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Get to Know Us | Taija Niku, Project Manager, Tech & Innovation, Helsinki

21 January 2021

Taija Niku works as a project manager in the Tech & Innovation Team at Hannes Snellman’s Helsinki office. Taija holds a master’s degree in engineering, and before joining Hannes in September 2020, she worked in IT consulting. As Taija is a true project management guru, we asked her to share some tips for everyday life at the office.

Hi Taija, how has the new year started for you?

Hi, thank you for asking! The year has started with relaxation with my family, books, and boardgames. I am also very happy that we finally have some snow even in the southern parts of Finland. In short, a very good beginning to the new year that everyone has high hopes for after 2020.

What is included in your role as project manager?

As a project manager at Hannes Snellman, I work with different development projects in our Tech & Innovation Team, mostly with deployments of new digital tools. I am also involved in developing our project management practises together with our lawyers and other professionals, pursuing to find the best tools and ways of working possible to support our work.

Hannes Snellman is the first law firm you have worked at. Can you share your first impression and tell us what you think about working with lawyers and other law firm professionals?

Working in a law firm is indeed a completely new frontier for me. I also joined Hannes Snellman during quite unusual times and only spent a fraction of time at the office during the autumn. Despite these circumstances, I have felt very welcome to the firm and I have had the pleasure to work with several colleagues outside my own team as well. My colleagues are happy to support each other and eager to get to know us new employees as well.

When working with lawyers and other law firm professionals, I feel that I am working with people who have strong competence and know-how in their area of expertise. Before joining Hannes Snellman, I was a little worried that people might be strongly set in their ways, but I have been very happy to discover that my new colleagues are development-oriented and eager to try new things. However, I do have to admit that I have encountered a lot more detail-oriented thinking than I ever did in the IT consulting business.

The beginning of a new year is quite often the perfect time for new projects and plans both professionally and in your personal life. What would be your top three tips for successful project management?

My first tip is to plan your actions. This may sound like a no-brainer, but especially at the beginning of a project (or a new year) we often get excited and carried away and end up doing before thinking and planning. Have a plan in place, and make sure it can be implemented. It is not enough to know what will happen and when, but also how and by whom. Get on a concrete level and make sure that everyone knows what is expected of them. Follow up on the actions and be prepared to amend your plan if necessary.

Also, there can never be too much emphasis on communication. This does not mean informing people as much and as often as possible but rather having the right communication channels in place, agreeing on communication methods in the project, and pursuing openness. Often, many issues could be solved by more effective communication.

Third, do not try to do everything alone. Being responsible for project management may lead people into thinking that they alone are also responsible for delivering everything. However, a project manager is just one part of a team with know-how and experience to successfully reach the project goals. Make sure your team comprises people with the right competence and work together with them to plan and deliver the desired outcomes.

If a project is managed well, it will bring value to everybody involved. However, sometimes project management fails. What are the main reasons behind unsuccessful project management from your point of view?

It is good to remember that sometimes projects fail and sometimes project management fails, and these can be two different things. A project can be successful in achieving its goals even when project management has been unsuccessful, and usually this requires flexibility and extra work from the project team. Signs of project management falling short can include uncertainty within the project team, overlapping work done by multiple project team members, an unclear and ever-changing schedule, and inadequate resources. Unsuccessful project management can also lead to delays in schedule or budget overruns.

Often, the reason behind unsuccessful project management is as simple as a lack of time or difficulties in prioritisation. When things get hectic, we often take on tasks that seem most critical and focus our energy on completing them. If the project manager is responsible for both project management and several project tasks, it is very easy to overlook the project management duties while focusing on delivering outputs. Therefore, it is critical to make sure that project management tasks are allocated enough time and prioritised accordingly in a project.

Another common issue with project management is the inability to adapt to change. There are always going to be changes and surprises, and project management is responsible for having the structures in place to be able to manage the changes. It is good to make a risk assessment with defined actions if risks are realised, define a clear decision structure, and make sure there is some room in the project plan for unexpected events.

What has been the most memorable moment during your Hannes career so far?

My Hannes career has not been very long, but it has already included some memorable moments. Professionally, the most memorable moment was holding a one-and-a-half-hour project management training to our entire organisation, naturally through Teams. This was the first larger completely virtual training I had ever held, and I was wiped after that. You cannot beat the energy from a live audience.

Another memorable moment was Hannes Snellman’s annual Christmas party, also organised remotely. I was amazed by how well everything worked out and how much fun spending a Friday evening in front of the computer can be. I was also reminded of how important social events are, especially in times like these.

FAVOURITE | Way of Commuting Tram Book The Cider House Rules by John Irving Lunch Sushi Podcast Auta Antti Work Equipment Post-it notes Afternoon Routine Half a litre of black tea Mobile Application Wolt Relaxation Method HBO Work Outfit While remotely: sweatpants and a sweater. While at the office: black jeans, sweater, and big earrings. Power Song Eye of the Tiger Website Finnish real estate websites Social Media Channel Instagram Drink Tea or Champagne. Rarely together, but at brunch, why not. Weekday Friday Leisure Activity Dancing

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