Love making plans and helping people stay on track? Being a project manager might be for you, and the role is a critical part of our transition to a clean, net zero emissions economy.
“I love what I do. I’m a born organiser,” says Sarah Hill. “I’ve always been the go-to person to organise parties and events, so it was a natural progression to move into project management.”
“Thinking around problems, logistics, different ways to get to an outcome – the fact there’s always different challenges – these things really excite me. Being able to get all the right information and contain it, control it and get the right result is really exciting.”
Over the past 10 years, Sarah has been steadily turning her passion into a career in Tasmania’s energy sector, first with energy retailer Aurora, and now with Australia’s largest generator of renewable energy, Hydro Tasmania.
At Aurora, Sarah moved from accounts and administration roles into project work. Now working with Hydro Tasmania, she manages a range of varied projects across the technology side of the business.
“Hydro Tasmania has about 1,600 permanent staff and contractors working across many sites all over the state, and across the country” Sarah says. “Currently, I’m managing three very different projects. One involves the whole organisation, another one is a field-based network project focussed on updating IT infrastructure at the power stations, then the other is a very small, custom-built application for a specific team.”
“Working for a company like Hydro Tasmania, there’s a broad range of tech used across the business, so we get exposed to a lot of different environments and people.”
For those with a natural inclination toward organisation, project management is a career with huge potential – and many pathways into it, as Sarah explains.
“If you want to be a teacher, you go through school knowing exactly what your next steps should be. But I didn’t know project management could be a career when I was coming through school,” she says.
“I feel like I’ve been built for it my entire life, but I didn’t know it was something I could do for a living until I was exposed to it.”
“I got an opportunity at Aurora to move into the IT project space and got quite a bit of experience on how projects operated – what was involved and the processes,” Sarah continues. “I then undertook a TAFE course – a diploma of leadership and management which had a project management component in it. The course was really valuable, but project management is one of those careers where the best way to get into it is to start experiencing it as a project administrator, project coordinator, even a business analyst. All of these types of skillsets can then merge into project management.”
Speaking of skills, if people are considering a move into project management, what attributes can help stand out from the crowd?
“There are so many different frameworks and different project management methodologies you can take as far as the technical training, and it really depends which area of project management you want to get into as to which path is the correct one,” Sarah says.
“If you are interested in more technical project delivery, the world’s definitely moving towards more ‘agile’ methodologies. Then if you’re in construction, that’s generally the traditional PRINCE2 ‘waterfall’ style approach.
“But all of that said, I think one of the key attributes that isn’t highlighted as much when you’re starting in this field, is communication,” Sarah says.
“Being able to effectively communicate with your stakeholders, with your customers and with your project team is invaluable to getting successful outcomes. The “soft subjects” are the ones that really make the difference between a good project manager and an average one.”
At its core, Sarah says project management is taking or seeing something that needs to be done, and being the person responsible for making it happen.
“The benefit of project manager positions is that they are so varied, so skills are transferrable,” she says. “There are always opportunities in clean energy – there’s real opportunity in all areas of the [clean economy] industry, which is fabulous.
Of course, as with every job, it has its challenges. “There are always things that haven’t been considered, supply chain constraints we can’t control, and you’re always dealing with different people and personalities, so we have to do what we can to manage what we can.
“But project management really does give you exposure to all different areas of a business, so you can move sideways or up to be exposed to areas you like more. The only limit is your own capacity to learn.”