I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Carmen Campos, a professional project manager with 14 years’ industry experience and the newest member of the project management training team at Parallel Project Training. She told me what led to her becoming a project manager, how she became a trainer and some of her thoughts on the future of project management.
Carmen has 14 years’ experience managing engineering projects, having first entered the industry at The Welding Institute (TWI) in Cambridge, following her Master’s degree in Industrial Engineering. She started her degree at the Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha (UCLM) in her home town of Ciudad Real in Spain and, as part of a research collaboration, spent the final year of her course at Birmingham University. It was while at Birmingham University that she became involved with TWI as part of her thesis and, once she had graduated, they offered her a job as a project manager.
After 3 years working at TWI she moved in 2012 to Johnson Matthey, the global chemicals company, where she managed engineering projects to improve manufacturing. This involved waste elimination and lean manufacturing to improve the speed of the manufacturing process, plus projects such as improving the performance of catalytic converters for cars. Carmen found that her engineering knowledge was very helpful to her as an engineering project manager because she had a good understanding of the technical aspects of the projects, and the types of technical challenges found on such projects. So her engineering degree served her well as a project manager.
“My engineering degree enabled me to understand the technical aspects of engineering projects and appreciate the specific technical challenges”
One aspect of her time at Johnson Matthey was a secondment to the manufacturing floor working closely with the manufacturing team. This enabled her to develop significant process improvements by seeing where the real-world challenges and opportunities lay.
“Working on the manufacturing floor I saw real-world challenges and opportunities that could be implemented in process improvement projects”
In 2014 Carmen moved to Sartorius, the international pharmaceutical and laboratory equipment supplier. Over the next 8 years she worked closely with scientists on multiple Research & Development projects. For instance, projects developing robots for pharmaceutical manufacturing and projects developing bio-reactor systems.
She holds several internationally recognised qualifications from the Association for Project Management including the coveted Chartered Project Professional status, which she achieved in 2023.
Shifting Focus to Training
Carmen had always been involved to a small extent in training during her time at TWI, Johnson Matthey and Sartorius. She had trained colleagues in her native Spanish to aid communication with people on their South American locations. As a strong advocate for STEM subjects, she also volunteered to train apprentices and summer students.
When the coronavirus pandemic hit in early 2020, like so many people, she began to question what she really wanted to do with her life. She had always been (in her own words) “a planning freak” – enjoying schedules and budgets – so working as a project manager for 14 years had been an ideal career. Yet she had always been willing to volunteer her time to train and teach in some capacity too.
So when an opportunity came up to join the project management training team at Parallel, she had both the real-world project management experience and the skills and desire to impart her extensive knowledge to others.
Since joining Parallel she has been predominantly running live online training courses on Zoom but also some hybrid courses that incorporate 1 day at an organisation’s premises followed by 5 further 1-day live online sessions spread over 5 weeks.
Carmen recognises the challenges to online or virtual training even when the sessions are live, but also the benefits. In her experience, project managers are very glad that their companies are supporting them to gain an internationally recognised qualification that raises their career profile. Carmen’s 14 years’ experience working as a project manager, combined with the Parallel approach of using realistic case studies and providing coaching-style tips to delegates to help them pass the exams, has proved popular with very experienced project managers and also those new to the profession. The high pass rate in the APM exams is testament to the success of Parallel’s approach to training.
The Evolving Profession of Project Management
Since Carmen started her career in project management, she has personally experienced a major shift towards agile and iterative methods because of the software and automation projects she worked on where these approaches were more common. She expects agile methods to become ever more an integral part of project management in the years to come. There has also been an increase in factors such as sustainability and a greater focus on risk management and uncertainty than at the start of her career.