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Development and Training

What's expected from Project Managers in our sector?

In global/international large Pharma companies

An interview with Pauline Stewart-Long, PIPMG Committee member.

What is your experience in Project Management?

Much of my career was in large Pharma , from a PM role in an international product development team, through to being VP of Project Management in GSK.

How did you get into a PM role?

I was a member of a cross function project team, as a Clinical Operations representative. I was interested in the PM role – I requested and got a 6-month secondment. I knew I wanted to do it after that! I later applied for a permanent PM role and got it.

What is expected of a PM in large pharma?

Coordination of activities, ensuring logical and efficient progression of projects. A ‘Project Leader’ is generally responsible for the strategic issues in the project – the PM is an operational role, ensuring the team work together. I was responsible for keeping plans up to date and making sure they were communicated.

I reported to a manager in the Project Management Office (PMO).

What are some of the challenges for a PM working in a global company?

No direct authority – all project members report to their own functional managers. There are standardised reporting requirements from all projects – they can feel like a regimented process.

These days PM work would be a lot more structured and detailed. A lot of focus on budgets, resources, risk management and reporting.

What do you need to learn?

The skills to operate with influence and persuasion – and to be comfortable with that. You need an understanding of the industry and how drug development operates. You need to work with very different people. ‘Stuff happens’ – there are some difficult people to deal with! You will also need technical/IT skills as you will be interfacing with large PM IT systems.

Generally, PM qualifications are not mandatory to take up a PM role – but most large Pharma would expect you to qualify with something like PMP (The Project Management Institute qualification) and would sponsor you to do it.

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