Raquel Chalas, MA Management of Special Education in Developing Countries
“Now I have taken and passed the PRINCE2 exams and am a certified project manager that can take on projects in developing countries to improve the education system.”
I attended a PRINCE2 classroom based training course. The course lasted 5 days, two of which were exam days. The course covered; an understanding of what is a project and what project management entails, a deep understanding on how PRINCE2 method works, with emphasis on the principles, themes, processes and the major management products used within a project and how to become a problem solver, by choosing the correct application of PRINCE2 in specific project scenarios for an efficient and successful project life cycle.
What were your main achievements?
The main achievement from this course was to be able to learn the foundation of PRINCE2. My professional background is in education, not project management. I can admit that there are things I did in the past that resemble project management but not at this scale. The theory based on concepts and strategies were difficult at first to conceptualize without lived experience in the field of project management. To be able to pass the foundation exam with my fellow course mates that do have experience in this field, is an achievement in my opinion. Then having to apply this theory to business scenarios in the Practitioner exam is the second achievement gained from this course. In these hypothetical business project scenarios, you had to state which was the best way to go about the problem or stage of the project, when all answers were correct. You had to determine which one was appropriate taking into consideration not only the scenario but the wording of the answer. To be able to undertake such an intense course and exams when my first language is Spanish makes passing this course more than a task done successfully. It was a challenge that I was able to overcome.
What did you enjoy the most?
I would have to say the change from education to project management is what I enjoyed most about this activity. I had the opportunity to be submerged in a different environment with people who interact in this field on a daily basis. I was learning from their lived experience, hearing stories of important projects that have been done in England and Great Britain. The environment provoked a curiosity of my opportunities outside and within my field of education. Before this I wasn’t aware of the job positions available to project managers.
Part of the environment was the individuals that were part of projects that have influenced and changed mechanisms and companies. To be surrounded by them and knowing that they are looking to further their careers, is an incredible experience. At first it was intimidating to be around actual project managers. However, within a few hours of listening to them, it became encouraging to be around them. We were a group of 12, made up of project managers for Virgin Group, two governmental branches and stores like Tesco. The best part was their support and motivation throughout the course. I felt valued and not dismissed because of my lack of knowledge in the field. To summarize what I enjoyed most was the change of environment and the people who made up that environment.
What were the hardest aspects?
It may seem as if I am contradicting myself. However, what I enjoyed most was also the hardest aspect of this activity. The change of environment, meant I had to work harder than everyone there to be able to catch up and go further. It was an intense week for everyone there. I just felt it was a bit harder for me being from a different professional field and Spanish being my first language. It meant there were a lot of concepts, common knowledge and strategies that may seem logical to them but not to me. The will, determination and time it took to be able to analyse the exercises and reading material became discouraging at times. The intensity of the course, as I said before impacted everyone. The long hours packed with information became draining as the days went by. Unlike my daily routine or job, this course required more intellectually for a longer period of time. I felt exhausted by the end of each day to only keep pushing forward. By the end of the five days, I felt it had been one of the toughest weeks mentally, emotionally and even physically that I have had in years.
What skills have you developed?
During the PRINCE2 training, I strengthened certain skills I need to be a project manager. The first skill is communication; the course improved my ability to communicate effectively in this field. Prior to the course I did not know how I would have to convey the vision of the project, the ideas, goals and issues. The course provided the missing information for me to effectively communicate these aspects. It provided a foundation of knowledge to speak from and different methods accomplish each.
Another skilled further developed in this course is the ability to be organized in this field. As a teacher it always required for me to be organized prior to class. I would have the classroom ready, lesson plan and materials set for the day and week, among other tasks. In my opinion a project requires different preparation and strategies to organize and execute a successful project closure.
A skill I developed in the course, not strengthened, was the ability to manage risk. To be able to predict and create solutions to issues before they arise. It’s a skill most naturally develop for personal reason. In project management, it is a vital skill that increases the chances of delivering projects successfully within financial and time limits. To develop the mentality of how to identify and assess risks, has come to prove important in many aspects of my professional career.
How do you think your course will benefit you in the future?
I was suggested to take a project management course as feedback from a job I did not get in England. The PRINCE2 training, worked towards achieving my next career move into project management in the field of education. The reason I chose the specific master’s program at University of Birmingham was for the title. I will graduate with a degree in Management of Special Education in Developing Countries, which will open doors to working with organizations like United Nations and their branches. However, the degree was not enough, and I now understand why it was not. There are certain skills that are essential to the success of managing a group. Now I have taken and passed the PRINCE2 exams and am a certified project manager that can take on projects in developing countries to improve the education system.
The course built my confidence in being able to transition from teacher in a classroom to a project manager. The university degree helped further my knowledge on the area I want to work in. The activity has opened job opportunities in more areas than I had thought of branching out to before the course. If the current career move isn’t possible, the course does not limit me just to education. I feel it was an important step towards job security in a changing world, where I might have to steer into a different field.
Thank you to donors
Thank you for the chance to continue improving myself professionally.
A university degree is essential in obtaining certain jobs. At least in my field as an educator, it’s a requirement. Finding a scholarship or funds is relatively easy for a university degree compared to finding funds for professional development. The opportunities this bursary program offers is the only one I know of. I was lucky to have had the chance to apply and receive the bursary. If not, I would have not been able to take the PRINCE2 course or the exams. This would have meant a career move that I was not going to be able to do. A sad reality that one of my professional goals in life to improve the education system was not going to happen. So, thank you for investing in the future of individuals you may never get to know. At least for me it’s been a life changing event that has only just begun.
Thank you again.
With grateful thanks to the alumni donors who made the PGT Professional Development Bursary possible.