Tayo Richards’ Background.
My name is Tayo Richards. On Monday 17th November 2014, I will be starting a contract Project Lead role with Unilever.
I started running my own business in September 2005. Mainly I delivered business improvement, operations support and financial management services. Prior to this I was a senior business administrator who had worked in a number of industries. I wanted to take my career to the next level and started to look at various ways in which I could accredit myself professionally. I looked at getting a professional consulting qualification, but that would mean no less than a couple of thousands before I could get a practitioner equivalent accreditation. And also there would be the issue of being able to demonstrate acceptable consulting experience.
A friend of mine told me about Career Insights and told me to read about it on Facebook. I read the reviews on Facebook and remember thinking to myself, surely this can’t be true.
My Intensive Hands on Training with Career Insights.
I opted for a Monday to Friday intensive In July 2013. I remember feeling quite overwhelmed by the barrage of information that came at us that week. I guess they were not joking when they called it an intensive week! The focus was on understanding how the Prince2 framework had been adapted to the projects that were being managed, the need for governance, and the project tools used by the organisation, the role that budgeting and finance played and finally a preview into what working for the project side of the company would really look like.
We also heard from the project managers who were managing the projects at the time. I remember some of us at the training giggling having witnessed the project sponsor grilling the project teams. He warned that, we could laugh now, but that could be one of us pretty soon. He was right about that!
My Work Experience at Digital Bananas Technology.
Having completed my training with Career Insights, I joined the DBT, the project side of the company the following week. One of the very first ‘get my hands dirty’ tasks was building up the SWOT analysis for the Here’s My Card application that was being built for the Android platform at the time. I also joined the team that was building the Here’s my card promotional web platform – I had now begun to fully get involved in all things DBT. The projects, the disagreements and the banter!
By September of that year I had been asked to take up the role of deputy project manager for the Here’s My Card Fund Raising project. The main deliverable for the project was to come up with a number of fund raising options to market and sell the Here’s my card application. The project was currently on its third project manager and we were still struggling to understand the project brief. The brief was being prepared for project sponsor authorisation and there was no one available to present, so I stepped up.
It was a disaster! However, I learnt two valuable lessons that day. NEVER present to the project sponsor, presentation slides you haven’t prepared yourself and NEVER go in front of a project sponsor and say something along the lines of “I’m just here to present, this isn’t my work” As far as the project sponsor is concern, at that moment, you are the team and you are responsible. (Remember I had said earlier that the project sponsor had warned myself and fellow candidates that we too would have a chance to experience being laughed at…).
The next day the project manager stepped down. Things had gone from bad to worse, but now the real work was about to begin.
I assumed the role of the project manager for the Here’s My Card fundraising project the next day. It was a challenging time, but I learnt a lot. We learnt how to conduct detailed business research, put together a business plan for a venture capitalist and approach them for funding. The project closed in December.
Just before Christmas I took on the role of PMO lead for the Pacific Rim Project. When the Pacific Rim project closed in March 2014. I joined the CI 2 Legacy Project, at first just to assist the PM monitor manage and control the project but along the way I took on the BA Tech role.
In October 2014 I joined the two projects that focused on introducing Microsoft Projects and SharePoint. I joined these projects mainly because I wanted to have a good idea of how to use Microsoft Projects and SharePoint as well as having a good idea what to expect in a migration project.
Some things became apparent. I couldn’t stand the technical side of things, all you needed to do was mention ‘Wireframes’ and I would just switch off! I tried getting around this by taking up the role of BA Technical Lead for the CI 2 Legacy project, but my aversion for the technical side of things would not go away. I also realised that whenever I was called for project management roles, they would be in the software development and digital products environment. Whenever I would apply for PM roles in other industries, I wouldn’t get beyond the initial conversation with the recruiter. This was because there would always be someone with more industry knowledge.
There are a few things that set DBT apart from other companies. The mentoring sessions are one of them. This is when colleagues, decide put together a presentation and share their knowledge. This included sessions on using project tools such as Confluence, Basecamp, Google Drive and ProjectManager.Com. Then we had sessions that focused on developing specific skills such as gathering requirements, stakeholder management, how to set up a project from scratch and risk management. I benefited IMMENSELY from listening in on these sessions and conducting a few myself.
Getting a Personal Mentor
My mentoring sessions got off to a bit of a rocky start. The first two project mentors assigned to me were the best that DBT had to offer, however they were also the busiest. By the time I had got on to the mentoring route, I had already attended a few interviews. The feedback was consistent. I came across as a strong candidate, but the competition was fierce. The first mentor completely revamped my CV and prepared me for a project manager role with Universal Pictures. I was liked, but they went with someone with more technical experience. Something became apparent here, I just couldn’t stand the technical side of project management, all you needed to do was mention ‘Wireframes’ and I would just switch off! I tried getting around this by taking up the role of BA Technical Lead for the CI 2 Legacy project, but my aversion for the technical side of things would not go away.
My first mentor got tied up with a number of other things so I was assigned to a second mentor. He agreed that I needed to drop the technical PM approach if it wasn’t what I was passionate about and focus on just the business side of business analysis. We agreed that this, coupled with what I knew to date would put me in good stead for business transformation and change management projects. Again my CV was revamped, all technical references taken out. I got a number of phone calls and was put forward for a number of roles, but never actually got to see any clients.
By the time I had been assigned to another mentor, I had already secured my role with Unilever. However I had also been invited to attend an interview with Amey Plc for a senior project office manager role. I was assigned to Lynn Agoye. She pretty much predicted what to expect at the interview. She said they would start with a ‘tell me about yourself’ type question and then focus on competency questions…she was right.
Getting a Job
I would say my journey to getting a job was a necessary one. I had a good business administration foundation and a sound appreciation for commercial activity. A good part of delivering my services to client did involve project management but not in the strictest sense. I not only had to understand how to be an effective project management professional, I had to understand why.
By September 2014, I had now started to feel a bit ‘blue’. But I just couldn’t afford a pity party and had now decided to focus on the PMO analyst/PMO support route. I revamped my CV from scratch and set myself a target of applying for no less than five roles a day.
I spotted the project lead role on the total jobs website. I saw the company and the job role and thought to myself that this would be a very good opportunity. By this time I was really focused on PMO analyst roles and didn’t think I had much of a chance. I put in an application anyway. The following week the recruiter got in touch to say that her client really liked my application (thank God I had included a cover letter and addressed the deliverables specifically) and that she would like me to complete a questionnaire. The questionnaire focused on my experience as a project lead, my experience using Microsoft Projects and what I knew about Salesforce and Chatter.
My first interview was with project lead responsible for the project initiative. She was quite interested in how I had taken the lead on implementing a new way of doing things, my experience as a ‘go to person’ and how open I was to learning new technology. She said I would hear back from them the following week and I would be seeing her line manager. The very next day the recruiter called to say that they wanted someone to start the following week and as such the line manager wanted to see me that day! I had another interview and I was told that I would hear back by the end of the week. The very next day, I got a call from the recruiter saying that they wanted me to start the following week. Meanwhile, I still had an interview for a senior project office manager on Monday the following week so I told the recruiter that I would require a week’s notice – this would give me enough time to attend the interview and possibly get a response.
At the time of writing this success story, I still haven’t heard back from the senior project office manager recruiter, but I am not at all perturbed. I am a firm believer in God ordering His children’s steps. I know I will end up in the right place.
It has been an awesome journey – hard work, fantastic friendships, challenging sponsor, great working relationships (and challenging ones!) – If I was to live my life over, I wouldn’t change any of it!
18 months later, I’m now a PMO Manager
My first role with Unilever was very successful. My contract was renewed three times and I was able to identify the root causes for the ongoing issues and make solid recommendations going forward. One of those recommendations was to set up a Global Project Management Office.
In October 2015 I applied for a PMO Manager role at the British Council. My focus is two-fold. The first is to support a number of programmes and projects aimed at delivering significant change across the organisa-tion.
The second focus is to be a key member of a newly formed transformation team that will improve project and programme governance and assurance that will provide the organisation with a clear understanding of the ongoing achievability of the ‘Change Portfolio’