Ewelina Kruk, Capital Project Manager at Dyson, describes her approach to running multi-million pound projects for one of the world’s biggest technology companies.
What first prompted you to move into project management?
I was on a management course years ago and had to undertake an extra module so my tutor suggested I choose project management. It was “love at first sight” and I felt the role fitted me like a glove. It took two more years for me to develop my understanding of the profession before I made the transition into my chosen industry – construction.
Take us through your career do date, who have you worked for?
Since starting out my career in Project Management I have worked for a number of established national construction consultancies such as Mott Macdonald as well as consulting for Gardiner.
I began life in the profession as an Assistant Project Manager and have gradually worked my way up to Senior Project Manager level. Projects I have worked on include infrastructure, mixed use, commercial and industrial and range in value up to £100’s of millions.
Over the course of my project management career to date, I have progressed from assisting on projects to running my own projects and being the main point of contact and responsibility. I am currently working as a Capital Project Manager for Dyson on the client side which now includes the management of external consultants.
What are you up to right now?
Currently I am managing a number of challenging and exciting projects in the fit-out, new build and infrastructure sectors. I have also been involved recently in master planning, procurement strategy and a business change initiative.
I have responsibility for projects in the UK and Singapore and I’m also preparing my ChPP submission. Continuous Professional Development is a key aspect of my role and I stay active in progressing this.
What makes your work fulfilling and fun?
For obvious reasons I can’t be explicit, but my days are never short of excitement! I see myself as a facilitator to inventions and I get to work with some inspiring individuals who are not afraid to dream big and embrace change rather than fear it.
That makes me want to dream even bigger and push the boundaries of construction for them. I work on projects that are strategically important to the company I work for and thrive on the responsibility that I am given in delivering these projects on time and to budget.
I love the fact that my work constantly throws up new challenges and I feel that I am learning on the job every day.
What are your key strengths and how have you used these?
A few years ago I did a personality profile and what it revealed was a surprise. I always expected to have that key trait commonly attributed to Project Managers such as ability to command and being a good decision maker.
In fact, we all have multiple strengths such as creativity, people skills, ability to nurture, etc. In my role I utilise them all and each is extremely important to me to maintain and improve so that I can be a well-rounded PM who commands when needed, listens when needed, and nurtures when needed.
My particular strengths are that I am a good organiser and I can think on my feet when unexpected issues arise. I am able to use these qualities to identify the best methods of overcoming challenges.
What aspects of the role pose the greatest challenge?
The greatest challenge is to avoid the temptation to go full steam ahead in the delivery of a project. I have found that sometimes it pays dividends to take a step back and sometimes even pause and reassess/reaffirm what the team is doing.
This helps achieve the best project delivery and gives everyone time to think. Projects by nature are up against programme, cost, and many other pressures. It is very easy to get into a hamster wheel and not realise the team and project could benefit from a breather!
What training have you received and how has this helped you in your career?
Throughout the years I have undertaken various types of training comprising educational courses, seminars, self-learning and the like. Courses I most enjoyed were those delivered by The Association of Project Management, Managing Successful Programmes and Women’s Development Programme provided by GT (Gardiner) but delivered by Underhill & Associates.
What characteristics and skills do you think make a great project manager?
I believe that a good project manager must be a good listener. They must also be able to understand the differing priorities of the individual team members and bring that all together so that everyone is pulling together in the same direction to achieve a common goal.
It is also important that the project manager can get their point across confidently when necessary and demonstrates the ability to organise and inform both the team members and the key stakeholders on a project.
What are the biggest mistakes have you made and how did you correct them (be honest but no names!)?
I feel rather disappointed as there isn’t anything exciting I can share that was such a big mistake, but most of my professional challenges were often related to finding the best way to manage people and get the most out of my teams.
Where mistakes have been made I always feel that honesty is the best policy, take ownership of them and act decisively to eliminate them at source rather than trying to hide them.
Which project are you most proud of?
I am proud of all of my projects, especially those that I have worked from inception to completion, however the ones I truly put my heart in are those I have delivered for Dyson. They challenged me as a professional on every level imaginable and helped me evolve much quicker as a project manager.
What elements make your PM life easier (good comms channels, management, software etc.)?
There is nothing better than a great information management system on a project. It should be a standard for every change initiative. It helps share information quickly, coordinates, removes email traffic! Skype is my second must-have tool – video conferencing removes borders.
Do you have a role model?
There are many females I admire, but my real role models are my female colleagues and those who I meet at Women In Project Management Special Interest Group (SIG). Each and every time I am inspired.
Does being a good project manager help you in other aspects of your life?
Yes. Project management is a skill I firmly believe anyone can apply to anything. I applied it to manage my career and make the best choices for me at each point of the journey. There are also elements of project management that I am able to apply in my everyday life in the home.
How would you like your career to progress from here?
I want to gradually continue working on bigger and more complex projects. I also want to have a team to support their growth and empower. The ultimate goal is to teach project management and inspire more women to choose construction as their industry.
What’s your best advice for people hoping to move up the career ladder?
Be unafraid, never let a job spec dictate if the role is for you, and be determined to follow the dream!