The Motor Registry project was one of the largest whole-of-government projects undertaken in a decade and involved a diversity of stakeholders, not least public clients, the Department of Infrastructure, Energy and Resources, the police, the Department of Justice, Department of Treasury and Finance and the third party insurer in the state, she lists.
“My war wounds came from [the Motor Registry project], which went for a long time and provided a lot of learnings that I can use in the future.”
After the project went live in August 2008, Skillern moved into the Department of Treasury and Finance as assistant coordinator-general for the Nation Building—Economic Stimulus Plan. A very different project, she is nevertheless still dealing with stakeholders and counts the people side of project management among the things she likes about it.
“I like working with people and I like the fact that every project is different and each one is a different challenge. I really enjoy working as part of a team and, as a project manager, I also like the challenges and rewards that working with a team of people brings,” says Skillern. “There is also the satisfaction of the stakeholders when you deliver something that they’re expecting, particularly if you are delivering something that has taken a long time to develop.”
As for one thing she’d change about project management, she nominates the erroneous concept of an IT project. “Labelling projects as an IT project is very scary: it’s actually a business project with a major IT component. The project manager can produce the outputs from the project but can only influence the change that happens in the business. If there is no business buy-in, the business change just doesn’t take place.”
Skillern credits her exposure to different types of projects within DPAC, and her mentor at the time, for her solid foundation knowledge of project management.
“If, for example, my task was to review a draft Project Business Plan and provide feedback to the project manager, the mentor and I would separately review the document. We would then share and discuss what each of us identified—this helped me to quickly pick up the things I was missing and develop a structured approach to reviewing project documents,” she recounts.
Outside of work, Skillern nominates spending time with her two daughters, and going to the theatre, concerts and movies, as activities she enjoys, though admits to taking project management into her life.
“I am renovating at the moment so that is my current project and I am finding it very rewarding,” she says. “Maybe it’s the project manager in me, being able to visualise the end result and starting off with something and working out how to reach my goal.”
And after she finishes in Treasury, will there be another string to her project management bow? “All my projects have been quite different so I don’t know what will be next, but I know it’ll be exciting.”