pma Award Gala 2018: Interview with Project Manager Katrin Seltner
The annual award gala held by the PMA – Projekt Management Austria – took place in November with our own Katrin Seltner at the heart of the event in Vienna, as she was nominated as one of five finalists for the Project Manager of the Year award!
Katrin, we are super stoked for you! This is a great accomplishment and we’d like to congratulate you! At NTS Retail, we are truly happy to have such a talented project manager on our team. Katrin is a great representative of our dedicated Project Management team, which excels at bringing complex retail projects to life all over the globe. Driven by years of telco and retail expertise, our PM team consistently impresses our customers even in the most complex of scenarios.
PMA is the key certification authority for project managers in Austria, serving as the local representative of the IPMA (International Project Management Association). The “Project Manager of the Year” award honors candidates from various industries for their excellent work in managing ambitious projects in complex environments.
We took this opportunity to sit down with Katrin for a short interview.
Katrin, during your time at NTS Retail you have worked on many exciting, international projects. How many different countries have you visited thus far?
Katrin: My journeys for NTS Retail have led me to as many as 25 countries. With the exception of Latin America and Antarctica, I have pretty much had the chance to work on projects on every continent. The longest trips have taken me to Australia and New Zealand.
Which country has fascinated you the most up until this point?
Katrin: That is hard to answer, as every place has its own unique fascination. Qatar was my initial gateway into working in the Arab world and I still remember how overwhelmingly different it felt in the beginning. Qatar is a wonderful melting pot of different cultures coming together and amazed me from the very beginning.
What was the greatest challenge you faced while working on telco projects around the world?
Katrin: There is a wide variety of challenges while working in a multi-cultural environment. Initially, I faced the challenge of fostering acceptance within my team that, as a female project manager, I would be able to assert myself in a diverse cultural setting. While working on the actual project, you are inevitably faced with your own preconceptions. Whether it happens consciously or unknowingly, they emerge as soon as you enter a new environment. This process taught me a lot: To rid myself of preconceptions and to take on different perspectives.
When it comes to project management, one of the greatest challenges was switching from a project in Switzerland to a project in the Arab world. Within a short spell, I was facing completely different expectations and surrounding circumstances.
Such situations require flexibility first and foremost. You need to be able to adjust to a multitude of changing variables and requirements and react accordingly. Long-term planning can only get you so far. Sometimes project plans require changing on an hourly basis. That’s why it is at least as important to have a 'Plan B' ready than it is to have a 'Plan A'.
What are typical obstacles while managing large-scale telecom projects?
Katrin: Integrations with third-party systems are a challenge for pretty much any project in IT. Even if there are standardized interfaces available, they need to be reviewed and checked regarding their reliability in daily operations. This process naturally causes new requirements to emerge, which then need to be implemented in order to create a sustainably reliable system.
Another challenge, which I consider a critically important factor, lies in the “business” itself, as it is formed by the people who work with the production system every day. Although our project team strives to design the system and the processes to meet the requirements of the end users best as possible, ultimately, it is not feasible to sketch out a design on the drawing board that perfectly aligns with the actual mode of operation. At this point, it is equally crucial to maintain flexibility and to bring diverging interests together. This requires involving end users actively and working closely with them, ideally starting at the very early stages of the project.
Language may pose another challenge. Usually, English, which serves as the working language in most projects, is not the first language for the people involved. Therefore, it is key to listen carefully and to ask the right questions, in order to make sure that everyone is on the same page. More often than not, consistent project management demands asking questions time and time again to get to the right result.
Additionally, we are confronted with divergent terminologies for most projects. Every customer is unique and the terminology they are using is just as diverse. Sticking to a standard terminology does not necessarily help, instead we try our best to understand which notions our customers use and translate them into NTS terminology.
How does it feel to have successfully led a major project to completion?
Katrin (laughing): It is beyond words. Regardless of whether the “go live” went perfectly or there were a couple of things to iron out, the team spirit following a successfully finished project is phenomenal. That is what we work for and the reason why you would want to stay in project management in the long run. Receiving positive feedback from colleagues and customers is what makes the job special and what keeps you motivated.
Interested to find out which projects have been brought to life here at NTS Retail and what our approach looks like? Our case studies provide you with insights from our ambitions retail projects around the globe!