Everyone is a project manager, and the PMO is here to help

27 May2021

Pictured: Jasmine Chipman Koty, Project Manager, Research & Reporting. Image credit: Paul Joseph/UBC.

“I joke that it was Andrew MacDonald who made me want to work here,” said Ken Wong, Research Program Manager and newly appointed leader of the Project Management Office (PMO).

MacDonald completed his PhD in quantum materials at the Stewart Blusson Quantum Matter Institute (Blusson QMI) in 2017, under the joint supervision of Sarah Burke and Douglas Bonn, then went on to work in the Research & Development (R&D) group at MDA, a Canadian leader in aerospace technology and an international space mission partner, where Wong was a Program and Project Manager. “There were a number of people who had trained at Blusson QMI in R&D, and they were all excellent. The world-class physics was also a huge draw; I wanted to work in a cutting-edge environment where they are developing ‘rock stars’ like Andrew.”

Wong joined Blusson QMI in January 2021, bringing a wealth of experience managing projects in the private sector. He has been working with a team of project managers (PMs) to develop protocols, training and mentorship programs, and to plan the future of project management at the institute.

Project management is a professional practice that seeks to apply structure and support for projects in order to achieve their goals. The PMs at Blusson QMI are skilled at thinking through a project, guiding teams on the delivery of their projects through mentoring, training, tools and best practices. The PMO offers support from planning through to completion in order to ensure a project has appropriate resources, meets its objectives, and stays on budget. At Blusson QMI, a project can range in scope from a student’s Master’s thesis work in the lab, to conference planning, to the Grand Challenges.

Project management was established as a priority for Blusson QMI early on. As a growing centre with ambitious goals, Blusson QMI needed a committed team of experts to provide highly qualified support across key areas including research, reporting, translation, and engagement with industry.

“One of the great things about our team is how embedded they are in Blusson QMI; they are genuine experts in what they do, and in some cases, they have grown into their roles very organically through their relationships with Blusson QMI and its teams,” said Wong. “We’re in a great position to be able to help Blusson QMI students, staff and faculty with their project planning needs because of the unique perspective of our PMs.”

Jasmine Chipman Koty has worked at Blusson QMI since 2017, beginning her career with the institute as a Research Operations Facilitator. She was appointed to the role of Project Manager, Research & Reporting, in January 2020; the relationships she has built over that time and her experience as reporting lead for the institute have given her a deep understanding of the connections that exist between research teams.

Pedro Lopes spent his first two years at Blusson QMI as a postdoctoral fellow with Ian Affleck and Marcel Franz’s teams, joining the PMO as a Project Manager in 2020 to support the Grand Challenges. Stephen Lin (Project Manager, Neuromorphic Photonics and Optical Computing), is also a Blusson QMI alumnus, having worked with Lukas Chrostowski as a Master’s student.

Newer hires, including Steven Gou (Project Manager, SiEPICFab), who came from industry, and Haris Amiri (Project Manager, Quantum Computing Outreach), who comes from the Department of Physics & Astronomy and UBC Geering Up, have worked diligently to establish trust between research teams, external stakeholders, and the PMO.

The result is a dynamic, agile team who are working to build a project management community of practice at Blusson QMI, for the benefit of anyone who ever has a project to consider.

Wong is a creative, energetic leader, and is currently working closely with Chipman Koty to assess the institute’s needs. In particular, the team is hoping to engage with students, who are often assigned to manage projects without training in best practices.

“Project management skills are learned,” said Wong. “And whether you are looking at careers in academia or industry, knowing how to effectively manage projects is critical. As quantum science fields grow in Canada, these skills are going to be highly in demand,” said Wong.

“One thing that is nice about the PMO is that we are always here,” said Chipman Koty. “There are a lot of opportunities to learn project management skills on campus, but we’re a resource you can come back to.”

“We’re not here to tell you what to do and then disappear,” said Wong. “We’re experts in project management, but we’re also very eager to build a community of practice that sees everyone in our community better able to manage their work and achieve the high-calibre results we know are possible at Blusson QMI.” 

For more information about the project management services currently available at Blusson QMI, email ken.c.wong@ubc.ca.