What's your job about?
TSA provides independent project management services and advice for the entire life cycle of construction projects for clients from a wide range of sectors – infrastructure, education, healthcare and many more! My role as a assistant project manager is to provide support to the project team throughout various project stages, from inception and design to construction and completion.
I work closely with my Project Director and Project Manager on the day-to-day management of two projects in the education sector. One of them involves building a new library with connection to a heritage building that will also be revitalised. The other one is associated with a series of upgrade/refurbishment works on the teaching space of a culinary school. As both of them are at design stage, our current work mainly focuses on coordinating requirements from clients and design responses by architects, engaging consultants to conduct site investigations and seeking approvals from relevant authorities.
A typical day at work usually starts with a quick catch up within the team for the latest project update and allocations of responsibilities for actions to take within the next few days. Then we will step into several meetings or phone calls with the client, the consultants or other important project stakeholders (such as local councils) to update the latest progress and discuss pending issues on the project. (Do not underestimate the time we spend on communications – we might stay on the line for the rest of the day!). Following that, we will take measures to drive the project going forward, such as issuing out the meeting minutes with agreed items and key actions for different project members to take.
What's your background?
I was born in China and moved to Australia on my own at the age of 18 for university studies. I completed my Bachelor degree in Architecture and Master degree in Construction Management at The University of Melbourne.
In the second year of my undergraduate study, I went on a 6-month Exchange Program to The University of Nottingham in UK, during which I was introduced to a different approach to architectural training. Interesting hands-on construction experience was well incorporated in their course by giving students opportunities to build their own design in real life. It was at that time I found I was more fascinated by the building process instead of the design solution and decided to switch to construction after returning to Melbourne. Also during the six-month time, I travelled to more than 20 cities around UK and Europe and visited many architecture masterpieces that I have read about, which was really inspiring and rewarding.
Before the completion of my postgraduate study, I started tutoring and research work at the university. The academic experience was valuable for me as I developed a theoretical but systematic understanding of some pressing issues concerning the construction industry. However, at the same time I realised that there is a better way to comprehend and contribute to the industry’s evolution to tackle these challenges - becoming part of it.
I joined TSA through the graduate program and started my role in February 2020. I am fortunate enough to have two great mentors, Madeleine (Project Director) and Nicola (Project Manager), guiding and supporting me since my first day stepping into the industry. There are also a bunch of amazing colleagues with various professional and cultural backgrounds willing to share their experience and provide advice at any time.
In February 2021 at the end our our 12 month graduate rotation, I was promoted to Assistant Project Manager.
Could someone with a different background do your job?
Yes, I believe so.
What I learned at work is project manager’s role has a lot to do with people management. Certainly, with a background in architecture, engineering or construction, it will take you less time to become a trusted advisor for clients and supervisor for consultants’/builder’s work, but such knowledge can be learnt from practice as well. As a moderator and facilitator responsible for driving the project forward, great communication and interpersonal skills are the key to resolve the conflicting interests between project parties, motivate the whole team working collaboratively and maintain long-standing partnerships with clients and other industry players.
What's the coolest thing about your job?
What I love the most about being a project manager is the access to the backstage of the projects and the big picture of the industry. While project managers are not responsible for carrying out design or construction work, we literally have to be on top of every detail throughout the project cycle. It is very exciting to be involved in the process of unfolding and resolving the complexity of a project so as to turn it from a fabulous idea into an amazing reality. The process entails working with organisations from multiple disciplines and sectors, which allows us to develop an insight into the current challenges facing the industry and many intelligent solutions developed to address them. Therefore we are also more likely to test out new things before everyone else.
What are the limitations of your job?
I think the biggest limitation of my job is the contribution you can make to the project is heavily reliant on the project experience you have. An experienced project manager can flag a project risk at early stage so the team can address it in time to prevent it from escalating to anything serious. Such level of expertise can take a long time to develop no matter what educational background one is equipped with. As a graduate project manager, the learning process is always associated with making mistakes or overlooking items. However, this limitation also means that you will be needed more and more as your experience builds up.
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