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Tuesday Transformation - Kevin Manning

Project Officer, The University of the West Indies

Who is Kevin Manning?

Who Am I? A question that is easy and very difficult to answer. Honest answer?! I am still figuring that out. I can sit here responding to these questions and say that I am motivated in all that I am involved in and I am an excellent communicator, and while I am indeed all of those things; that is not what you wish to hear. Honestly, I am still figuring myself out and it changes daily. Ultimately, I am that guy that gives his all and hopes to have an impact on the world. No one I have met as yet has been involved in development because its fun, we all want to impact lives positively and make a difference. So in the end, who is Kevin Manning? Well, a thirty – one (31) year old, employee of The University of the West Indies in the Youth Development Programme with many interests, will have to suffice for now.

What does your day to day entail?

I have learned not to plan for the day ahead unless it has been scheduled days in advance. If a meeting or an event requiring my attendance is not in the calendar then daily activities can see different variations of my day. So on a typical day, this could range from getting into the office and responding to emails before shifting to drafting a project proposal or an initiative that is being designed either in house or with a partner. Further to this, I shift to social media to have an understanding of the initiatives present across the Caribbean region, respond or communicate with persons who are engaging with the Youth Development Programme via social media. Ultimately, the day concludes with internal initiatives such as interviews, consultations or meetings that inform you of upcoming initiatives, proposals, programmes and activities that are being proposed or upcoming from various offices internally or maybe incoming from external regional, local and international partners. These are noted and itemized to be further discussed and then examined as to their feasibility for the next day. The days vary vastly but this can be recognised as an average day.

How did your interest in this field develop?

This developed from noticing the very real way in which a properly designed and effective project can change the lives of persons involved. I mean, we all have a rough idea as to how we wish to do something when we want to make a change, let's say carry out home repair…but there is a unique and effective way to do it that minimizes risk, delays and determines if your repair was successful or not. To me, this knowledge and this ability as to how to effectively manage a project is what got me into learning more about Project Management.

I mean it is not my immediate field and responsibility but noting and being able to assist with the work of that particular office within the YDP or the greater university body was recognised. Project Management brings with it some level of confidence and ability to effectively contribute to the identified work. Being a member of the Project Management Team (PMT) brings some significant level of input, especially when you may have a better focus on Managing Risk (where I place my focus), Project Implementation or you may have expertise in Monitoring & Evaluation. The benefits as a result are rewarding.

What do you love most about the industry?

Well, Development is an ever-changing industry, it is fast-paced and is unique with every single person you come across. One moment you can agree on a particular approach and depart from the meeting, then two hours later it was raised in another meeting and suddenly the approach is different due to the insights of others who believe that a particular partner should be involved or maybe it should have a location change which changes more than just the location, but as we examine next; this could have repercussions because depending on the country or even the community where this work will be carried out, you may need multiple approaches. It sounds hectic, I know, but you learn, you network, you design, you give it your all but expect the changes and ultimately if you are successful; you would have brought and implemented some real change that is different.

In relation to Project Management, it is a very exciting field, ever-changing and evolving. There are different types of PM and these vary depending on your interest but they primarily follow the same path - conceptualization and planning to evaluation. The ever-changing aspect of such a unique field is what makes it interesting whether there is a change in the best practice at the top by the key players such as the universities and institutes that play a key role in the best practice of Project Management. Accordingly, the experiences that are shared from others are unique and they keep you on your toes as to what you can expect at some stages and even keep you alert because some things do come out of nowhere.

We noticed that you have a level 2 certification in Mandarin, tell us about this experience.

It would have been fun to begin my response to this question in Mandarin but to do so with an English keyboard would be far more problematic than choosing not to do it; that message would not have been the same without the tones that are crucial to Mandarin. Still to answer the question, Mandarin has always been one of those languages that held a space in my mind. I possess a background in International Relations as well and noting the politics in the Asia region was of unique interest for me, especially noting that it is one of the fastest-growing languages in the world. Come to think of it, they are many reasons behind this decision. The ability to be able to communicate with a whole new segment of individuals whether at a personal level or in a professional capacity, brings so much more opportunity than limiting myself to one language.

The experience of learning Mandarin is unique, it was not difficult but most definitely not easy it requires dedication, patience and practice. Like any language you need to have a passion for it, if you aren’t feeling it, you will get bored of it quickly. Unfortunately, for me life sped up quite quickly and priorities changed to suit but Mandarin will soon be a priority once again for me.

How would you advise a budding professional to enter the field?

To anyone seeking to enter into Project Management, my advice is to research it and make sure it is for you and that you have that interest if not that excitement. Figure out where you can learn it, there are many unique opportunities for face to face learning or whether you prefer an online approach. Ensure that you can give this course all that you need to give it especially time; it is without a doubt that life happens and we have to address other priorities such as family and work. This is where your passion and commitment comes in to ensure that you maintain that you keep your interest.

Experience comes by ensuring your bosses are aware of this new capacity and ensure you wear that hat in all your meetings to demonstrate your ability, be prepared to chime in and propose new ideas whether small or big. A Project Management lens is not one that could be taken off and you will see issues or ideas at every turn.

If you are in between work at this stage, try attaining experience through a civil society organization, most times it will be unpaid but these organisations are always looking for help and this provides you with the ability to make your mark on initiatives, further to this, it allows you to attain experience going forward that you can undertake the same approach in a professional capacity. Don’t be afraid to take risks and never stop learning.

Tell us your most memorable achievement to date.

Not sure if I have one in particular but the one that stands out was the most recent. This was partnering with two other organisations for a Climate Change initiative and Declaration that was signed between three regional universities. I think this accomplishment, especially with the necessary focus of climate change was one that stands out to me. This achievement did not just bridge the gap but ensured that there will be critical focal points for these institutions to address to the benefit of the youth in an ever-changing Caribbean that will be impacted by climate change.

What does success mean to you?

I think success means a sense of relief. Makes sense? No, then allow me. If I am in the middle of a project or initiative, it becomes difficult to focus on other areas and you are just interested in making this the best initiative possible to have as great an impact as you can. Knowing this, relief is not a major priority but once that is accomplished then there is a sense of liberation knowing that you have had a unique, positive impact on the participants of that initiative and you can seek to transition to the evaluation and post mortem stage. I know it does not sound the least bit fancy but that is what I can surely identify as success in my opinion at this stage of life. The priority is to have a positive impact on as many lives as possible and now that in the end, you would have reached at least one person.


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