Game Changer Sharon Harvey on the Art and Science of Project Management and Inspiring Next-Gen STEM Leaders
- December 11, 2018
Sharon Harvey is a Business Consultant and Senior Director with NTT DATA Services. She helps our financial services clients master the art and science of project management. In this blog post, Sharon shares how she helped a large bank pull off its largest software development project and how she’s inspiring girls in her community to become future STEM leaders.
Q: You started a program to introduce girls to STEM. What drives that passion?
A: I’ve been in this industry for more than 20 years, and often I’m the only person in the room who looks like me. So, I started a program at my daughter’s school to encourage girls who may be intimidated about going into this career. They have smartphones; they have apps; but they don’t know about the realm of career possibilities that STEM offers. So, we explore the impact of technology on their daily lives and they get to meet women and men who are working in a range of technology fields.
This industry needs diversity of thought, of approach and of background because what’s at stake is important. Our clients trust us to solve complex, high-stakes problems, such as protecting people’s pensions. We need smart, creative people like the girls I work with to come into this field and design the next-generation of cybersecurity solutions. That’s why I’m passionate about this work.
Q: You’re also a passionate project manager. In fact, you used to run our project management (PM) practice. What’s the secret to effective PM?
A: So many project managers tend to focus on the tactical side of project management, such as project and capacity planning and measuring task completion rates. But effective project management is a marriage of art and science. I’ve found that projects run smoother when you understand the personal side of PM: understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the team, recognizing people, bringing fun to the project and knowing that, as a leader, you are there for your team. The most successful project managers not only lead but they also serve. Being a servant leader is not a new concept, but one not used often enough.
During the recent financial crisis, a financial institution brought me in to help them launch a new bank product. It was a massive multi-year cost-savings initiative, which at the time was this institution’s largest software development project ever, with more lines of code being moved than they had ever tackled. Its success (or failure) would directly impact this company’s bottom line. My client had all the tactical pieces of project management and analysis in place, but the project was still at risk. We took a couple of days to assess and plan, and we determined that the team needed improvements not only to the “science” aspect of project management but also to the “art” of it. I put agile teams in place so we could respond more fluidly to changes. Being agile meant we got near-instant feedback from business and IT regarding changes we were making. It meant we could “fail fast” and then pivot, refocus and restart quickly. The success of that project generated a tremendous amount of revenue and enabled the company to emerge from the recession strong while many banks were taking bailouts, closing shop and entering mergers.
Q: You started your career with a computer science degree, doing programming. What drew you to consulting at NTT DATA?
A: I love solving problems, and I love to show others how to become problem solvers—whether at home with my kids or in our nation’s banks. Consulting is really about connecting people with solutions. At NTT DATA, we spend about $2B on R&D. I love that I can leverage that innovation and bring my clients a complete spectrum of solutions—from management consulting to thought leadership to delivery.
I recently did this for a bank who asked us to help them improve web performance. We brought our UI/UX practice in, came up with a list of short- and long-term projects, and now we’re helping them implement.
Q: You’re a mom of three. How are you able to balance home and work life?
A: It’s not always easy. I have two girls, a son and a phenomenal husband. I strive every day to balance what I love to do—helping my clients solve their problems—with the people I love the most, my family. I’ve been very fortunate to work for a company that understands the need for this work-life balance. But they don’t let the fact that I’m a mother be an excuse to not challenge me to grow. NTT DATA has empowered me to figure out how to evolve within the realities of my day-to-day life. That’s why I love working here.
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