Future 50
A New Generation of Leaders Has Arrived

For spreading the power of project management across Angola

“Ever since I was a little boy, I saw projects fail in my country,” says Manuel Praia. “I decided to become a project manager to help my country—and help projectize Angola.”

As part of that mission, Praia has spent more than a decade leading IT initiatives, including currently as business intelligence support project manager at Unitel, the largest mobile operator in Angola. But he’s also out to elevate the country’s project management beyond the boundaries of his corporate job. So in 2020, Praia founded Portal PMO Angola, a website that quickly blossomed into a bustling virtual gathering place for project professionals to share project news and skills-building knowledge from and for the Angola community.

Praia manages the site and its lean four-person team on evenings and weekends—and it’s an impressive side hustle. Since the site’s official launch in May 2022, traffic has doubled to hit more than 1,000 visitors per month. Such engagement is sparking real discussion and helping build up the next generation of project leaders, Praia says.

“There’s a lack of confidence, but young project leaders can overcome this by surrounding themselves with mentors and learning from their experiences,” he says. “By doing so, they’ll come to understand that leadership is about influence and impact, not authority.”

The site’s article topics range from career advice to the latest news on public and private initiatives, “so professionals know what’s happening in the world of project management and can improve every day of their careers,” Praia says. The site also shares professional development tips, promotes learning and provides information about project management certifications—all the elements that have helped accelerate Praia’s own career path. “Having a Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)® certification has opened a lot of professional doors for me,” he says.

At Unitel, Praia has led several IT projects, including some integrated with a data visualization tool. The payoff? Not only does the tool allow the company’s salespeople to perform their jobs better, he says, but it’s also fueled more informed decision-making among members of the corporate business division.

It’s that kind of impact that Praia seeks to make with all his projects. In his previous role at Angola Telecom, for example, he led an effort to build a 1,287-kilometer (800-mile)- long terrestrial optical fiber link that connects the province of Cabinda to the rest of the country and border regions. By delivering faster and more reliable service, the project helped boost internet access in these locations to more than one-third of the population today.

The project also taught him the value of flexing to the moment—and now he’s passing that message along. “I train people in agile culture so they realize agile is an attitude in the face of the constant changes of the market and digital transformation,” Praia says.

Leading by example isn’t limited to his site or full-time role. As a member of the PMI Angola Chapter, he trained more than 70 children and adolescents to create an online food fair during the pandemic, in partnership with the PMI Portugal Chapter. “I knew I was helping my country’s future generations while also influencing the project management profession.”

Q&A: Manuel Praia on building a church school and searching for Ikigai

What’s an influential project you’ve worked on?

I led a vacation Bible school project for the United Methodist Church in Angola. This project reached over 39,000 children and over 15,000 teachers in 13 of Angola’s provinces.

What book are you obsessed with recommending right now?

Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life by Héctor García and Francesc Miralles.

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