As part of my personal celebrations, I am interviewing 10 incredible women in project management.
Lorraine Chapman is the star of today. She started her career in construction project administration when there weren’t many women in similar positions. She started her career as a secretary in a local council and rose up the ranks to become the head of the Doha International Airport’s projects and planning department. We spoke about her career and how it is like to manage projects today.
Lorraine, how did your journey into project management begin?
It was luck. I was assigned to a contract as a PA (secretarial background), to the Chief Financial Director at a Local Council. They announced that two to three floors would be renovated. I offered my hand to say I could do the job and was given the task of rehabilitating a “couple” floors.
The North Block of County Hall was created from the couple of floors. It then joined the rest of County Hall (which had 72 floors). The outer laying areas were then condensed into offices in the locality. We moved, relocated, and renovated offices for 2,800 people.
Wow! That’s a great introduction to managing projects! What do you love most about being a project manager
It’s about taking something that was already there and turning it into something amazing. I enjoy giving people something from their “wants, needs, and wish list”, and letting them give information, communication, and design points.
I enjoy the challenges and the safety and health procedures that ensure safe working practices. It’s a pleasure to set up a program and work through the how and when. I also enjoy learning about different trades and using them to achieve the best results. I enjoy working with people to get the best from them and deliver great results.
What has changed in construction project management since your start?
In 2000, there weren’t many project managers in the industry – making the job difficult. There was much opposition and men who believed they could do a better work.
With this in mind I set out on a mission to win their respect and get them to trust me. I spent a lot time learning on the job, asking lots of questions, and reading as much as I could.
It’s now more common to respect and share more information with women in project management roles. Let’s face the facts, if you want it done right the first try, hire a female! ).
It is now easier for women to get accepted into the construction industry because of the readily available information online.
Is this always true?
There are still instances when it is difficult to be a woman in a male-dominated field. This is changing, however, and is less common than it was 15 years ago.
Trust and respect are two of the most important things.
What is the biggest challenge you are facing right now?
The job is full of challenges and involvement. You take something and give it back to someone else.
My greatest challenge is learning how to deal with multiple stakeholders. In some industries (e.g., the UK’s National Health Service), decisions and taking responsibility can be frustrating and time-consuming.
This isn’t a unique aspect of my job, it’s part and parcel to the job. It is something that project managers (male and female) face from time to time, and it varies from project to project depending on the support we receive from stakeholders.
Each project h