term 5+ years. Each of these will only have two or three objectives in each, but it allows me to have some focus on where I’m going, and these can change at any time.
Didn’t the company think that you were a bit inexperienced to be mixing with risk management professionals at that kind of level?
I hope that they trusted me not to embarrass the company! Every training and development opportunity I requested was granted, including presenting to people way more experienced than myself. I really think experienced professionals and academics can benefit from being told something from someone new to the industry.
You changed your direction though. Why was that, and how did you manage it
The company was going through a period of significant growth and starting to manoeuvre into new markets and stop relying so heavily on contracts in defence, which had always been our core business. I saw that the flat management structure couldn’t persist much longer and it was likely that the different business areas might need heading up by, what we have now come to call, ‘Portfolio Managers’. I felt that I’d proved myself as a risk management expert and wanted additional responsibility in the form of line management and said as much to the MD and Ops Director – and I got it!
Just like that?!
I sat down with the Ops Director and we looked at my strengths and weaknesses and what additional training or coaching was required for the role. By that stage in my career the training and development was much more about exposure to situations rather than sitting in a classroom. So we developed a strategy that would help me to develop my operations management skills. By the end of 2010 I had project management responsibility for nine people!
We implemented the Portfolio Management structure in 2012 and you’d positioned yourself well for a Portfolio Management role by that point.
Hi-Q Sigma's Skills Matrix helped me identify areas where I needed to broaden my skill set to become a better manager. I’d put the hours in and made myself available for roles. The timing was serendipity! And I was given line management responsibility when I was still only a Managing Consultant – the promotion to Principal didn’t come until October 2013.
What’s next in terms of training and development for you?
I’m still interested in maintaining my level of expertise in risk management, but my development path is now much more about operations management and the people side of the business.