Category Archives: Human Aspects of Project Management

What does it take to have a co-founder spirit?

What does it take to have a co-founder spirit? Let me start with a personal story first. In the story, which is personal, I will give you an implicit answer; i.e., read between the lines. Then I will be more explicit.

Early Childhood

The Civil War

I grew up in a small village in Lebanon. I was in my early teens when the civil war started (1975). At the end of the 9th grade, I wanted to give up school or go into a vocational training school. My dad, being an independent “entrepreneur,” was supporting the idea to quit school and come work with him. In those days, we had lost almost everything we owned, our house was burned, the villa we were building was demolished, my dad lost all of his business, and we became refugees. That is why I wanted to quit school.

A turning point

A family friend convinces my dad not to let me quit and continue to high school, which I did. That moment was a turning point in my studies since I transformed from a mediocre student to being among the top three of my class. After high school, I left Lebanon, still in a civil war, and came to the US to study, and later worked. I had never thought of myself as a risk-taker or an entrepreneur. Sometimes, I was mad at my dad for some of the risks he took and did not understand them. I did not know, or understand, or even accept that risk-taking is part of life. I thought my dad was making mistakes when he would do something risky. So I wanted to be different.

Ahmad Mounir Ajam, my dad! A man of honor, tolerance. So words can be enough to show my respect. Rest in Peace

Education & early career

I focused on my studies and worked my way through college when my parents could not send me money anymore because of the collapse of the economy in Lebanon. I did well in my education, got a job, went back to uni for a masters’ degree that was 1990. Graduating from the University of California Berkeley and with top grades, provided me the necessary education to join Exxon and later other companies. All along, I was choosing the safe route, good school, top university, excellent working environment, and global companies. However, something was missing.

Risk Averse

I guess the risk-taker blood was running in my veins. I never thought of myself as a risk-taker, on the contrary, I felt I had a neutral attitude to risks, and maybe even averse to risks. About 8 years into my career with Exxon, I was frustrated. Exxon offered me a great opportunity and excellent salary and benefits, but I was not satisfied. In the early summer of 1998, I decided to quit, without any alternative in mind. In those days, entrepreneurship and startup were not a hot topic. Fortunately for me, I started freelancing and got an opportunity to work on a megaproject (in Texas), and later officially registered a company. The company was a legal structure for my self-employment.

Passion for project management

I am sharing all of the above to share how life was framing my future. Many of the steps that I have taken up to that point were mostly reactionary and not by design or long term vision. The only constant was my passion for project management and its value in all aspects of life.

After three years of self-employment, I was offered a job in Saudi, with Saudi Aramco. I did not want to take the job, but expecting my first child, pushed me into giving up on my US company-dream and go back into the corporate world. Being an entrepreneur was moved down on my priority list. However, two to three years into my “employee status,” my father’s blood started to drive me again.

a side note, for those who do know what it means to work for Saudi Aramco, here is a hint, wealth, and prosperity for the rest of my life, if I retire as an Aramcon.

The second startup

I started to plan to startup a company again. Everyone thought that I was crazy to leave the “Aramco Dream.” In 2004, we started SUKAD FZ-LLC in Dubai, UAE. I left a $20k/month total package to go into the unknown. A new company, in a new country, and with no real salary. I ran SUKAD from 2005 to 2019; earned many leading customers and their respect for repeat business year after year. During those years, we worked on the SUKAD Way, developed CAMMP, started our blog site and YouTube channel, and published a few books.

The third and current startup

That UAE SUKAD and the work we did during the period, allowed us to transform into SUKAD Corp, a USA Startup, working on developing an innovative project management solution, the Uruk PPM Platform.

The Moral of the story

Once again, I am sharing all of the above, a personal story, to reach the point of answering the question, the question that I posted as the title of this message. “What does it take to have a co-founder spirit?” What I shared is one example and the story of a “late-entrepreneur” if there is such a term. Other entrepreneurs started earlier in life, maybe even when they were still in school or university. So, what is the point?

So far, I gave you an indirect or implicit answer to the question of co-founder spirit. I used the term co-founder instead of an entrepreneur because most startups are teams, although triggered or driven by one vision. If you prefer, you can think of the “Entrepreneur Spirit.” What is the moral of this story? What is the explicit answer to this question?

The explicit answer

I do not know if there is an answer for everyone to subscribe to. To me, here is an explicit response to “What does it take to have a co-founder spirit?” It takes:

  • The courage to go into the unknown and maybe unchartered path.
  • To accept the threat of potential failure and seek the opportunity to serve.
  • The realization that we need to find solutions to problems and practice gaps
  • To understand that entrepreneurship takes dedication, hard works, and sleepless nights.
  • To be willing to reach the verge of burnout but the wisdom to realize that the exhaustion is temporary and to be expected. Of course, that requires the rebellious spirit to snap out of it.

The Co-Founder Spirit

It sounds like a horror story, so why would anyone want to be a founder, co-founder, or an entrepreneur. Well, not everyone wants to and some of those who want it might not understand what it takes. So, why do we do it? We do it because we have the spirit.

I do realize that many do it for the glory, being a Unicorn or a Camel (a new term that I am still trying to understand). Maybe we do it to be rich and famous. Each of us has different triggers. Even if one is at the highest level of the Maslow hierarchy of needs, one would still like the recognition. However, the real answer is here. Many of us do not do for glory, recognition, or wealth. We do it because we see a need. Founders see problems that someone should address. They see gaps that must be filled. We do it because we believe in a cause. We do it because we have the “Co-Founder Spirit.”

Co-Founder Opportunity, the Uruk PPM

In closing, our startup, SUKAD Corp, and the Uruk PPM Platform can benefit in growing our startup team and we are looking for someone with the spirit to join our working, co-founders’ team.

So, if you have the passion to excel and serve, you appreciate the value of project management, you have the business development skills to help us go to market, we would love to hear from you. You would be working with me and our CIO, Neville Goedhals.

The Uruk PPM Platform

Are we learning from history, or, are we doomed to repeat it?

I am writing this article based on observations and monitoring of the Corona Virus (COVID-19) Pandemic and how the global response or lack of. I have also monitored, from a distance, how the response varies from one country to another. For example, I see my home country, Lebanon, a country weakened by decades of corruption and financial constraints, responding better than some global power. In Lebanon, I have to

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Does the role of project manager vary from one context to another?

We often see posts that tell us about the role of project manager, with a list of responsibilities. These posts often appear to be by “experts” and the content is presented with certainty. In other words, the post might be erroneous or present the role from a narrow perspective, yet it is presented as THE ROLE of project manager.

There is about 1 hour of content here, so if you are a PMP, you could claim 1 PDU for listening in.


Agile Project Management, Agile Project Manager, Project Leader

I guess it is clear from our introduction that the role of a PM is not fixed. It varies from one context to another. In this article, we share five videos related to this topic.


Role of Project Manager

OK, the role of PM does vary from one context to another. However, are there some general guidelines?

In theory, a project manager is the one who manages a project. However, in practice, the answer to the question: what is the role of project manager (and his/her responsibilities) is it depends on numerous other factors. In this first video, the longest; about 26 min we cover the topic in general.

Do project owners still need a project manager in BOT situations?

Continuing from the first video, this second video address a specific question, which is: do project owners’ organizations still need a PM in a BOT (Build-Operate-Transfer) situations? The idea is since the BOT company is paying for project and will manage it, would the “utility” or government entity (or others) that is giving out the BOT contract still need to manage? Listen; this is a shorter video.

Project Manager Competence

How can we link project manager competence to project classification? In other words, how can we determine the type or size of a project that a given project manager can manage? OK still not clear, let us say we have a PM with less than 5 years of experience, can this PM manage a large and complex project?

In this third video, we address this question and link it to professional certifications, such as those from IPMA. IPMA focuses on project management competence and their certifications link to the project manager competence.

Do we need project managers or project leaders?

Here we address a highly popular topic, which is to address one of the common misunderstanding on the topic of leader versus manager, then we link this to project management and managing a project.

OK, then, for managing a project, do we need a project manager or a project leader? The answer is in the next video.

Is the project manager doing all PM work?

We close this series with this question:

Is the project manager doing all PM work or are there others to help?

The reason for this video is that many of the posts on PM, even when reading the PMBOK Guide, or preparing for the PMP exam, one can be led to believe that the PM is the one doing everything. Well, maybe in those tiny projects. Other than micro projects, the PM cannot do all of the work. Listen to see if you agree with our views or you think we are wrong.

Closing Remarks

What do you think? What did you like or don’t like?

Are there any topics you would like to address?

Is there any project management association that accredit training providers?

Recently, I was meeting with a client, and they were talking about “accredited PMI providers” and as far as I know, there are NO accredited providers from PMI or any other professional association. However, to be sure, I asked the question on LinkedIn.  I will conclude this post with two resources, the Ajam Acid Interview Questions, and How to Select a Project Management Training Provider. What did we ask and what were some of the answers? Read on. Continue reading

What are the Ajam Acid Interview Questions in Project Management?

I was going to post these interview questions one by one, and I did post two or three on LinkedIn before but let me post all of them today. So, what are the Ajam Acid Interview Questions in Project Management?  Continue reading

The SUKAD Way for Managing Projects

Would you be interested in project management seminars?

Project Management Seminars

Would you be interested in attending an evening (or daytime) project management seminar?

This article is to seek your input on selecting topics for a project management seminar series.

We also want to address organizations if they would be interested in partnering with us by hosting one or more of these seminars or even full-day workshop. Continue reading

Is there one team for a given project?

In the previous post, we talked about Who are the people involved in delivering a project?

In that article, we discussed the various components of the Extended Project Team, Project Team, and Project Management Team. So regardless of what team we are talking about, is there one team for a given project?

What we mean here – on a project life cycle – is the team constant? Continue reading

What is the difference between stakeholder and shareholder?

Kids were having steak for lunch so they were steakeholders 🙂

Well, our topic today is not about steakholders but stakeholders and shareholders. No cup holders for today.

Honestly, this topic is easy and straight forward. We do not often see too much confusion between the two terms in our workshops. People understand the term shareholder and they know it is different from a stakeholder. The confusion is often about the stakeholders themselves – there is no clear understanding of who are the stakeholders.

Two videos for you – the first focuses on shareholders versus stakeholders. The second video is actually an audio presentation discussing stakeholders.

Let us know what you think.

Thanks

How to kill, execute, or decompose a project?

With this post, we will start re-publishing some old articles and update them. Of course, we will continue to publish new articles.

Project management is a serious business, but it does not hurt to have some fun with this interesting domain. In this post, we decided to play on words and learn the language of the living dead that, some of us, use from time to time. Continue reading