CELEBRATING WOMEN IN PROJECT MANAGEMENT 2020 SERIES
Location: Carson City, Nevada, USA
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Carla Fair-Wright has been involved in software development and project management for more than 20 years and has worked in oil and gas, engineering, manufacturing, law enforcement, and education. An award-winning international speaker and author on the subject of project management, she has appeared on Terri Craig Radio Show, and Business Makers Small Business Network Show and has been featured in the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) magazine, Maintenance Technology, STEMINST, and Code Magazine. She most recently conducted lectures on leadership were at the 2019 Project Management Institute (PMI) conference in Dublin, 2016 and 2015 Project Management Institute (PMI) Global conferences in Barcelona and London, Project Management Institute-Frankfurt, and the University of Houston’s Asian Affairs department. Carla is the chapter author of two books, ‘Encyclopedia of Energy Engineering and Technology’ and ‘Case Studies and Applications of Web-Based Energy Information and Control Systems.’ A member of the Society of Women Engineers since 2007, Carla has held several board offices both local and national. She is the past President of the Society of Women Engineers (Houston) and a recipient of the 2014 Regional Emerging Leader award. She was twice awarded Cameron’s Technical Publication and Presentation Award for her published books and conference presentations. As a community volunteer, Carla has served in many capacities over the years. In 2010, she was appointed by Mayor White as a Commissioner on Houston City Buildings and Standards board and has worked closely with disadvantaged teens in low-income schools, as part of the Project Hope organization.
What is your project management super power?
I am eternally optimistic. Optimism is from the Latin word, optimum, which means “the best”. I believe people are basically good and want to do their best work on the project. Of course, I assess the project risks and have contingency plans in place. Things happen on a project: funding may be redirected, unanticipated obstacles appear. I keep an open mind and an encouraging vision.
How can gender diversity be improved in the project management profession?
Most women are the primary caregiver in the family, so gender diversity can be improved by making the work environment more family-friendly. Having flexible hours, parental leave options, and onsite daycare or child care assistance programs have been shown to improve employee retention. Which benefits both men and women.
As the profession evolves, what skills do you think will be key for future success?
The skills needed for future success believe will be technical skills. As an IT project manager, I have seen the profession become more and integrated with artificial intelligence/expert systems (AI/ES) and now we are seeing the applications of blockchain technology with the use of what are called smart contracts. The usage of the smart contract is a major step forward for project management in many areas.
How do you recover from difficult situations?
I view failures and setbacks as opportunities to learn. I came to this viewpoint after reading Carol Dweck’s “Mindset” which is about how our perception can impact our attitudes about life. Dealing with difficult situations might be stressful, but it also can lead to great insights and learnings.
What are your tips and techniques for conflict resolution?
Some conflict is unavoidable and can even be constructive by leading to better team performance. As project managers, we are all familiar with the Forming Storming Norming Performing Tuckman model. However, conflict can also be destructive and hinder progress. Before I engage with the issue I try to understand the other person’s perspective. I do this through dialog. I begin by having a clearly articulated set of goals for the outcome. If I have a team member, who is constantly at odds with others, my goal is to discover the cause of the person’s behavior through active listening. There is no one size fits all approach that I found useful. What is useful is being genuine and caring about the person as much as finding the resolution.
Which 3 words best describe why you enjoy being a project manager?
Solving complex problems.
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