Future 50
A New Generation of Leaders Arrives

For rethinking air travel from the inside

Tim Kaltwasser watched, mesmerized, as the Airbus A380 made its maiden flight in 2005. It was—and still is—the world’s largest passenger aircraft, a reported 11 years and US$13 billion in the making.

“I was so impressed—it’s probably the reason I joined Airbus,” Kaltwasser says. Now a program manager at the aerospace giant, he manages a portfolio of more than 30 projects related to galleys and stowages in the A320 family of aircraft. He likens his role to one of facilitator—connecting engineers, suppliers and manufacturers to keep projects on track.

“My target is to simplify the complexity we have in our projects and to create an environment where every team member can work toward a common goal,” he says.

Sometimes it’s the quiet victories that can be the most personally satisfying. While working in Airbus’ project management office (PMO), Kaltwasser developed a site that would capture project guidelines, processes and checklists. “It wasn’t a big thing, but it helped me,” he says. After spending two years in procurement, he returned to the PMO to discover the team was still using the site on a daily basis. “It made me proud to see it was easing people’s work and still helping.”

Kaltwasser is also picking up tips from his colleagues in the NextPert program, a group of individuals identified through PMI’s Global Executive Council as rising stars in their organizations. 

“In aviation, we sometimes do things in a particular way, without necessarily questioning it,” he says. “Getting an outside view is so important.”

Q&A: Tim Kaltwasser on learning, exploring and sometimes failing 

What’s the one must-have skill to succeed in The Project Economy?

Communication. With all the channels we have—email, phone, social media—it’s increasingly essential to channel the communication in the right way, involve all stakeholders and reduce complexity while increasing clarity.

What is your philosophy for leading projects?

Stay positive and be a facilitator to achieve a common goal. Learn and explore.

How are young people changing the world of projects now?

Projects have already become more agile in the last few years, which is one remarkable evolution. And from my point of view, young people are looking for results faster and would rather fail once to improve even further.