Nov. 30, 2016

Project Management Fundamentals 2016

Article by Michelle Gordy (Hanington Lab, University of Alberta)

What is a project? A project is simply a unique and temporary endeavour that is completed to produce a product, result, or a service. During graduate school, we undertake multiple projects to complete the requirements for our degree; for instance, experiments that turn into manuscripts that then are transformed into thesis chapters. Often, a project can become completely overwhelming because of deadlines, multiple complicated tasks, and countless meetings and other responsibilities that seem to take up precious amounts of time. So, how do we avoid becoming overwhelmed by our project? We use tools to help us manage it.

In the project management fundamentals workshop, we were given several useful tools to help us plan and organize a project. Additionally, and more importantly, we were given the opportunity to use these tools during the workshop as we worked in small groups. My group chose to plan a Host-Parasite Interactions Conference to be held in Calgary. We were given a mock budget, some staff to complete the project, and a timeframe. Over the two-day workshop, we worked together to develop a project management plan for the conference, and learned about the importance of considering stakeholders and their role in the project, how to communicate with different stakeholders, and most importantly with the sponsor of the project and the people who complete the work. We learned how to determine the scope of the project, schedule the tasks to be implemented, create a budget and consider the human resources and the type of communication needed. We also learned about risk and quality management. Overall, we learned that, similar to parasites, a project has a life cycle, of which each stage plays a very important role towards the success and quality of the desired outcome.

While the workshop covered a lot of material and was quite a time commitment, the delivery of this workshop was phenomenal. Our instructor, Emil Tarka, did an excellent job at keeping the experience, interesting, informative, and entertaining. We would like to thank him and the Host-Parasite Interactions Program, who funded and organized this workshop, for providing us with useful tools and knowledge that will extend far beyond our grad school careers.