For Jennifer Hocking, steering big projects to successful completion means focusing on the details. She shares why she’s such a believer in schedules and how becoming Chartered has seen her promoted sooner.
When Jennifer Hocking FIEAust CPEng, National Head of PMO at Yokogawa, began her career as a civil engineer, she didn’t know she would end up specialising in project controls.
But when she found herself undertaking the role in a part-time position after returning from maternity leave in the mid-2000s, she found the work suited her perfectly.
“I absolutely loved it,” she told create. “It just suits how my brain thinks.”
Eighteen years later, her facility with schedules and value — the kinds of precise details that see her projects delivered consistently on time and under budget — has put her in the position of leading the national project management team at measurement and control engineering firm Yokogawa.
She brings to this position a long track-record of successful projects, and she takes pride in them having been executed precisely to plan.
“I’m a die-hard believer in the schedule,” she said. “I think the schedule provides the answer to everything.”
Take her work on a transportation project linking Mount Victoria to Lithgow, which she describes as a career highlight.
“I resourced the schedule with actual man hours, and to a value of $15 million,” she recalled.
“And we invoiced from the schedule with accuracy to the nearest cent, which is quite an amazing feat.”
It also provided a warning: this project was set to lose money and run late. With this information, the project manager could take action.
“Most project managers, although they engage project controls, don’t make decisions based on project control’s reports,” she said.
“He used that early warning system to make decisions and turn the project around and deliver it ahead of time and below budget.”
It showed how taking care of the fine details can make a huge difference when millions of dollars are at stake.
That is one reason Hocking’s career accelerated so quickly, seeing her take on greater responsibilities and supervising increasingly larger teams.
But she has also seen a change since she became a Chartered engineer.
“I’ve been given more senior positions very quickly, since being Chartered,” she said.
“I was a senior scheduler at Jacobs and then became the team lead for project controls Eastern region — which was a decent sized team of 12 or more people. And then I jumped across to [Sydney City and SouthWest] Metro in their [Project Management Office] and managed four teams and up to 30 people.”
Which brings her now to Yokogawa.
“It’s very different to what I call ‘horizontal engineering’, meaning roads, rail, transport,” Hocking said.
“Yokogawa’s very much about improving how the plant operates.”
Tips for career success
Hocking has the following tips for up-and-coming engineers looking to get ahead:
- Take up any offers of training, even if they seem trivial or time-consuming
- Make use of any free courses you might come across.
- Seek to improve your emotional intelligence and time management skills.