An interview with Emma Daly

Late last year Emma Daly, the head of consulting at Aspira, found herself a finalist in the Project Professional of the Year category of the inaugural National Project Management Awards. The awards highlight the achievements and diversity of Ireland’s Project Management sector.   Nominated by her colleagues, Emma Daly has been growing with Aspira since joining the company 6 years ago.

As head of consulting, there are many parts to her role, which varies from day to day.  Emma says she spends half her time out of the office, delivering consulting engagements, working with clients on particular projects. The other half of the week is spent focused on business development and promoting the Aspira brand.   “Like it or not, everything is a project”, says Emma, “I need to have an idea of the challenges our clients face so we can help them tackle any issues and reach their objectives”.

Flexible approach to meet industry needs

Emma says she needs to be flexible to meet industry needs. “I work across a diverse range of industries – energy, education, health, forestry and airlines to name a few. Projects are projects no matter what industries they are in. Many organizations have the same type of challenges.

“In my role I get to meet a lot of people. Building relationships is very valuable from a knowledge gathering point of view.  I am constantly going into new industries learning what makes them tick. It makes it very interesting for me to learn about new industries and see how solutions from one domain may transfer to solve a problem in another domain.  Meeting people and consulting allows me to very quickly understand the challenges they have and what they need”, says Emma.

But consulting is not the only part of my role.  I am a project manager so I also mentor and train people.  A lot of my role relies on good time management skills, enabling me to fit everything in and be flexible. We operate in a fast-paced environment where things change a lot – week to week priorities change and I spend my time with those clients that need me the most.”

Adaptable methods that work

Whether it is business analysis or project management, says Emma, the same approach, tools and techniques can apply across the board. “I can go into different industries, work with people, and improve their project delivery without needing to be a subject matter expert within the industry.  For example, I worked with a large legal firm, without claiming to be a legal expert.  But I was able to sit down with that firm to help them setup schedules manage plans, and identify risks.  I did something similar with a Forestry company, despite having minimal forestry knowledge.  This proves the success of the methodologies we use.  Aspira can help improve project delivery across all industries.”

Driven by her client’s success

With a passion for what she does, Emma says she gets a buzz out of delivering projects. “Project management is all about people and getting them to work together to deliver solutions. It is the successful delivery … when I can see the benefit to the business, the customer or charity … when I see the outcome, that is what gives me that buzz.

I am lucky at Aspira to be given the chance to work with clients and the opportunity to develop the consulting business stream. In many ways it is like running your own firm.  I have a team working with me on specific offerings. We run workshops, implement project health checks to ensure they are on track and there are no unforeseen challenges coming up, help kickstart new projects, and do estimation reviews on external estimations as QA checks before projects start.”

Emma says there is a wealth of project management experience at Aspira. “It is not just me. Aspira was born out of project management. We are constantly meeting with people in the industry which enables us to improve the way we do things.”

Life is a Project

“Today companies are investing in projects more. They are seeing the value of managing portfolios of projects, not just running projects in isolation. They are trying to get a real sense of whether they are doing the right things first.  And, then, are they doing things right. I remember starting out in project management more than ten years ago with little knowledge as to what it was. Back then business analysis was seen as a job someone did on projects. Now it is recognised as a profession.“

According to Emma life is a series of projects. “I got married last year and that was a huge project. I had a budget and an immoveable deadline.  I also had a key stakeholder (my fianceé) that I needed to keep on board in order to deliver the project successfully!  It was whilst on honeymoon that I learned I was a finalist for National Project Management award, and I was honoured to have made the cut.  Meeting with the various Project Managers and hearing their stories was an inspiring experience for me.”

“When you get a good project manager with the right skillsets, they understand who they have on their team. You don’t have to have all the answers as a project manager. Much of project management is knowing who to go to and ask the right questions. Good project managers are people who can delegate and who have good people skills.”

Emma said one piece of advice she can give project managers is project management is not a solo pursuit. “You are not out there on your own. You really need to use your team. It is with your team that you celebrate successes, and your team will be there when things hit the fan.

“Most of project management  – I would say 70% – is about communication and relationship building. The better you are at developing relationships with people, the better you will be at getting projects delivered. If you work well with people, then they will work well with you.”

Author:  Emma Daly, Project Services Director, Aspira.

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