This installment of Inspiring Women In Project Management is a series in which I interview Pam Shergill (Director of PS Management Consultancy). Pam and I discuss how Pam got into project management after becoming redundant and how she manages two months off each year. Pam is full of energy and a person who seizes every opportunity. I enjoyed learning more about her life and I’m sure you will, too.
Pam, how did your journey to project management begin?
By accident! It all happened in 2006, when I was working in London for a global conferencing company and b2b communication company. I was responsible for setting-up a new global Telesales department in the UK that made appointments for European Sales Managers. Despite the team’s performance being good, and they meeting or exceeding their targets, revenue was not generated by the company after several months.
I was skeptical that the model was a success and presented figures to my boss. He recommended that we close the operation. He was shocked when he said, “You do realize that you are making yourself redundant by doing so?”
My boss offered me a job in Ireland as a project manager after I closed the operation. Although it was exhausting to travel back and forth every week, I was able to negotiate a beautiful apartment just 10 minutes from the beach, a car and flights each week, as well as a pay increase! I loved my job, and my boss.
It sounds like a great decision. It’s clear that you have had a varied career, so I assume you didn’t regret moving into project management.
Project management is a rewarding job. You must be organized and resourceful. While you don’t have to know all the answers or make all the decisions, you do need to know where to turn if you have a problem.
It’s often about being able to think on your feet, evaluate all options, and present them to your stakeholders. My managers have given me positive feedback for being open and highlighting risks and issues. I don’t hide anything from my managers, but I try to offer options to solve them.
But you’re not in Ireland right now. What are you doing right now?
GlaxoSmithKlein (GSK), a global pharmaceuticals company, is where I am currently employed. I value their values and the impact they make on the world.
My job is double-duty. I am both a project manager as well as a PMO Manager. Since 2006, I have been a freelance contractor. Most of my assignments last six months. Quite often, these will be extended.
This is quite a departure from a full-time job.
I made the conscious decision earlier in the year that I wanted to work in a job that broadens my skills and experiences but doesn’t make me despair. Prior to this, I worked in companies that required employees to work long hours and accepted that everyone would do whatever it took to complete the job.
This was something I did for so many years that it was hard to think about work-life balance. I would often come home in a bad mood, which affected me both emotionally and physically. I took two months off each year to recuperate, not enjoy the time. It was hard to accept a decrease in my GSK pay, but it was worth it to keep my sanity. I now rarely have to go home for work.
My boss and the company believe that there should be a balance between work and family. This was made clear during the interview process.
Awesome. It’s so important, but companies often talk about it without actually doing anything. How can you achieve a work-life balance?
This is a challenge because I have many interests other than work. But I believe I can achieve all I want, it’s just about prioritizing.
In my contracts, I always include a clause that allows me to work from home for 1-2 days per week. This allows me to go to the gym five days per week. I try to get up in the morning because it sets me up for the day. It also makes me feel good about myself.