student profiles, case study, experience

Stainley Bakolo

Why did you decide to study a masters at the University of Leeds?

There are basically 3 reasons why I decided to pursue my masters at university of Leeds and these are:

  • It is the only institution that provided this masters programme with modules that are relevant to project management status-quo in Malawi.
  • University of Leeds has a great reputation. A lot of previous alumni of Leeds in Malawi are capable people, with great analytical thinking and decision making. I therefore, admired them and this led to increased interest in Leeds.
  • A quick research in UK universities gave University of Leeds a competitive edge because of their rich research facilities, higher student satisfaction survey result and a vibrant city with lots of life.

What has been the best aspect of studying on your course and at the University so far and why?

There are too many to mention! The most important of which was the satisfaction I felt when I realised I have finally acquired the missing piece in my career jig-saw puzzle. As Malawi is a developing country, infrastructure development is a critical area which is fast booming. Projects are becoming more and more complex each day, and so are the stakeholder interfaces-increasing. The modules I have studied, have given me all the necessary tools to ensure successful delivery of government projects i.e. within time, budgeted cost, specified quality and importantly to the satisfaction of stakeholders. I have acquired skills adequate to address critical bottle-necks in successful project delivery and also cater for whole-life issues of infrastructure development. Issues ranging from project initiation, defining requirements, project sanctioning, through procurement, execution to handing over and commissioning.

Tell us about some of the exciting projects you have completed.

We have done several projects in almost every module that I have completed. However, the most critical (not necessarily exciting per se), is the one project we did in the Procurement Management Module. The project task was to develop a procurement strategy for Northern University, moving from a city centre location to a country side Greenfield area in order to meet the Government’s growth strategy. The duration of the programme spanned 10 years. The university had several faculties who all had different views on the project. Every faculty wanted to move first which was impossible for the sustenance of core business of the University, and also from the financial point of view. Besides that, the University had a ‘tall’ structure and the segregation of laws and responsibilities was not clear. As this is not enough, the programme also had numerous stakeholder interfaces; all with varying requirements regarding the project. Furthermore, the programme management context involved several isolated projects with varying durations but all having a unified objective.

The key thing was to synchronise all these factors to develop a working procurement strategy that would see the project being executed without affecting the core business of the organisation which is teaching and learning. The project involved a lot of work, including building a cash flow for the project; identifying critical issues; stakeholder mapping; risk identification and analysis; conducting a (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threats) SWOT and PESTEL (Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Environmental and Legal) analysis. All the above helped us select the best procurement routes for various components of the programme within the specified duration and budgetary constraints. The project also instilled in us analytical, team working, critical thinking and presentation skills which are key for any Project Manager.

What does Leeds as a city have to offer students?

The city of Leeds is vibrant and a daring to international students like me. It basically offers everything that a student could ever dream of. Good transport network (buses, trains), good restaurants, cinemas and shops for almost everything. It is also blessed with the Leeds market where I could find some beautiful food stuff from Malawi.

What are your ambitions for the future?

I intend to go back to Malawi, continue working for Blantyre Water Board but contribute in a different dimension through the advanced Project Management skills that I have acquired from University of Leeds. I hope I will be critical not only in Project Management but also strategic decision making for the company. I will also help in the management of change of various interventions that Water Boards taking to suffice the demand of water in cities and rural areas. I hope to motivate a lot of young aspiring project Managers through my work to come to University of Leeds. I further, look forward to coming back to University of Leeds for a PhD in Infrastructure Management in the near future.

What experiences at Leeds do you think will help you in your future career?

Team working, leadership, time management, critical thinking and analytical writing skills will be essential to my career. The group development experience from norming to performing has given me more experience in group tasks (which is the nature of most Project Management work) and be able to manage the process remedially.

What would you say to students coming to do the same course?

I would say what they have seen on the website, what they have heard and what they imagined is what they will get and more. All the missing pieces in their daily work as Project Managers will be realised here at University of Leeds. They should not be worried about anything as the environment around the University provides all essentials to develop advanced skills in Project management. The modules that will be covered are ideal and enough to make someone a complete and a confident Project Manager. The ever-helpful staff, the IT and the intellectual capacity present in the faculty is second to none and ideal for research. The culture diversity shall provide a feel of how globalised the Project Management world is and induce strength to look at issues from a global perceptive.