Project management students learn from those on the front lines at Siemens, Nokia and Loewe

What do a Finnish communications company, a German engineering conglomerate and a Spanish luxury fashion brand have in common?

For one, all are constantly taking on new projects, and need smart, creative and ambitious people to lead them.

Pedro Ricote Lazaro of Siemens, Francisco Javier Rodriguez Blanco of Nokia and José Luis Fernández Borrero of Loewe talked about their first-hand experiences and challenges as leaders of project management departments at their respective companies. The audience was a room full of students from the International Business track of IE’s Master in Management program, who are in the midst of planning projects of their own as part of their course work.

student asking questions to Pedro Ricote Lazaro of Siemens (right), and Francisco Javier Rodriguez Blanco of Nokia (center)

Student asking questions to Pedro Ricote Lazaro of Siemens (right), and Francisco Javier Rodriguez Blanco of Nokia (center)

“Carrying out projects is the soul of any company” said Mr. Rodriguez Blanco, of Nokia. “While operations are the established processes, projects are creating something new.”

“We use projects to transform ourselves. When we want to generate capabilities or correct processes, we set up projects to achieve those specific goals,” he said.
A project is a temporary endeavor with a start and end date and with certain targets.  “At the end, if you take the definition of what a project is you can apply it to almost anything,” Mr. Rodriguez Blanco said. It can be an initiative to improve a company’s reporting, a new marketing campaign, or the launching of a new product.

The panelists said that, despite the diversity of the types of projects, large companies like theirs generally have strong frameworks and guidelines for project managers.
Mr. Rodriguez Blanco said that’s been especially true over the last decade. He is also the regional President of the Madrid chapter of the Project Management Institute, which is the largest worldwide organization for project managers.

 

 

Mr. Fernández Borrero said that many luxury brands are companies founded by creatives and traditionally didn’t have a strong culture of project management, but it now plays an important role.

“We use projects to transform ourselves. When we want to generate capabilities or correct processes, we set up projects to achieve those specific goals,” he said.

A project is a temporary endeavor with a start and end date and with certain targets.  “At the end, if you take the definition of what a project is you can apply it to almost anything,” Mr. Rodriguez Blanco said. It can be an initiative to improve a company’s reporting, a new marketing campaign, or the launching of a new product.

The panelists said that, despite the diversity of the types of projects, large companies like theirs generally have strong frameworks and guidelines for project managers.

Mr. Rodriguez Blanco said that’s been especially true over the last decade. He is also the regional President of the Madrid chapter of the Project Management Institute, which is the largest worldwide organization for project managers.

A guidebook from the organization is considered the “bible for project managers”, and includes best practices on things like measuring project ROI and stakeholder management.

At Siemens, they have their own adaptation of the handbook for new project managers.  Mr. Ricote Lazaro, who is responsible for implementing the guide across seven countries in the region, brought a copy of the guidebook and passed it around the classroom.

At the end of the session, students were eager to have their questions answered.  One student asked what impact the recent rebranding at Loewe had on project management.  Mr. Fernández Borrero said  when a new creative director gets to a luxury brand it may touch every aspect of the business.

Another ambitious student asked: “What is the top level that someone on the project management track can reach in a company?”

José Luis Fernández Borrero of Loewe

José Luis Fernández Borrero of Loewe

The response was smiles from the panelists, as well as some practical advice. Usually someone needs to build up an area expertise on a team before becoming project manager. After that they can become a director of project management, and even move up to an executive level.

Students at this stage of the MIM are thinking ahead to their careers. Project management is an area that always has a high level of need for people with strong soft skills from a wide variety of backgrounds.  The panelists agreed that the skills that hiring managers look for in candidates are entrepreneurship, perseverance, creativity, and adaptability.

As part of their project management course at IE, all of the students in attendance are currently working on real projects for an NGO called Zonta International.  The projects range from launching a campaign against gender violence, to organizing a sports event fundraiser.

The panel of diverse speakers is a highlight of the course, aimed at showing the students how the skills they are learning are adapted in a corporate environment, across industries and company cultures, said Sharada Ravindran, one of the IE professors who organized the event.

“I think they really brought to life what a project management role looks like in their companies,” she said.

 Post written by Shaheen Samavati

5 thoughts on “MIM students learn from those on the front lines at Siemens, Nokia and Loewe

  1. Some top notch insights here, thanks for the great post.

  2. Students can learn a lot from the employees of Nokia and Siemens.

  3. I like to see more of such helpful task from other companies.

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