N Muthaiah, is a Program Manager at Ashok Leyland Nissan Vehicles Limited. He graduated from KIAMS in 2009 with top honours. He speaks to us about his experiences as a Program Manager.
- Please tell us about a typical working day in your life.
My responsibility as a program manager is to bring the product within the right Quality, Cost & Time. Every day starts with a (mini) standing meeting to take stock of the situation with previous day’s happenings and current day priorities. Priorities are more towards solving critical elements affecting the progress of the Project / Product. The critical element may be anywhere between a small drawing issue in product development to warranty issue with the end customer. Most part of the day goes in analyzing the situation with several meetings / discussions before arriving at a logical conclusion. Some time goes into preparing project progress reports to be used for various management reviews.
- What are the different projects a Program Manager could be working on?
The program manger is basically responsible and accountable for the project from the beginning (Project configuration) to its end (Sales & Warranty). Major activities are Co-ordination within various departments for project progress, Master schedule preparation, Cost book creation, Assessment of business case for new business viability, QCT monitoring, Risk management & mitigation, New process development, Conflict handling & debottlenecking.
- How is working in a manufacturing firm different from working in a Services firm?
The manufacturing firm follows a cycle that is often long (3 years or more to develop a vehicle from start) and requires technical expertise in most of the areas it operates. It often requires tremendous knowledge, skill and experience to bring the right product. The lead times are often huge for any mistake to be corrected / rectified during the process. The time to learn is always more.
A Services firm, on the other hand, is more about increasing / improving the quality of service rendered. The lead time for implementation and time to learn is always less.
- Three things you like/dislike about your profession.
What I like about my profession is that it provides me with exposure to almost all departments or areas within the company. Also, I am a key member in business meetings and updates. Moreover, it has brought me the authority to take decisions on my own.
What I do not like is that the work itself is very demanding. Also, there are a lot of meetings/ activities going on at the same time.
- What are the skills required to be a successful Program Manager?
The basic skills required, I would say, are man / people management, negotiating skills, team-handling, conflict-handling, time management, decision-making & presentation skills.
- Where do you see yourself five years down the line?
I see myself as a program director / deputy director handling several projects and personnel in the automotive space.