02 Feb My role as Principal Project Manager in Plymouth: Josh Heath – Principal Project Manager
Joining WWA as an Assistant PM in 2017, the past five years have been some of the most challenging and rewarding of my professional career. A major professional highlight includes passing my RICS Chartership back in 2019; an achievement which was supported and championed by the WWA team. Fast forward to today, and my role as Principal Project Manager, no day is the same, with my role being to lead and manage complex projects on behalf of some of the prestigious and influential nationally recognised, clients.
Ensuring quality and consistency are key elements of my role, and my team are essential in helping me to achieve and exceed the expectations of my clients. In turn, as a senior management team member, it’s my job to ensure my team have the support needed to maintain the high standards associated with WWA – which is why I am passionate about mentoring junior team members.
If someone asked me ‘what do project managers do?’, I’d say we’re basically ‘professional problem solvers’. The projects I work on have the potential to not only change the construction landscape, but also local communities, so it’s essential that we – project managers – drive these to completion. While it can sometimes feel like a thousand plates spinning at once, my role is to essentially ensure a project gets delivered on time, and on budget. Every project has to reflect the vision of multiple stakeholders, and project managers have to become the conduit of this vision, and the faces of the project…which comes with significant responsibility.
The role is perfect for those who have a passion for leadership, as well as those who want to play an essential role in delivering some of the region’s most important construction projects, from inception to completion. You can’t beat the feeling when you complete a project and know you helped get it over the finish line. While it can at points prove challenging, it is extremely rewarding.
Even today, I still have a sense of pride when I see a past project I have worked on. For example, one of my first projects was supporting the redevelopment of St Ives’ Tate Gallery; a building which not only has historical significance, but also national interest. Even now when I drive past it (I’m from Cornwall, so I see it often!), I still feel incredibly proud, and see it as both a professional and personal achievement.
People would likely be surprised about the type and variety of projects we work on and the problems we are faced with on a daily basis. For example, one of our project managers was called to meet an ecologist who had been monitoring a Peregrine Falcon at a development site at 4am! The scope of our role is endless, and can genuinely say, no two days are ever the same.
The most complex projects are some of the most exciting, such as the redevelopment of Plymouth’s Royal William Yard, and its centrepiece, the Grade II listed, Melville Building. With multiple stakeholders, a building dating back to the early 1800’s and a limited budget, its delivery has been one of the most challenging of my career. Previously neglected and in a state of disrepair, transforming and bringing this building back into use has been a major highlight – now home to a gym, cinema, offices and restaurants; all of which is a testament to the WWA team involved.
Leadership, organisation, mediation and negotiation are just some of the skills needed by a PM, alongside the ability to be able to cope and manage pressure and stress. Being assertive and confident in your decisions are key and should be based on a full analysis of all the facts presented to you. The client is often looking to us for answers, and we have to ensure our solution is not only the right one, but also accepted by the client. As a PM, you’ve got to have clarity of thought on what you’re trying to achieve and act with conviction.
Soft skills are also important, and when leading a team (of sometimes up to 60 people), you also need to be able to manage and interpret people’s emotions and expectations. It’s the individuals who can read what’s happening right in front of them, and behind the scenes, which are those who would make the best PMs.
I have worked at multi-national corporations, and while providing me with a different perspective of project management, I couldn’t deny the feeling of being a small cog in a big machine. It’s different at WWA for all the right reasons; we have a big focus on team culture, and ultimately every success is celebrated by all. We all work together to solve problems and learn from each other – regardless of your role.
Going from Assistant to Principal in just four years, I want to continue to progress professionally at WWA, while taking every opportunity to learn and improve my skills. My objectives include leading larger teams and taking on new challenges, while ensuring the WWA team continue to be regarded as one of the best both locally and nationally.