The Project Manager is responsible for ‘ensuring that each stage of a project runs as smoothly as possible, so it is delivered safely, on time and budget.’
Callum Thompson is a Project Manager at Auckland International Airport, New Zealand’s largest and busiest airport. During a busy construction period, the airport can be spending upwards of $1 million a day on infrastructure projects. These projects require a lot of planning and coordination of several different stakeholders. Callum gives us a deeper insight into the Project Manger’s job and what an average day looks like for him.
Can you explain the Project Managers job?
My job is to deliver an asset or process to meet a business need. A project will run through several stages, including feasibility, various design phases, execution, and close-out. It is a project manager’s role to manage each of these stages to ensure they are delivered safely, on time, and budget.
What are your main tasks?
My main tasks vary depending on the stage the project is in. Tasks can include – determining the feasibility of a project from a constructability standpoint, figuring out if an asset can provide a return to the business either financially or through other means (i.e. improved processing time), engaging consultants to design the works, programming the project to map out how long each phase will take, monitoring project budget and cash-flow, ensuring the physical works are planned and implemented safely and ensuring the project is closed out following the local planning rules and regulation.
What were you doing before you became a Project Manager?
I completed a Bachelor of Commerce and then a Bachelor of Property. I first started as an assistant project manager and worked my way up to being a Project Manager.
The Auckland Airport International Terminal Building expansion project.
Infrastructure projects can be rather complex, with lots of different people working on them. Who do you work most closely with?
The list is extremely varied, particularly in an airport environment. There are so many stakeholders, both internal and external (customers, airlines etc.). In the pre-execution phase, I would generally work with internal stakeholders (e.g. finance & operations teams) and the architects, engineers, and cost estimators contributing to the project's design. From there, I will start to work with the contractors who will physically build the project, our internal health and safety teams and external stakeholders if the works will impact their daily operations.
What does an average day look like for you?
I will spend roughly 80% of my time in the office planning the works for the weeks and months ahead and getting through the paperwork. The additional 20% will be spent physically on-site, ensuring that progress is being made and health and safety requirements are adhered to.
In your opinion, what are the skills required to be a Project Manager?
Leadership, motivation, communication, organisation, prioritisation, problem-solving, and adaptability are skills a project manager will need to call upon at some stage. Communication is possibly the most important of the above. As you can be dealing with such a varied group of people, it is your job to ensure that everyone works together to achieve the desired result. You have to be highly organised; time management skills are vital. Often, there is a lot to do in a short period, so you have to use your time efficiently. This is where being able to prioritise the work correctly becomes important. The ability to problem solve is also essential as you often make quick decisions on site that can have a long term impact on the project.
For anyone considering a career in Project Management, what advice would you give them?
The technical side of things will come. I was originally worried about this side of the role, but you will be working with subject-matter experts with technical knowledge. It is your job to manage these resources effectively to deliver the project in the best way possible. You will learn a lot from these people who will help as you move forward in your career.
What do you like most about your job?
It’s very dynamic, and no two days are the same. The ability to problem-solve and then see your solutions implemented in the real world can be very rewarding. I am fortunate to work with a large group of people, and there is always someone in the team who is a genuine expert in a particular field, so help is always available. It is also exciting knowing you are playing a hand in shaping the gateway to NZ and improving people’s experience at what can be a very stressful time.