There are numerous challenges facing the project management student in Nigeria. So in this new interview series and to have a national view of some these challenges, I’ll be interviewing recent graduates of project management (PM) from different universities across the country such as FUTO (Federal University of Technology Owerri), FUT Minna, FUT Akure, Bellstech (Bells University of Technology), UNILAG (University of Lagos), UI (University of Ibadan) and Babcock University.
The topic of this interview series is “The Challenges of Project Management Students in Nigeria.” The goal of this interview series is to help answer some of the most important questions I get from project management students, which are: What is project management as a course all about? Which challenges would I face as a student? Where can I get resources to learn more about project management?
FUTO was the first university to start offering a bachelors degree programme in project management technology in Nigeria. It admitted its first batch of undergraduates during the 1983/84 Academic Session and they successfully graduated in the 1987/88 Academic Session. So my first interviewee will be a project management graduate from FUTO.
To help answer these questions, I have Anidiobi Ejiofor Eric with us. Eric is Project Management Technology graduate from FUTO. He graduated in 2014 and just concluded the mandatory NYSC (National Youth Service Corps) programme this October 2015 in Lagos State. He was also an active member of JCI (Junior Chambers International) in FUTO and now part of the Lagos Chapter. So Eric, it’s great to have you with us.
Eric: Thank you and I’m looking forward to sharing some thought-provoking problems plaguing our educational system as it affects our project management students.
Jerry: It’s a common practice in higher institutions in Nigeria to offer students admission into courses/departments they never applied for. So were you aware of the PM profession prior or after gaining admission?
Eric: Well, I have to say that I am among the “fortunate ones” that got to know about the project management profession or school of thought, as I like to call it, before gaining admission. My uncle was an Oxford trained Project Manager and has over 10 years experience with Vodacom Nigeria. He is my mentor and I wanted to follow his path. So I was not an “accidental” project management student back then in 2008 when I gained admission.
Jerry: What do you think were your greatest challenges or difficulties as a PM student and what do you think can be done to solve such challenges or difficulties?
Eric: The relationship between universities (offering a degree programme in PM) and project management bodies in Nigeria seem to be non-existing within our country. So some PM students don’t really know the important roles that effective project management plays outside the four walls of the university. Unlike COREN (Council for the Regulation of Engineers in Nigeria) and the engineering faculties, their relationship is very evident. I am happy we’re working towards having a national project management body in Nigeria, and I will really advice them to create a relationship with our universities so as to encourage and educate our PM students on how project management is really practised outside the four walls of the university. These PM Students need opportunities to practice project management and it’s this part of (practical) learning that is lacking in our universities.
Jerry: Was there any one particular course that was very challenging to you and how did you overcome it?
Eric: Even though I consider myself a very intelligent person, I still couldn’t run away from some ‘brain draining’ courses in my course of studying in the university. Though I never had issues with core project management courses because of the immense love I have for the profession, I had great challenges handling some ‘borrowed courses’, most especially those borrowed from the Faculty of Engineering. For example, Engineering Survey (ENG 315) was hell for me because it was a course from Civil Engineering department and required a long list of practical to be done, defence, assignments, etc. I eventually scored an ‘A’ in the course by dedicating a lot of time practising, reading and seeking help from my colleagues from the engineering faculty.
Jerry: What do you think is missing or needed to be done for our universities to produce more quality PM graduates?
Eric: There should be the creation of options or major so that PM students can focus on a particular industry that they believe is more suited for their career. Specialisation drives the world and should be encouraged in our tertiary institutions. For example, we can have IT Project Management, Construction Project Management and Oil and Gas Project Management as majors. Doing this will reduce the number of graduates being churned out without purpose, direction or love for any one particular industry. And being a jack of all trade in the PM profession doesn’t sell anymore, so we need to advance and move on with the world.
Jerry: As a recent PM graduate, how are you looking forward to developing your PM career?
Eric: As we all know, when you have a bachelors degree in project management in Nigeria, it’s more like you are having a holistic view of the profession, with little or no attention to any particular industry. So for me, I love the professional service industry, with special interest in Audit or Tax. So I’m trying to get a job in that industry, acquire financial skills, and then get certified by ICAN (Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria). After which I can now focus on the financial part of project management.
Jerry: What advice would you give to our current PM students?
Eric: I think I should list this. So here is a few that I think should be followed seriously:
- Read wide enough. Don’t focus or rely solely on the materials provided by your lecturers or department. Most of them are either out-dated or not holistic enough, so read newspapers, journals and download articles online. Also attend inaugural lectures by your professors or doctors.
- Join associations or groups that propagate or promote project management in your area and online (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc). It will help keep you with the latest developments in the field. And also, have an impressive LinkedIn profile because that is the first place anybody that wants to know about you would visit.
- Attach yourself with intelligent people. In order words, build relationship with people that can offer you great value for your time as friends. Bill Gates and Paul Allen of Microsoft did it as childhood friends who sought to make a successful business utilising their shared skills (computer programming); Larry Page of Google also did it with Sergey Brin, what of Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook? The list goes on and on, so why can’t you do it? Look for people that challenge your thinking and trust me, you will make something out of your existence.
- And lastly, have a passion for the profession because that is the only way you can appreciate it, and what it has to offer.
Thank you, Eric.
So I want to hear from you, do you think we should create options or majors for persons pursuing a bachelors degree in project management?
Conducting interviews with PM students and practitioners in Africa is part of the plans of the Project Management for Africa Initiative.