Commercial electrical construction project managers (PMs) keep track of all components needed to complete a project. At Con J. Franke, a project manager is involved in a new commercial electrical project from the initial planning stages to its post-job closeout after the new facility opens.
Our electrical projects cover the entire gamut from electrical underground, through the walls and ceilings, the lights, the HVAC – all of it. And PMs manage the project budgets and timelines as well as team members and suppliers, ensuring that everyone is on track with their responsibilities.
A PM must be able to communicate effectively with everyone involved in the project, understand every detail of what's happening at every step along the way, and make sure that nothing falls through the cracks, while also keeping everyone motivated so they stay engaged in their work throughout each day or week on the project site.
Does it sound interesting? It’s a challenge, but if you have strong people skills – if you’re able to build and manage relationships – that’s the best foundation for a project manager to have. All other skills can be learned.
Teresa Moss describes her job as a project manager at Con J Franke as being much like an orchestra conductor’s role.
Each person involved in the electrical construction project has all the tools they need. They all know what they are supposed to do. It’s the project manager’s job to keep everyone on task by following up, encouraging, and managing relationships.
At Con J. Franke, the project manager has a 40-hour-per-week schedule. Teresa’s is 7AM-4PM Monday-Friday. On rare occasions there is a need to work after hours, but they are the exception, not the norm.
Looking at Teresa’s day, none are typical since there is always something new to be done, but she tackles tasks in a certain order each day that helps her succeed in her role.
Some projects are a breeze, most have a level of stress at one time or another, but the project manager needs to know that the project will be successful in the end; that all challenges and obstacles will be dealt with and overcome.
Of her current projects, one is just wrapping up; another has delays, and the end date is now past 2024. The impact with supply chain issues from COVID is still impacting many industries, including ours. As a project manager, part of the role is to figure out a new distribution channel or work with the stakeholder to uncover a new solution that can work instead of the original plan.
Regular tasks or responsibilities that are always on a project manager’s plate include:
If you’re an experienced electrician or foreman, you possess the hard skills needed for that role. You even already know how to negotiate to some level when you are troubleshooting a project or issue and need to get buy-in for resolution. You know how to project plan, because you are planning out the new site, determining the steps needed; you’re always able to figure out what order actions need to be taken in. You prioritize and organize your days to some degree while communicating, possibly delegating, and communicating with others to get a job completed.
It may come as a surprise to learn that if you a strong technical background, such as several years in electrical engineering, that may make a transition to a PM role difficult instead of easier because most of the PM job is communication rather than technical. If you deeply enjoy the technical part of an electrical construction project, the PM role may not have enough of that to keep you engaged. (We do have other opportunities for you though!)
If you're considering becoming an electrical project manager, it's worth evaluating your soft-skill level in a few areas.
A project manager does not fulfill her or his role individually, it is a team effort where each player relies on each other. The project assistant (PA) keeps all tasks on track through great follow up on a daily and weekly basis. Inside the company, the team players include billing, purchasing, and accounting, among others.
As well as having relationships with the internal project management team members, an electrical construction project manager needs to build and maintain relationships with several others involved in each project inside and outside the company, such as:
Every person each has different needs, expectations, and requirements to be successful in their individual roles and the project manager needs to understand what motivates each stakeholder and learn how to effectively communicate with them.
At Con J. Franke, the project management team meets weekly with the owner and/or director of operations as well as the entire company.
Training needed to be an electrical construction project manager
PM skills, and any other that you may need for the PM role can be attained through the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) [https://www.necanet.org/].
Examples of offerings through NECA include:
Training topics cover: estimating, general business, project management, communication, National electric code, and human resources. Everything you need to be a successful PM is available.
Many of these trainings are offered virtually, too!
PMs are required to attain eight hours of NECA training every year.
Electrical project managers often manage several projects at a time, ensuring that all work is completed on time and within budget. Of all skills needed to be successful in an electrical project manager role, effective communication with internal and external stakeholders, tops the list.
For PM Teresa Moss, it’s the end result of every new project that drives her. When she sees the first drawings of the new project, she envisions the new facility opening, people who will be enjoying the new facility, and the positive impact it will make in the community.