Project Management – Is Your Goal to Set Goals?

Chemists can do all sorts of things – and most of them don’t involve a lab bench or a white coat. The following is a profile of Roy Simmons, Ph.D., MBA, PMP – a chemist who’s taken some interesting twists in his career.Roy works for Integrated Project Management Co., Inc., a project management consultancy based in Chicago. His current assignment is the management of several drug development projects at Pfizer’s Global Biologics R&D Center in St. Louis.As a project manager (PM), Roy’s primary responsibility is to track project spending and resource allocation. He helps project teams develop and maintain project plans, manages team meeting schedules, and coordinates the cross-functional activities that are key to the success of complex projects like drug discovery. Roy interacts with “people along the whole spectrum of disciplines needed to bring new drugs to market, including synthetic and analytical chemists, biologists, regulatory experts, business people, accountants, lawyers….the list is truly endless.”Roy got started on this path about 10 years ago, when he moved from the lab to a company-wide “New Product Development Methodology” initiative. He was interested in the new methods, and saw an opportunity for career growth. Roy had “always been pretty good at getting things done and figuring out the easiest path to a goal, and at challenging others to think about doing things in different ways. When the opportunity appeared, it looked like a good fit.”According to Roy, PMs need exceptional organizational, interpersonal, and communication skills. Roy’s MBA and business development experience help him understand business issues that are often ignored by technical teams, such as the importance of following the money, and the impacts of delays and cost overruns on the eventual health of projects. Since biological processes and analytical methods are still rooted in chemistry, the ability to understand complex technical issues is also important.Over the past decade, Roy has moved from chemicals/plastics into pharmaceuticals, based on his project management experience. Because project management is still a relatively new field, Roy feels his future options are wide open. Eventually he plans to look for more senior positions where he can affect how entire organizations execute projects. An example would be project portfolio management, where he would influence the actual projects selected for execution.If all this has piqued your interest in PM as a career, Roy suggests that you “find a company that understands the value of applying the PM discipline, get on a project team, and get some training.” Most universities include PM courses, and the Project Management Institute (PMI) offers classes and a certification exam.Project management is a not career path that you might choose at the beginning of your career, but rather something you will be exposed to during the course of your career, and might gravitate toward. So keep your eyes, and options, open. Sometimes the best opportunities come from unexpected places.This article was written by Lisa M. Balbes, Ph.D. of Balbes Consultants. A more detailed version of this article appears on her Career Development for Scientists blog.

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