I am currently a Project Coordinator at Infrastructure Ontario. I function as a Claims Coordinator on the Finch West Light Rail Transit Project. The goal of the Project is to expand transit in the Greater Toronto Area. On this project, I primarily coordinate the administration and reporting of claims arising from Contractors. A claim is simply a demand for something due or believed to be due.
As a Project Coordinator, I am also involved in other ad-hoc activities such as taking meeting minutes and managing project documents. Working on a large transit project, there is a lot to learn. Iâ€™d love to share a few of the things I have picked up along the way in my 2 years on the job:
You donâ€™t have to know all the answers
One of the biggest lessons I have learnt is that I don’t have to know all the answers to lead a meeting. My role is to facilitate the stakeholders. I prepare as much as I can before every meeting, but there is security in also knowing that my teammates are there to support and provide additional input during meetings. When I donâ€™t have an answer to a question, Iâ€™d usually say: â€œThatâ€™s a great question. Bob (my teammate), what do you think about that?â€
Make sure you invite the right stakeholders to meetings to ensure that when technical questions are asked, you can direct the question to the individual most knowledgeable. In cases where I do not have all the answers, I learnt to say things like: â€œI do not have that information right now but I will touch base with Bob and circle back with you before the end of dayâ€. This tactic gives me some leeway to provide an answer at a later point.
2. Positive Attitude
Maintain a can-do attitude
I have learnt to always keep a positive attitude towards my colleagues and my work regardless of how terrible the day is. This is not always easy, but it is a choice Iâ€™ve learnt to make each day. This has caused people to be more receptive towards my requests – even when they may be strenuous on the individual.
Focus on continuous improvement
Mistakes may happen. What matters more is how we react to the mistakes. I have learnt to focus less on my mistakes, and more on the areas that need improvement. Perfection is not the goal – The goal is to remain open and willing to learn and improve.
4. Ask Questions
Donâ€™t make assumptions
As a Project Coordinator, asking questions has become an essential habit. Typically, Iâ€™d try to figure it all out myself in an attempt to save myself from admitting that I do not know. However, Iâ€™ve come to realize that that does more harm than good.
Asking questions also helps me work better with my highly skilled and experienced team, because they are usually happy to explain concepts and provide support. Trying to figure things out all by myself led to wrong assumptions and frequently caused unmet expectations.
When is it due?
A project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result. It always has a start date and an end date – so do the project tasks.
Iâ€™ve learnt how essential it is to communicate deadlines always. This helps to set the right expectations for all parties involved. Itâ€™s mostly better to over-communicate than to have gaps in understanding.
Project Management (PM) education and tools such as PowerPoint, Word and Excel are essential to understand the language of the PM world and navigate day to day work.
However, the most essential skill of a Coordinator in my experience is the ability to communicate effectively and manage relationships across stakeholders. Basic communication is the foundational pillar that all other skill sets rest upon.
About the Author
Karo Oki is a SkillHat contributor. As a Project Coordinator at Infrastructure Ontario, Karo leads & facilitates large scale Capital projects for Government.