Laura reaches Level A

Laura Magahy is Managing Director of MCO Projects Ltd, which she established in 2000 together with a colleague. MCO is a project management, architecture and environmental engineering company, specialising in 4D planning, healthcare and sustainable development in the public and private sectors.

She’s also the first woman in Ireland to hold the IPMA Level A certification status. It might not be a qualification you’re familiar with, but actually it’s a big deal. It’s the highest certification that the International Project Management Association award, at the level of Certified Projects Director. Candidates require at least five years portfolio or strategic programme management experience, and they are also assessed against a set of core competencies including directing senior project managers, implementing project management processes and contributing to strategy.

Laura is only the second person in Ireland to achieve Certified Projects Director status, and one of fewer than 200 worldwide. Laura and I exchanged emails so I could find out some more about her achievement.

In order to get Level A certification status Laura had to do a project presentation and an interview with the IPMA panel. “I had years of practical experience but wanted to formalise that with a qualification,” she says, “and also to refresh on techniques, jargon, etc. I never set out to be the first woman – and didn’t even know they were going to do a press release about it! – but it’s nice to have my experience recognised, and to be among a small, qualified group.”

Laura’s first project management job was to manage the conversion of a Quaker Meeting House into the Irish Film Centre. “While doing that I got involved with the Temple Bar Development Council, a local arts and community lobby group that wanted to save the Temple Bar area of Dublin from becoming a bus station,” she continues. “After several years lobbying, writing documents and researching I ended up running the government established company, Temple Bar Properties Ltd., to oversee the development of the Temple Bar area.”

Laura left after ten years when the physical redevelopment was completed, to set up her own company with some colleagues from TBP. MCO Projects had arrived. Laura now has over twenty years of experience as a Project Director/Project Manager, and is currently President of the Institute of Directors in Ireland. At MCO she manages a variety of projects, the largest of which is the Mater Campus Hospital Development, with a budget to build of around €250 million.

There’s often debate about how transferable project management skills are between industries. After all, environmental engineering can’t have much in common with financial services of e-commerce. Laura thinks that the project management skills she uses in architectural planning are transferable to other industries. “An organised mind, attention to detail, while maintaining peace and the big picture at all times in the face of challenge,” she says, listing attributes that are perfectly transferable.

Laura thinks project management qualifications are “well worth considering” for other women in the industry. With role models like her, the IPMA may well find that applications from women for certification increase.

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