My first-year anniversary working in the programme management office (PMO) at Airwalk Reply (Airwalk) has approached and what a year it has been. I have gone from researching careers in PMO to working on a few clients in the space of only 18 months. To give some context, in December 2021 I secured my first role in PMO after six months of networking, researching and learning about careers in the discipline. Those six months were very challenging and this was a process I documented within an interview on House of PMO here: Getting Your First PMO Job: An Interview.
My first year at Airwalk has provided a number of challenges, presenting a steep learning curve in which I have been able to build strong foundations for the future. I am really proud to have had the opportunity to put all my PMO learning and knowledge into practice, and grow my soft skills, whilst being fully accepted as a valuable member of the PMO Discipline Team here at Airwalk. The experience gained has allowed me to prove to myself and to others that I was right in my decision in making PMO and consulting my chosen career.
1. Increasing my knowledge in systems and tools
My first point of call upon joining Airwalk was to build on my foundations, focusing on the skills that would be most beneficial to our clients. Honing in and cementing my understanding of Microsoft Office products to an advanced level and updating existing knowledgebase articles with what I had learnt. Using the greater Reply network also allowed me to explore the wider Reply toolset and offered opportunities to learn further, reaching out to colleagues with any questions.
Upon building my foundational knowledge of tools I also sought ways to push myself and learn about more advanced ones, such as Power Automate and Power BI. Power Automate is a great tool for a PMO as through automation it streamlines day to day activities, such as weekly/daily email or Teams messages, activated through a scheduled flow or a trigger. Another power tool is Power BI. Power BI is great tool for creating interactive dashboards and reports, delivering detailed insights that allow for greater quality data.
2. Building upon my existing ‘soft skills’
Working with a number of clients has helped highlight the importance of soft skills, such as; written and verbal communication, becoming more analytical and astute, attention to detail, my ability to plan and prioritise, and self-confidence. The importance of being adaptable to the needs of the client has also been a key learning, whether that includes a change in role or adjusting to a hybrid role, to suit the clients’ requirements.
3. Increasing my PMO Knowledge
Whilst learning various tools I also took the opportunity to gain a greater understanding of the PMO Competency Framework and undertook the House of PMO Self-Assessment to ensure I had a baseline to build upon. This gave me insight into the skills, behaviours and competencies required from the foundation level of PMO to expert.
4. Desire and thirst to learn more
The biggest highlight that I am most proud of is how proactive I have been to learn new things and develop my current knowledge and skills, though I am also very grateful to Airwalk in their support and recommendations during this process. Due to the busy nature of working in a consultancy, I have learnt you must self-lead, using your own initiative to ensure you are appropriately prepared for all client roles.
5. Gaining PMO certification
I have also undertaken formal education through PMO Learning’s ‘Essentials for PMO Administrators’ course. The course provided me with further understanding of PMO methodologies, such as; P3M, characteristics of projects, programmes and portfolio management, and overviews of delivery support competencies. I would highly recommend the course for anyone who is new to PMO or wants to gain an understanding of what a PMO does. Undertaking this course allowed me to easily and quickly transfer my learnings into my work.
With all of the above highlights I feel I have also been able and can continue to make my own personal contribution via PMO Centre of Excellence. The PMO Centre of Excellence at Airwalk provides employees with a place to build their knowledge on frameworks, processes and tools, whilst encouraging greater colleague collaboration. I have learnt a great deal from exposure to our knowledgebase and the articles my colleagues have written. I have collaborated with my peers on written pieces including topics on; ‘risks and issues management’, ‘quality management’ and ‘planning and scheduling’. This valuable content provides an overview of processes and an in-depth analysis of the PMO’s role and function within them, as well as experience gained.
To summarise, my first year in PMO at Airwalk has been everything I hoped it would be, educational, rewarding and enjoyable. I have found the opportunity to complete additional learning and then to put these new learnings into practice with clients incredibly valuable. To be a successful newcomer into PMO you need to make yourself dynamic, malleable and proactive, if you adopt those three traits, in my opinion, anything can be achieved. With the drive and the confidence to reach out to the right people for guidance when you meet challenges, anything is possible.
Going into my second year in PMO my aims are to; further my understanding on various delivery methods, gain further understanding of the multitude of Airwalk products, technology and services, show initiative to improve my skillset, go out of my comfort zone during tasks and presentations, and to improve my leadership skills in client environments. I can't wait!