Career Development: How Project Managers Can Thrive With AI

Transcript


Artificial intelligence is transforming how project managers work, helping them build schedules, analyze data and identify risks. So what skills do project professionals need to stand out in the AI era? We discuss this with:

  • Luciano Lira, PMO-CP, PMI-ACP, PMP, IT project manager, RM plc, Abingdon, United Kingdom: Lira shares why AI skills are a career differentiator for project professionals, how to market that expertise and how strengthening AI acumen will improve career prospects.
  • Yi Bao, PMP, manager, portfolio management, BC Hydro, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada: Bao talks about how AI tools boost work efficiency. He also explains how building AI expertise will help project professionals stay future-focused.

STEVE HENDERSHOT 
How can artificial intelligence help you do your job better? And how will it transform your future roles?

Lots of project professionals are looking for those answers. So today let’s explore how project managers across industries can ensure their careers thrive in the AI revolution.

In today’s fast-paced and complex business landscape, project professionals lead the way, delivering value while tackling critical challenges and embracing innovative ways of working. On Projectified®, we bring you insights from the project management community to help you thrive in this evolving world of work through real-world stories and strategies, inspiring you to advance your career and make a positive impact.

This is Projectified. I’m Steve Hendershot.

Well, that was fast. In the blink of an eye, AI has begun to transform project management—whether it’s being used to help teams build schedules, analyze data or identify risks. Twenty-one percent of project professionals say they already either often or always use AI to manage projects, according to PMI’s latest annual global survey. And 82% of senior leaders say AI will impact how projects are run at their companies over the next five years.

All of this raises big questions, like: To what extent will AI revolutionize project management—and project management careers? What must-have skills and training should project professionals seek to stand out in an AI era? Fortunately, PMI has a wealth of resources—from online courses to the AI project manager assistant, PMI Infinity—to help project professionals use AI to thrive in their careers. You can learn more at PMI.org/AI.

For now, let’s have two project leaders walk us through all-things-AI for project professionals. First up is Luciano Lira, an IT project manager at RM plc in Abingdon in the United Kingdom. He talked with me about how AI is redefining project roles and responsibilities.

MUSICAL TRANSITION

STEVE HENDERSHOT
Luciano, it’s safe to say that AI is making a huge impact on project management. From your perspective, why should project professionals skill up on AI? How could it be a gamechanger for their careers?

LUCIANO LIRA 
First of all, AI helps every single project manager to be a bit more efficient on project execution, improving documents, helping with decision making. Learning AI techniques is crucial, and it keeps project managers relevant in the increasingly automated and data-driven workspace. AI can differentiate project managers in the job market, on the daily basis tasks. I do recognize that a project manager with the AI skill set will be more exposed to better opportunities, better projects. If we try to bring AI to our daily basic tasks and process and activities, it will definitely improve our project management process overall.

How to build AI skills outside of work

STEVE HENDERSHOT 
So what should practical AI upskilling look like? Do project managers need to learn what AI might be capable of going forward? Or do they just need to learn how to use generative AI so they’re asking smart questions of it? 

LUCIANO LIRA 
You don’t need to be good at coding. You don’t need to be a developer or something like that. You just need to understand how you can speak with the generative AI. When you’re learning how to use any generative AI, and I’m talking about ChatGPT, Gemini, you need to know the best way to ask.

You need to learn how should I ask in the best way to get the best answer? A friend of mine has a joke. He’s always saying, “Garbage in, garbage out.” So if you ask the right question or if you give a good story to the gen AI, you probably will get, like, a really good answer. Let’s say I need to prepare a business case, and we go to ChatGPT. We define the persona. “So, ChatGPT, you are a senior project manager. You work in the projects doing this kind of thing.” You told the story, and you ask the format—so how you want to receive that information. ChatGPT or any other generative AI will provide you this document you are looking for. We need to verify every single thing that is coming from any AI.

PMI has Generative AI Overview [for Project Managers] with a couple of courses that will give you some overview. The best way to learn and to get used to it is practicing with tools. Use different ones; try to compare answers from two or three different tools and pick up your preferred one. There are some regular trainings, workshops. For example, [on] my LinkedIn, I’m bombarded with some workshops, trainings. You can find a lot of YouTube [videos]. It’s a good way to get used to and learn and start to at least practice using AI.

STEVE HENDERSHOT 
How does that set you up for career success in a world where there will be a lot of additional AI advancement? I can imagine that AI will have interventions that move beyond generative AI. So if you’re upskilling now, how are you setting yourself up long term—not just to use the programs that we have available now, but also so that you’re prepared for what’s around the corner?

LUCIANO LIRA 
If you ask me what I’m currently planning for the future, I want to be a specialist implementing AI projects. I’m expecting that AI will shift [the] project manager’s role from task-based to strategic. So embracing AI will make you get more focus on the strategy than the day-to-day management tasks.

We will reach the point that the regular tasks will be automated: Documentation will be automated, risks analysis will be automated, resources will be fully automated. But the decision and the strategy to deliver the best value is still under the project management responsibility. So this is how I can see the future. The project manager will become an AI project specialist if, of course, if they want to learn and to embrace this AI wave, to be a bit more strategic in implementing AI instead [of] just using AI in the daily basis.

STEVE HENDERSHOT
What are you going to do to make sure that you’re prepared for all of that? And how does that translate to a future strategy to make sure that you’re continually ready for what is likely to be a continuously evolving technology?

LUCIANO LIRA 
It’s really hard because every single day there are like hundreds and hundreds [of] new AI tools. The main point is: Pick up what you want to be a specialist [in], what kind of project you want to be a specialist. Try to bring AI onboard, improve how you are delivering a project now. Keep learning, keep understanding the world. As I said, now we are just using AI, but I think for project managers and also for every single company in the world, at some point in the future, they will have their own AI bringing a new point of view about their business.

STEVE HENDERSHOT 
Say someone has the desire to become an AI champion and is trying to find their way, but their organization isn’t ready to use AI across the enterprise. How can project professionals build AI acumen outside of their organizations?

LUCIANO LIRA
I would say trainings, workshops, dig in[to] YouTube channels. There are some free courses in LinkedIn. Start with this generative AI. Learn how to use that, implement that in your daily basis. You’re going to start to get better and better outcomes, and you will understand where you can go with that. And after that you’ll be able to see what is the next level, what you want to do, where you want to go. 

For example, I’m a volunteer in the PMI [Brazil] Chapter. And I’m constantly using AI to produce documents and sharing experience, using AI to deliver projects, to prepare documents, to analyze risks, to do a project plan.

Ways to market your AI expertise with examples 

STEVE HENDERSHOT 
So once you’ve gained some AI know-how and experience, another aspect of this is related to career development—how to market that expertise. Are you adding your AI knowledge to your LinkedIn profile or résumé? How are you showcasing your experience with AI, and how is that making an impact on your career?

LUCIANO LIRA 
LinkedIn is a really important point for you to highlight that. I did some training courses, some small training courses. I’m doing a big one now, 50-hour training course in governance AI. And as soon as I start to get all the certificates, I start to share that with my community in LinkedIn. I’m always posting in my feed some information about [a] course and discussing things. And I start to post and to share with some friends, with my network in some WhatsApp groups, and asking people to try and to give me some feedback. If you ask me how this skill has helped me with my current job or as a project manager, I would say [it has] helped, like, 1,000% because now I have a completely different view about the project management itself, about governance, about AI projects or how a company can use AI. And at some point in the future, it will be very beneficial for me and for the company.

MUSICAL TRANSITION

STEVE HENDERSHOT 
Are you enjoying this episode? Please leave us a rating or review on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen. Your feedback helps us keep making this show. Now, let’s go to our next conversation.

We’re no longer in the realm of speculation. Project professionals across the globe are seeing how AI is changing the workplace—and how they can use the technology to their advantage. Yi Bao, manager of portfolio management at electric utility company BC Hydro in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, embraced AI from the start—and is already seeing results. Yi spoke to Projectified’s Hannah LaBelle about how he approaches AI and how other project professionals can strengthen their AI expertise.

MUSICAL TRANSITION

HANNAH LABELLE 
So, Yi, I want to start with why—why is it so important for project professionals to learn more about and experiment with artificial intelligence?

YI BAO 
To me, to some extent, the generative AI could be of the same importance to everyone in the project management world as thinking about when the internet was introduced. So this is a must-have skill set for everyone in the new century. Actually, I asked Google Gemini to recommend some ideas to answer this question and picked those ones I think are most relevant. The first one is AI can boost the professionals’ efficiency and effectiveness. So, for example, you can free up your time and focus on higher-level strategic thinking and leadership tasks versus very simple repetitive tasks like formatting a documentation or draft[ing] a simple documentation.

And second point could be [enhancing] your communication [and] collaboration. For example, you can leverage AI to provide some suggestions [on] how to sharpen the message, for example, when you write a report to your senior managers or even the board. The third element I want to emphasize is it can enable a better project result by leveraging the historical data and providing look-ahead suggestions. Last but not the least is, it is very crucial to leverage AI to advance your career by becoming an early adopter and stay[ing] ahead of the curve of this new technology trend.

HANNAH LABELLE 
Now let’s kind of jump into you using AI in your project work. How has it helped you be more productive or efficient?

YI BAO 
So far, the most usage I have is from a knowledge management perspective. For example, if I have a question on typical risks for a certain type of project, I can go to AI to search from an industry knowledge perspective. Otherwise, I need to go to Google search, do a lot of actual work to get the information. But AI can provide you a very summarized structured output.

The number two [use] will be the communication support or the repetitive work. For example, I need to format some information which doesn’t include confidential or our internal information, just general information. Instead of going to Word or [a] spreadsheet to do all the formatting, I just paste into AI, and I can ask AI to do very simple formatting, restructuring the information on the messaging. That helped a lot for the communication perspective.

HANNAH LABELLE 
How has your use of AI set you apart in your organization? Do your colleagues ask you questions about using AI in their work? 

YI BAO 
That one has been always a very interesting topic in our day-to-day discussions and some work. For example, I have shared examples [with] my peers on how I leveraged different AI platforms to gain more knowledge and case studies from other utilities or other industries.

So, for example, I have been using PMI Infinity to get insights on some templates of risk management or some practice requirements from PMI. Or I have used some other AI platforms to do some research on, what is this historical megaprojects? What was their performance in terms of [being] on budget, on time? And what are some lessons learned we can leverage? So that has been very helpful for our broader audience in the organization.

Being an early adopter about the AI platform and understanding how the AI platform may be useful for the project professionals can already put yourself into a very good position because people will always [be] very curious to know that—how we can leverage this to help our day-to-day project management work.

HANNAH LABELLE 
Your organization has AI guidelines in place, but change happens fast in the AI space. That means how you use AI now will likely be different than how you use it in the future. How does that affect the conversations in your organization about using AI?

YI BAO 
First of all, we always work closely with our IT organization, and then we want to make sure the way we are leveraging our AI is compliant with our policy and all the practices recommended and required by our IT department. And then the second part is, we are also looking for opportunities to work with our IT team to look for use cases with a look-ahead view, with more mature policy requirements, more mature functionalities of the AI platform. We are continuously exploring the potential use cases for the project management world.

How to treat AI tools as “virtual colleagues”

HANNAH LABELLE 
Now let’s talk about the AI acumen project professionals need. What skills or knowledge do you need to use AI effectively in your work?

YI BAO 
Based on my experience, there are no specific skill sets or knowledge required. The key is treat especially the generative AI as a virtual colleague, but not just a simple search engine like a Google or Bing or just a simple software. So if you know how to talk with a colleague, either asking them to help complete a task or contributing ideas, then you can work with a generative AI. How do you train up the skill set? Could be two key steps. One is practice. Try different AI platforms, for example, ChatGPT or Google Gemini or Copilot, and try [to] get ideas and conduct some simple personal tasks, right, if your organization is not ready to implement the AI tool in your day-to-day work yet.

Number two will be read books or some articles, or you can listen to a lot of podcasts. For example, [I] highly recommend any professionals to follow those PMI courses. There are a lot of also podcasts talking about AI. So that’s also a good venue to learn the skill set and knowledge on the AI part.

Why building AI skills will futureproof your project management career

HANNAH LABELLE 
So what would be your top recommendation to project professionals who are looking to expand their AI knowledge and experience?

YI BAO 
The number one thing I think I will recommend is still practice. Because this is not very complex software you need to learn from the manual or from the training. Just think about if you have a question or you want to get some ideas or you want some help to tweak your communications, you could talk to a person or a subject matter expert in your organization. But now you have a virtual colleague you can go to ask for help. The number one is practice, practice, and now you’ll find ways to get better results from AI.

HANNAH LABELLE 
How can gaining more AI experience and developing AI skills futureproof project professionals’ careers?

YI BAO 
With time, there could be a possible scenario where an organization has been adopting AI to an extent that most of the project management activities will be leveraging AI to either help to do knowledge management or create some simple tasks, or even into very complex tasks about creating schedules and cost estimates for projects. To futureproof a project professional career, the [earlier] we can understand how AI can help and the [earlier] a professional can learn to leverage AI, that will put those professionals in a better place comparing to other peers, if they are not quite familiar with AI. Everyone will [be] using this with time. Leveraging these tools earlier will help you to advance into the career path even further.

STEVE HENDERSHOT 
Thanks for listening to Projectified. Like what you heard? Subscribe to the show on your favorite podcast platform and leave us a rating or review. Your feedback matters a lot—it helps us get the support we need to continue making this show. And be sure to visit us online at PMI.org/podcast, where you’ll find the full transcripts for episodes as well as links to related content like useful tools and templates, the latest research reports, and more. Catch you next time!

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