This blog is translated from German with DeepL.
…what does that actually mean?
With this report we would like to give an insight into the work of a project manager at Gimelli Engineering AG. What kind of tasks this includes, what responsibilities, considerations and planning.
Most of the project managers in our industry have made their career via an apprenticeship as a design engineer, training as a technician and/or engineering studies.
With increasing routine in the job, one or the other crystallizes that he or she would like to and can take on additional tasks and responsibilities.
At the beginning, however, many colleagues are surprised that in a service provider or engineering company like us, time and cost pressure are much higher than, for example, in the development department of a company with its own products.
But being a project manager doesn’t just mean managing projects and the colleagues involved in them, it also means being the interface to the customer and, at the end of the day, being equally responsible for success or failure. Both to the customer and to your own company. In the words of one colleague, “In my opinion, one of the hardest, most challenging, most rewarding, and sometimes most thankless jobs to be found in design/development.” At the latest with this insight, everyone must decide for himself or herself whether he or she is made for the job. After all, the demands are incomparably higher than for a designer or engineer without a project management function. Ideally, the project manager is an all-rounder. He or she maintains customer contacts, prepares offers, pulls the necessary strings and organizes himself or herself and the members of his or her team. He manages projects independently, preferably without burdening the management. Flexibility, patience, empathy for employees and customers are just a few important requirements. “The project manager is manager and leader in one person” – this is how one of our employees defines the function.
Few project managers oversee only a single project. As a rule, there are several at the same time. The project manager must remain focused and concentrated on the respective project, make decisions in the right place and not mix up topics.
Each project is unique. The administrative processes in the background remain the same. Every company has its own processes for development projects and we at Gimelli Engineering AG have designed them to be as simple and universal as possible so that all the different projects can be covered.
Which tools are used in detail is determined by the needs of the customer and the individual preferences of the team and the project manager.
When asked how one manages to familiarize oneself with new topics and industries sometimes several times a year, one of our project managers answers: “I don’t know, I just do it. I see it as part of daily business to familiarize myself with unknown topics. This is also what makes the job so interesting.”
It can also happen that a project manager has to act as a “jumper” on a project that has not been assigned to him or her, i.e., help out when there is a need. This doesn’t necessarily have to be due to the absence of another project manager, but can also involve the role of a team member who is missing or needs to be supplemented on that project.
Or a PL may be called in just for the quote or concept. One might think that there is now a great potential for conflict between different project managers, but reality proves the opposite. Another project manager in the team has all the more understanding for the challenge of the other project manager and can therefore also provide better support. In our company, the PLs are not “top dogs”. This is also evident in the actual “team leadership”: at Gimelli Engineering AG there is not much to lead in the classical sense due to the very flat hierarchy. The project manager is responsible as a trailblazer for ensuring that everyone can do their job as efficiently and motivated as possible and that the customer receives the best possible result.
In addition to the responsibility, he is simply a part of the project team and lends a hand wherever he is needed.
Every project manager certainly has professional preferences and strengths, but these quickly fade into the background when facing a new challenge – with all its ups and downs. The greatest reward is when project manager and customer operate on the same level, both factually and professionally, and can let a project mature together into a physical product.
Which brings us to the most important factor: the customer himself. The customer is the absolute center of our daily work. Ideally, we recognize what the customer actually wants, what he needs, even before he does. Unfortunately, it is not always easy, and sometimes it is simply not possible to adapt to the customer in the best possible way, because at the end of the day we and the customers are people with their own character, ideas and expectations. It is important to get to know each other and give everything for the best possible result. The more precise and accurate the specifications, the easier it is to develop a concept, identify weak points and plan correctly. However, there are also cases when a client says “I don’t care how you do it, I want exactly THIS result.” Also an exciting approach. As a project manager, you have to be willing to pick up tips from colleagues as well and try out different perspectives. It’s the result that counts and if a project has led to success, no one will ask afterwards how you got there. If they do, we’re happy to share our experiences, because it can be a two-way learning process.
Our project manager compares his job to riding a roller coaster: “You either love it or you hate it. If you hate it, you shouldn’t do it.”