Thursday, 5 March 2009

Westley Cockle’s journey into Project Management

We are extremely proud to post, for the first time in this blog, something that was entirely written by one of our delegates. Westley Cockle went through the hard process of leaving the Services and starting a professional career as a civilian. Here, he tells us more about his decision, how he ended up in Project Management and what Maven Training has done to help this transition run as smoothly as possible. Read on!

“First of all I’d like to give you a bit of personal background so you can assess yourself against me whilst this passage is being read out to you: I’ve been in the military and in particular the Royal Marines for 12 years. I’m a high flyer and have reached the dizzy heights of Corporal during that time. I handed in my notice about nine months ago with a view to setting up an expedition company. Unfortunately, for one reason or another, that fell through. GREAT – four months into my resettlement and I didn’t have a clue what to do. The only thing I knew was that I wasn’t going back to the military because I had made my decision.

So how did I get to the Project management decision?

Previously I’d heard people talk about Project Management at work so I thought I’d research it some more. Naturally my first port of call was job advertisements on the web to see exactly what companies wanted from a ‘Project Manager’ and then to see if I had any transferable skills to bring across from the military into Project Management.

Have a look at these and see what you think (taken from the internet by ‘googling’ ‘Qualities of a Project Manager’):

Team Building
Problem solving skills
Control under pressure
Good communicator
Inspires a shared vision
Time management

Well that was a good start.
I’m sure we can all associate ourselves with most of these. The next step was to see just what a project was.

According to the APM BoK: ‘A Project is a unique, transient endeavor undertaken to achieve a desired outcome’.

At the point of reading this I was in charge of the combat survival phase of our training program. I had to plan, develop and deliver this part of the training using a new area in the UK, and I was using all the above skills. This is a good example of managing a project but I think the quote from the APM BoK embodies what the military is all about. We all get given tasks from our line managers, often these are unique tasks that we will have to plan for and deliver in a certain time period, using a set amount of resources and to a specified quality – and that is a Project.

Step two complete and project management was looking like a very real opportunity.

Step 3 was to further research the subject to see if it actually interested me. Obviously reading books was a good start but one of my most beneficial experiences was to go to the Project Challenge exhibition in London. This is where I met Maven Training, but as well as this, I got all the answers to any unanswered questions I had about Project Management.

At the end of the day I had:

Looked into Project Management Courses (i.e. PRINCE2®, APMP, PMI®)
Met with Maven Training and got a tip from William Franklin (Client Relations Director): ‘Look up Project and Change Management on a job site’
Met lots of contacts
Handed out CVs
Organised some potential work experience
Met with Project Management recruitment agencies
Furthered my knowledge on Project Management

In short that one day gave me information on courses to make a start in Project Management, a quality training company to facilitate those courses, good contacts for work experience and future employment and a much better understanding of what it was all about.

Step 4 was to actually get these courses done. The choice of training provider was made for me by the ELC (Enhanced Learning Credits) and the APMG (Association of Project Management Group) because they both accredited Maven Training. Basically ELCs were happy for me to spend their money on Maven Training and the British governing body for Project Management were happy with the quality of the training provided – which, incidentally, was top quality.

The courses I chose to do were PRINCE2®, APMP and Principles of Change Management:

PRINCE2® is a methodology. Simply put, it tells you how to get from A to B and if there are any problems go to C or D to sort them out. It’s a great start/introduction to Project Management and will set you up for the APMP if you choose to do it. Fortunately I had two weeks off before this course began to study and I needed every bit of it. As a newcomer to PM you’ll need more than the recommended 20hours of pre-course study.

The APMP is the nuts and bolts of PM. You’ll have a good knowledge of PM after the PRINCE2® course but you’ll have unanswered questions due to the subjects not being covered in detail or not at all in the PRINCE2® syllabus. I recommend this one because you’ll look like you mean business in PM and it’ll separate you from and raise you above the PRINCE2® standard. They complement each other very well. Again it’s a very intensive week – I also had two weeks off to study for this exam and need every bit of it.

Principles of Change Management
I did this course on William’s recommendation. Look at Project and Change Management on a job site and you’ll see why – coupled with that it goes very well with our current economic climate. I found this very interesting because there is a strong representation of team work and leadership in the syllabus. We work in that environment but this gives you the theory behind why it does or in some cases doesn’t work. It does get fluffy at times but you’ve just got to get your military head off and put your civil head on (after all that is why you’re there).

Step 4 complete – which brings me to the present day. In answer to the question that I’m sure you’re all asking. ‘Yes I have managed to find a job.’ In all honesty, though, I did have connections in the company that have employed me. Having said that, they did need me to be PRINCE2® qualified and they are very pleased with the APMP and Change Management qualifications.

The current climate is a pain in the backside but things are still moving and I feel confident that I could find work elsewhere if needed. The one set back you will have is the experience in the commercial world. You’ll have to convince the organisations you approach that the Military is Project Management and you’ve been practicing it for years. This will be an easier task than you think, most of the people I have spoken to have agreed with me. I have also met with and heard about a lot of ex-military personnel in the Project Management field – it’s a discipline that we seem to warm to pretty quickly so GOOD LUCK and I hope this has helped you on your way”.

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