Managing a way to the top

JCU Associate Professor Carmen Reaiche on site for the Townsville Port Expansion Project.

Personnel Image

Written By

Mykala Wright


College of Business, Law and Governance

Publish Date

25 February 2022

Related Study Areas

A specialised set of skills

From Hong Kong Disneyland to the Australian Public Service, a career in project management has taken JCU Associate Professor Carmen Reaiche across disciplines and around the globe.

Carmen first began her journey into project management over 25 years ago while she was working for an international oil refinery in South Australia. With a Bachelor of Business and a Master of Business Administration, Carmen was originally hired as a systems analyst.

“At the time, I didn’t really know what project management was. But in my role I was being given project, after project, after project, and the refinery didn’t have clear processes nor systems in place to make them run successfully,” she says.

Carmen soon realised what she was being tasked with doing required a specific set of professional skills.

“I recognised the tasks at hand were bigger than just day-to-day operations: they were massive projects, each in a unique environment. And that’s what differentiates projects between everyday activities.

“I wanted to equip myself with the right tools, so I started doing some research online and I discovered project management. I worked to become accredited, and I loved it so much that since then all of my focus has been on project management,” she says.

A career in project management can take you across disciplines and industries.

What does a project manager do?

Throughout her career, Carmen has had the opportunity to work in various industries all around the world.

“A lot of people have the misconception that project management is something only business, commerce or engineering students need to acquire as a skill. But it’s actually quite the opposite. In any industry — whether you’re in medicine or politics — you need to have a set of organisational and planning skills to execute activities in the most effective way,” she says.

In project management, effectiveness does not refer to the success of a project based on what the end user of a product, or the customer of a service, wants or needs. Instead, it's about the integration of all stakeholder views and meeting their requirements whilst sticking to the budget, time and specifications they wish to implement.

“A project manager’s (PM’s) responsibilities include designing the scope of a product or service, engaging all stakeholders, having an understanding of any relevant legal documentation and policies, assembling the right project team, providing them with the right support, and organising physical resources, labour and budgets,” Carmen says.

“Sometimes, depending on the client, PMs will also be involved in the execution stage of a project. They can be asked to check if the project is going smoothly, which requires a whole different set of skills.”

Once upon a time, project management took Carmen all the way to Hong Kong where she was involved in the Disneyland Resort Project.

Because of Hong Kong’s strong focus on environmental policies and green initiatives, the project was massive — a term used to describe projects that take more than one year to complete.

“The process of approval for any kind of development in Hong Kong can take about two or three years, and that’s just the standard. I was involved with the committee to facilitate that, which included engaging a lot of stakeholders and understanding what processes were required,” Carmen says.

“Disneyland has a specific standard of design for how their theme parks should look, but because the environmental policy was so rigid in this case, we had to completely re-do the design so it met the demands of Hong Kong’s environmental policies, while also keeping the integrity of Disneyland’s image and experience. From conceptualisation to negotiations, it took about four years.”

Despite not having experience in environmental law or construction, Carmen utilised her skills as a PM — including overseeing the entire process, distributing the resources and communicating with stakeholders — to ensure the successful completion of the project.

JCU Associate Professor Carmen Reaiche wearing a hi-vis vest and hard hat standing on the site of the Townsville Port Expansion Project.
A project manager working with a nurse in scrubs in a laboratory setting.
A career in project management means you can work in a variety of environments, like outside on the water or inside in the lab.

A passion project

Although Carmen has managed a range of diverse projects, she is particularly passionate about her current involvement in JCU’s Open Education Initiative. Carmen is part of the project management team for the initiative, which provides a platform for the development of Open Educational Resources (OERs).

OERs are educational materials that are openly licensed and free to access. The JCU Library, in collaboration with learning and teaching staff, is developing a variety of openly available, zero dollar textbooks in a number of disciplines.

“I’m the academic lead for project management at JCU and we’re volunteering the new Graduate Certificate of Project Management to be one of the first disciplines to have zero cost textbooks. In terms of the subjects’ reading materials, all of the resources for the course will be open source,” Carmen says.

This initiative will improve subject accessibility and help students to achieve academic success. Zero dollar textbooks allow students to save money on the purchase of expensive textbooks, as well as eliminating any purchasing delays on eBooks, ensuring subject materials are available for access immediately, 24/7 and for multiple students simultaneously.

“It’s an amazing project and it will especially benefit students from low socioeconomic environments that can’t afford to pay $100+ for a textbook every single semester. I’m proud to be a part of it in multiple ways, it’s an honour,” Carmen says.

Carmen has even made her own eBook, Project Management: A Strategic Approach, an Open Educational Resource and free to access.

“It’s been a big project that’s taken a lot of organisation, planning and resources. And it’s project management that makes it all possible,” she says.

Carmen teaching in a JCU classroom.

Of increasing importance

Project management has existed as a discipline for decades, but more recently the professional skills that come with the qualification are becoming increasingly sought after by employers.

The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the way we live and work, and industries continue to be impacted by disruption. Businesses are operating in changing and uncertain times, so possessing a skill set that includes the ability to be flexible and adapt quickly is essential.

“Project management has never really been recognised as necessary or needed in the way that it has been recently. Now, these skills are required: employees need to be able to respond to uncertainty and manage it in a way that meets all stakeholder expectations,” Carmen says.

For example, Carmen recently supervised a research project with a major Australian Public Service Department that involved responding to the increased dependence on digital technologies caused by the pandemic.

“The e-government platform had to quickly readjust their system and digitally transform their services to respond to increased internet traffic during COVID-19,” she says. “We, as project managers, had to manage and prioritise the capabilities of internal personnel to adjust to the digital transformation, as well as responding to the needs of the external user: the client.”

The process involved ensuring all stakeholders agreed on a conceptual model of what the interface system would look like, as well as being able to utilise the right resources, talking to the right people, responding to and implementing changes on time, all while maintaining a budget.

“Taking on all of this at once requires a big brain, and project managers have the skill set to respond accordingly,” Carmen says.

Want to develop the skills necessary to thrive in transforming times like Carmen? Discover the Graduate Certificate of Project Management.

Discover JCU Business

Gain a specialised skill set and work in industries important to you.