Interview with Arkadiusz Urbański

How did your adventure with project management begin? 

My adventure began in my early school years, more precisely in primary school. Already in the seventh grade, I got involved in various charity activities, collecting funds for organizing discos. While studying in high school, I undertook more advanced projects, organizing events, concerts and inviting famous personalities to participate. Although I undertook several similar initiatives during my studies, I reduced this activity for a certain period and only later devoted myself fully to projects during my professional career. 

What made you decide to become a Project Manager?  

I graduated in management from the University of Warsaw. It is difficult to pinpoint the specific moment when I became a Project Manager. It wasn't as if I dreamed of this role and consistently strived to achieve it. In my case it was more a matter of chance. 

While working with clients, I found myself in the electrical construction industry, where I served as a salesperson. Later, I was involved in a large project related to the power industry, this time as a logistics specialist. As a procurement officer, I ensured the smooth construction process, and a specific challenge was the implementation of the golden terraces project in Warsaw. I devoted three years of my professional career to the logistics of building this shopping center. I personally negotiated purchase contracts, organized transports and managed loads related to the electrical and energy industry. 

It was my first significant adventure with large projects. Since then, I have had the opportunity to work on several projects in the area of construction and its logistics, including: above the Plac Wilsona metro station and the Boniface Center office building. 

While working on golden terraces, I established many valuable contacts, both with interesting people and interesting suppliers. One of them was Schneider Electric Polska, who later recruited me as a project manager. My tasks focused mainly on projects in the field of power engineering, technology and industrial automation. From the very beginning, I was responsible for the implementation of IT systems, acting as a business analyst. That's how I started delving into these types of projects. 

How did you become a member of the pmexperts team? 

The story of my joining pmexperts is an interesting episode. When I worked for Schneider Electric Polska for nine years, I started looking for a new career path. My search found an unexpected solution when a boss from an electrical construction company, with whom I had friendly relations, informed me about a friend of his who might be interested in my skills. 

This is how I found Piotr Plewiński. We contacted him and it turned out that he was looking for new consultants and project managers. The next step was my meeting with Maciej Krupa. It was the summer of 2016 and I had already planned a holiday trip. Maciej also had commitments, so we only had 2-3 days to meet before the opportunity was lost. I decided to take the train and rush to Gdańsk so that we could meet. 

During our conversation, Maciej asked me to conduct a short training. I remember he took notes that grew to 2-3 pages. Although initially I was worried that my chances of getting hired were slim, ultimately Maciej said that my presentation was very successful and warmly welcomed me to the team. This is how my fascinating adventure with pmexperts began. 

Do your past experiences influence the kind of Project Manager you are today? 

It's hard to say for sure, but experiences certainly shape our attitude. What I did in primary school, high school, college and while working in the electricity industry influenced my current skills as a Project Manager. One of the key lessons was the understanding that a project manager must be able to organize work, effectively manage people, delegate tasks precisely and concentrate the team's efforts in one direction. 

Another important aspect is my passion for solving difficulties and overcoming obstacles. I am fascinated by challenges that automatically increase my energy level and motivation to act. Obstacles motivate me and keep me focused. Even when the team is doing great, I believe that it is worth presenting some unknowns to them that will encourage them to take additional actions. 

In my role as a Project Manager, high-level commitment is crucial. This is what makes me treat each project with full professionalism and passion. 

What are the biggest challenges you encounter most often and can they be effectively prevented? 

I am currently managing two projects in the IT industry, where many stakeholder groups are involved - both internal (various departments) and external (suppliers). Currently, the most visible problem is the difficulty in obtaining the full involvement of internal stakeholders, especially experts, whose participation is crucial to the success of the project. This is by far the biggest challenge: convincing stakeholders to engage, despite their daily responsibilities and abundance of work, especially in the context of additional project-related tasks. 

Another aspect is maintaining momentum. Employees are assigned to specific tasks, but sometimes stagnation is noticed. This is when regular team meetings become necessary to monitor progress and respond quickly to any issues. It is also important to create action plans after each meeting, which helps maintain employee discipline and motivation despite difficulties. Setting a clear schedule of tasks for the near future may prove crucial in the process of motivating the team. 

During my career as a Project Manager, I always encounter projects of varying degrees of complexity. For example, when implementing an IT program, initial momentum was quite difficult to obtain. Then, I actively contacted key people, trying to obtain detailed information, including the necessary contacts and the need to involve the right people. After this meeting, we created a list of contacts and a precise action plan, which definitely made it easier for us to start the project. 

The implementation of the trading platform is also not without challenges, especially in the current phase of intensive testing, requiring the involvement of numerous specialists. We will then need to engage key people such as heads of sales and marketing, which is a challenge considering how busy they are. In such a situation, it is crucial to reach them effectively. 

Additionally, a conversation with the CEO is crucial to gain his support and motivate department heads to allocate appropriate time for the project. The involvement of key figures significantly accelerates the progress of the entire project. The project's effects will only be fully revealed after some time, but it is already visible how an effective approach to difficulties contributed to the smooth running of the projects. 

What advice would you have for people who aspire to be a Project Manager? 

I wish someone had shared this knowledge with me two decades ago: from the very beginning of the project, it is worth scrupulously controlling who is responsible for what and presenting it transparently. It is crucial that each person's roles are not shrouded in mystery, but information available to all. Thanks to this, every employee can access the documentation at any time and find out who is responsible for a given field, which facilitates effective communication and motivates people to take action. 

Another important principle is to draw from the experiences of others. It is worth looking at the practices of subcontractors and collaborators, because they often have a well-organized project management system. Using their methods can make managing your own projects much easier. Of course, there are cases of "disgraceful methods" that are not worth imitating, but they are much rarer. Therefore, it is worth observing others and using their knowledge and experience to develop your own project management skills. 

Do you use Project Manager skills not only at work, but also in your private life? 

My interests are, in a sense, related to project management. I actively organize various events, and together with my family we engage in survival expeditions where lack of electricity is the norm. These are usually kayaking trips during which we indulge in wildlife. This is my favorite way to spend holidays - every year we take part in a rafting trip, by the bonfire, with the sounds of a guitar, surrounded by the forest. It's something I like very much, which brings not only joy, but also inspiration to plan improvements. For example, I introduced the idea of a kitchen tent for the crew in case of bad weather, so that we could spend time together. 

I discovered my passion for kayaking only during my studies, although I have always loved spending the night in a tent. Even as a child, I often spent weeks in Masuria, enjoying camp life. When I met my wife, it turned out that she had a love for kayaking from an early age. She asked me if I would like to try this sport with her. It was then that I fell in love with kayaking because I had had some unpleasant experiences with it before. I remember when I joined a kayaking trip with avid kayakers after eighth grade, we sailed for 15 hours a day, leaving before sunrise and returning just as it was dark. It turned out to be far too exhausting and gave me no pleasure.  

I also passed on my passion for kayaking to my children. I organize an annual kayaking trip for my daughters' classes, which they always look forward to, asking if there will be another one. I would like to boast that my older daughter is graduating from high school this year, but she still wants to be part of these kayaking trips. We are also lovers of winter sports, especially skiing, which makes us very happy with the snow. 

As I have already mentioned, my passion is also playing the guitar, and the whole family shares the love of music. All this makes project management not only a work tool, but also a way to organize and enjoy your private life. 

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