Bryony Walsh is a project manager at the NIHR CRN, she has volunteered her perspective of what it is like to do this role in our organisation and how no day is an average day…
My time as a Project manager at the NIHR CRN will always vary enormously depending on our current priorities. There isn’t really such a thing as a ‘typical day’, every day is very different. That’s one reason why I enjoy the role so much!
One thing that is consistent however is that every day starts with working through a batch of seemingly never ending emails that have managed to squeeze themselves into your inbox since last time you looked, (On the plus side, Fridays email battle will always be accompanied by a pain au chocolat or a croissant!).
I project manage the Open Data Platform (a way to bring data sets together enabling users to interact with the data), The App Centre (a single point of access for solutions which support research) and the Reference Data Service (a service establishing consistency across all NIHR CRN systems). Being able to deliver, navigate and progress through these projects is an interesting and worthwhile challenge of every day.
Our work encourages us to bring along creative thinking. There isn’t always an obvious solution; we frequently have to think out of the box. We need to be driven and innovative, and have a positive can do attitude. As project managers we spend a lot of time being pulled in lots of directions, we are here to work collaboratively though. We need to try and figure out what to do next despite often high amounts of uncertainty. However, if at any point it gets too much; you always know you can raid the CIO’s office, which is more like a tuck shop, for a Cadburys crème egg or a fig roll!
Finishing a piece of work is always very rewarding but there is always another challenge just around the corner so it’s important to be highly adaptive. An example, my recent activities have varied from reviewing and producing lessons learnt on a recent project to being filmed for a communications video to making a 1950’s computer out of a cardboard box, it’s important to acknowledge that the challenges and obstacles we face will vary every day. This keeps you on your toes and makes every day motivating and interesting!
I would describe us as working in an open culture; it is a very friendly and respectful environment. The way of working is very inclusive with everyone involved in the decision making, which is very empowering and something that appeals to me about our organisation.
Our organisation enables you to have a good work/life balance. Recently 15 of us from across the organisation, entered into a Triathlon. We would like to do it again next year if we can get enough volunteers! We also hold ‘lunch and learns’, numerous coffee mornings and Christmas parties giving us the opportunity to get to know those people (who you don’t necessarily sit with) better. This helps us all work together towards a common goal and even have fun along the way.
Our team is made up of likeminded people who come to work to make a difference. They believe in what they are doing and are passionate about making a change. It is encouraging and rewarding to work in an environment of supportive and positive people.
The professional development aspect at the NIHR CRN is excellent. We are supported by training courses, mentoring and (in my personal opinion) the most useful style of development which is ‘being thrown in at the deep end’. We are given opportunities to push ourselves to our professional limits, whilst always knowing that support is there. I have been fortunate enough to have been given valuable opportunities to present to large numbers of people, something that when I first started here 18months ago would have terrified me. Now I find the experience both rewarding and exhilarating and thrive on the task.
I would say that we work in an intellectually challenging environment, but one that presents fantastic opportunities. You are rewarded by the benefits you are adding which make the delivery a satisfaction. In addition, being aware that we are delivering something that will make a real difference, you do get a genuine feeling that you are creating to the greater good.
Prince 2 and MSP accredited project manager with experience delivering in business and IT projects and programmes. Brings a positive ‘can do/ do it now’ attitude with dedication, commitment and drive to see the task in hand completed to a high standard.