Ellen Maynes: Inspiring Women in Project Management

Do you think project management is all about building bridges or IT systems? What if I said project managers were getting involved in brokering world peace? Oh yes.

Today’s interview is with Ellen Maynes, project management consultant, 2016 Global Peace Fellow, and one of the most interesting people I’ve ever spoken to. Ellen might just inspire you to take your project management to the next level.

Ellen, tell me what you are doing in Myanmar?

I came to Myanmar from Bangkok where I’d been participating in the Rotary Global Peace Fellowship. The end of my fellowship program coincided with the appointment of the new democratic leadership in Myanmar.

Based on my interest in women’s leadership, multi-sector partnerships, the peace process and Myanmar itself, I decided it was a good time to apply my skills working here. Myanmar is interesting, and at times it’s also intensely frustrating and at others exhilarating!

What projects are you involved with and how are you using your project management skills?

I am involved in three projects at the moment. Firstly, I’m participating in the newly created Myanmar Women’s Mentoring Network as a mentor for young Burmese women.

I’m also involved in designing a project management curriculum in Timor Leste for Engineers Without Borders – a project I’m working on remotely.

I’m also the Public Engagement Strategist for #womenseriously.

Wow. What does #womenseriously do?

#womenseriously is a global movement advocating for women’s representation at peace and decision making tables around the world.

Right now, the world is a pretty conflicted place. Governments, military and ethic groups are all working to broker peace, but women are missing from the conversation.

Less than 10% of participants at peace tables are women, even though all the research shows that when men and women work together to broker peace, the peace is more sustainable.

This October, #womenseriously are running a campaign asking people around the world to host peace tables in their communities to elevate the issue and call for change.

I’m also project managing the global launch of Women’s Peace Tables Worldwide in Dublin in September, it’s all very exciting!

How did you learn your project management skills?

I learnt much of the theory through a bachelor and masters degree at university. However, my real learnings were on the job, working in various roles across the corporate and social sector in Australia, Europe and Asia.

I learnt that the best project managers were the ones who connected with people, were great leaders, team-builders and communicators.

You mentioned you were writing a curriculum for project managers. What’s the appetite for PM training like in Myanmar?

The appetite for building technical and project management capacity in the region is enormous. Particularly in countries like Timor Leste and Myanmar, where years of conflict affected has impacted men and women’s access to education and work experience.

What role do women play in the PM community there?

Unfortunately, women are underrepresented in the workforce in general and in project management.

It’s great to see initiatives like the Myanmar Women’s Mentoring Network which aims to support women in the workforce.

You’ve worked on some amazing initiatives. What has your favourite been so far?

Good question! One of my favourites involved designing and delivering a Journalism Fellowship Program for young Australian journalists in Cambodia during my time at World Vision. The immersion program was very powerful, all the successful applicants were women.

They learnt about post-genocide issues in Cambodia, including logging and deforestation, human trafficking and health issues including the effects of trauma. All these journalists have gone on to achieve great things in their careers such as awards and impressive job opportunities in Australia and overseas.

You’ve worked around the world as well. What’s your top tip for women wanting to build an international career in project management?

Don’t go it alone. Connect with others doing what you do (or want to do). Technology has also made it very easy to stay connected, no matter where you are. Last week I had a great Skype conversation with a project manager in Australia, about conscious project leadership.

My other advice is to get a good mentor. Or several. For me, having the support of mentors has been very important. These wonderful individuals have supported, motivated and challenged me throughout my career. They’re part of my journey too.

Thanks, Ellen!