Being the customer’s lawyer. Exceeding their expectations and meeting deadlines. Looking at a problem from many different angles, offering alternatives, anticipating any hurdles and resolving conflicts. Leading projects worth millions. Forming teams across multiple departments and countries. In a race against time, where you push the limits of what is technically feasible. While it may sound like an action movie, it’s all in a day’s work for a ZEISS project or program manager. One of these is Benjamin. The physicist had already gained team leadership and organizational skills through his involvement in community clubs. And since 2010, he’s been working with ZEISS to develop tomorrow’s technology. This is what drives him, and what fills him with pride. “We are developing cutting-edge technology for producing computer chips. Thanks to our efforts, people all over the world are able to use powerful smartphones. It’s very exciting to know that my work as a Product Line Manager played a major part in this development.”
Coordinating meetings, presenting milestones and keeping to tight deadlines are all part of Benjamin’s routine. And there’s plenty at stake: It takes a lot of money and effort to impress customers and ensure their company’s success. “The pressure is certainly on, but I just love a challenge.” So it’s no wonder that Benjamin is pursuing his passion. He enjoys working with specialists from a wide range of fields and can sense that everyone is passionate about what they do. But it’s not totally risk-free. There’s always the danger that your committed team of experts will be headed down the wrong path. And potentially not even meet the customer’s needs. “My job is to make sure that we’re working on products that will really benefit our customers. That always has the potential to speed up processes and save costs,” says Benjamin.
Major projects certainly come with many challenges. For instance, a project involving several hundred people where a handful of individuals threaten to make everything come grinding to a halt. That’s where Benjamin has to step in and empower the relevant team members so that they can take charge of their subdivisions and make any necessary decisions. “While it’s not always easy to establish a decision-making culture, it is certainly necessary.” He has the freedom to define the basic framework of a project, as well as the budget, decision-making processes and time frame. And that’s where you need a strong team behind you. Even projects worth millions don’t hinge on the efforts of a single person. “I am a multiplier, which means I set out the goals and supply the project team with guidelines that allow each and every person to bring their skills to the fore.”
The human touch is a great benefit
When it comes to project teams composed of many people from different countries and backgrounds, with their own sensitivities and problems, managers often need to make decisions on how to ensure exceptional teamwork. How should I behave in particular situations? When should I demand action, and when should I praise the team? What tone should I adopt and what’s the best way to find out what my team is working on? These are just some of the questions a project leader or program manager faces on a regular basis. Communication is key, so the human touch is the most important aspect of all in Benjamin’s line of work. “The ability to detect and understand issues related to human dynamics is what ultimately helps a manager ensure their project is a success.”