Project Management Skills?

Nick’s Post-comps posting really motivates all pre-comps Ph.Ds to get through the first two years… 🙂 The encouragement form a senior Ph.D student is really powerful.


In order to get through a series of requirements during the first two years such as homework assignments, mini-projects, mid-term & final examples, term papers, etc. I and my other Ph.D. cohorts were talking about how project management skills would be important. Of course, we need to be very diligent and intelligent enough to get through a Ph.D. life, but we also need to manage so many details. I am wondering how everybody is doing this? Do you think that project management skills are important? Any comments are very welcome! 😉



3 Responses

  1. Yukika, for myself, while managing a PhD program has posed significant project-related challenges, I do believe that project management skills have some value. Before leaving the real world (aka a real job with a real salary) and returning to school full-time, I managed to pick up a Project Management Professional (PMP) certification. Just like the PhD can be seen as a union card to academe (specifically faculty), the PMP is a union card to the project manager’s world.

    Anyway, the PMP and its associated bible, the PMBOK (project management body of knowledge), are based on a deterministic view of projects. In other words, projects can be fully laid out from start to finish and, in turn, schedules, milestones, scope, resources, and other factors can be pre-determined. While plans can certainly evolve over the life of the project, the baseline project plan should guide you along the way. Hence, skills such as time management, scope management, and human resources management may come in handy for “homework assignments, mini-projects, mid-term & final examples, term papers, etc.”

    Unfortunately, the deterministic model behind the PMBOK is of little value in the messy world of research. A colleague and I just submitted a revision to a journal a few weeks ago. Needless to say, the revised manuscript is quite different from the original. It is a stronger paper, but we certainly didn’t plan for this scenario. In other words, an emergent planning style may be more appropriate when working on research projects. I don’t know – that’s a research question in and of itself.

    One final note – disciplined project management skills will keep you attuned to the big picture – which I believe is an important skill when working on a PhD. For instance, if I take on this new project, how will it affect my other projects? Does it fit in my project portfolio? What will be expected of me? A resulting headache may be projects that never “die”, so to speak. They just sort of linger.

    Speaking of time management, I need to get back to work!

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