Inspiring Women in Project Management: Linky van der Merwe

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If you follow popular project management communities online then you’ll have come across Linky van der Merwe. She’s a prolific author, consultant and she is regularly featured in the ‘top’ lists.

I can’t believe it has taken so long for us to get round to having a proper chat. That’s happening today! I caught up with Linky to find out more about what is happening in project management in South Africa right now and her Success Stories Shared initiative.

Linky, it’s lovely to chat to you! What’s the project management scene like in South Africa right now?

In South Africa (SA), like many other parts of the world, the role of the project manager has evolved and matured over the past decade.

South Africa is showing growth in the area of training and certification, the use of PPM software, the existence of PMO’s in bigger organisations, as well as in portfolio management.

The Project Management Institute’s Talent Triangle reinforces the need for a balance of skills in leadership, strategic management as well as the traditional technical expertise. Many SA organisations have realised the importance of upskilling their PMs to ensure they can master these skills required for successful project delivery.

Are you seeing a shift in training too?

It’s evident in many training opportunities available ranging from short courses to 12-month diplomas, project management as a degree subject as well as post-graduate project management programs being offered at SA universities.

A wide number of certifications are offered by PMI which is represented with Chapters in every major city in SA.

In September 2013 Project Management South Africa (PMSA) was confirmed as a registered professional body by the South African Qualifications Authority and afforded the right and responsibility to confer three designations:

  • Project Manager (PM)
  • Senior Project Manager (Sr.PM)
  • Professional Project Manager (Pr.PM).

The Agile project approach is now prevalent in many companies with a strong and mature following.

Lastly, there’s a big focus on innovation due to the complex nature of the modern day workplace, digital transformation, our multi-cultural society, the pace of change and the growing demand for expansion to Africa and globally.

How did you get into project management?

I started out as a project management administrator at a big institution in the Financial Services Sector in 1996 and transitioned into project management.

As a PMP for the past 12 years, I have been working full-time as a Project and Program Manager in different industries including IT, Telecommunications, Retail IT and with Microsoft Consulting Services.

And how did you end up doing what you’re doing now?

As part of my mission to give something back to my community, I have been blogging on Virtual Project Consulting about project management best practices, processes and tools for the past 8 years.

I reach out to existing and aspiring project managers while offering a hub of recommended resources.

You have a great site. Blogging has offered other opportunities, hasn’t it?

I was fortunate to be a contributing author to a book called Strategic Integration of Social Media into Project Management Practice (which you wrote a chapter for as well) and to participate in various exciting global blogging initiatives, doing interviews, webinars and more.

And now you offer online training too?

In my career I’ve had the opportunity to mentor many new, upcoming project managers. I noticed their needs and that they were expected to perform the challenging role of project managers with no prior experience and little training.

I then developed an online training course called the “Growth Program for New Project Managers” to help new PM’s be up and running fast by focusing on technical skills as well as key soft skills. Candidates develop a customised personal growth and development plan. They are briefed about possible career paths and what it takes to become a professional project manager.

Tell me about the Success Stories Shared Initiative.

The idea was born in 2011 due to the concern about the loss of knowledge and experience when senior project/program managers retire. Story telling has been a fundamental mechanism for passing on human wisdom since early civilisation.

Louise Worsley and I committed to start this initiative which we named Success Stories Shared. I launched it at the SA National Project Management Conference in 2012 with the aim of capturing the essence of this wisdom, through doing interviews and extracting Project Lessons Learned, in a way that is relevant for future usage, readily searchable and easy to store.

We share not only the knowledge from retired project managers, but also the experience of successful practicing project managers with the South African project community in particular, as well as with a global audience. We have published more than 25 project success stories on our blogs, in the printed National Project Manager Magazine, as well as on guest blogs. Eventually the best stories can be published in a book format as another way of transferring the knowledge to future generations.

What plans do you have next?

I have partnered with an international organisation, ITM Platform, to help them distribute a feature-rich project and portfolio management software in South Africa. I believe it’s a simple yet extensive tool to enable companies small, medium and enterprise to use in support of their strategic and operational project initiatives.

You’ve achieved so much in your PM career, what other aspirations do you have?

To continue balancing my life between raising three children, building a career as project management consultant and managing Virtual Project Consulting as a business impacting thousands of project managers enabling them through tools, training and consulting.

I want to gather and publish many more project success stories and work on finding a mechanism to make the knowledge base accessible to all project managers who are looking for learn from past mistakes and successes.

Thank you!

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