Interview by: Alp Camci, PMP
Get to Know Jürgen Ekert
Continuing our "Extended Get to Know" series, Alp interviews Jürgen Ekert Head of Project Management & Engineering in Endress+Hauser Group Services.
Could you please tell the readers about yourself like your specialized fields, current role, your motivation in being a member of the Swiss Chapter or any other relevant information about yourself, which you would like to share?
Yes my pleasure. My name is Jürgen Ekert and at Endress+Hauser I am globally responsible for Project Management & Engineering. Already during my study at university, I realized how important project management is. I started at Endress+Hauser as a project manager and executed national and international customer projects. During a 2-year working period in Southeast Asia I learned a lot about cultural differences and the many aspects of project management. Later in my career I broadened my knowledge and became a Project Management Professional (PMP). Communication and collaboration are for me the most important topics needed to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of projects. This was one reason I decided to execute a coaching education program. I see coaching as a new language, which helps in leadership, project management and in private life to get the best out of people. In the Endress+Hauser world I have trained and coached more than 1,000 people in many different countries. I draw my motivation from working and exchanging with other people.
Could you please tell us about your previous and current participation in the PMI-CH Chapter?
To survive in our fast changing and globalized world we need constantly to adapt to new situations, keep open to other opinions, new technologies, different behaviours and other cultures. This is one thing I love about my job. Nevertheless, it requires continuous self-driven learning.
If I am not traveling I enjoy the events and the networking of PMI Switzerland. It is a good platform for exchange and getting inspiration from others. For more than 5 years now, I have organized an annual PMI event for PMI Switzerland at our office in Reinach. Having the full support and commitment of my company for this is something I really treasure. I always try to find speakers that inspire and help the participants to explore areas outside their field of activity. We have had, for example, an extreme runner and a guy from Generation Y. Usually the speakers I select have also in one way or another inspired me.
As actively participating in and hosting events with the Swiss Chapter, could you please tell us about your experiences?
The Swiss Chapter is a connection of nice and experienced people offering the platform for exchange in the region (nearby). Enjoying a network evening after work, accessible in just a couple of minutes is great. Last year I changed the position and gave my own speech at PMI Switzerland which was a great opportunity to share my experience.
Are you also active in any other chapter?
Part of my team is located in India, so I have already contacted the local PMI Chapter in Mumbai and plan to do a speech there in 2019. My motivation clearly is to network and get some insights in a fast changing and volatile country. It will be interesting how PMI operates in India.
How do you describe the role of project office in your organization and the benefits towards project managers?
“Doing the same things in the same way, right from the beginning.” That’s what we establish. Driving constant change within the group. With harmonized processes, harmonized tooling platforms and training for Project Management & Engineering we are moving our organization step-by-step to project excellence.
How do you see the project management role and the role of project offices evolving over the coming years?
Adaptability is key in a fast-paced changing world. Nevertheless, having a good plan, working according to that plan and being able to adapt and align to changes as fast as possible is essential. In my opinion project management will also be very important in the future. With artificial intelligence and new tools project managers will gain insights they never had before. So, faster decision making will be possible. With this the project manager will be able to focus on the real issues / topics in the project as well. My feeling is we will be able to handle projects that we have not been able to handle before. We need to have processes, methodologies and tools that help to manage unknown and complex situations simply and predictably.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced as a project manager?
Biggest challenge? That is a good question. I would say the biggest challenge for me as a project manager is the fact that human beings often prefer indirect communication instead of direct communication. Talking to a person directly makes a huge difference.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced as Head of PMO?
The biggest challenge I see is the resistance of people to change. We tend to stick to things which worked in the past but things from the past will not always work in the future. Here, the interesting thing is to take people along the journey.
How would you describe the influence of your profession as a project manager in your personal life?
There is absolutely no influence on personal life. Hahaha kidding. Clearly this has an effect on private life as well. The way you do things, the way you organize things. Sometimes you have to be careful that other people do not feel you are over-organized.
We heard that you are engaged in a charity project?
My passion in free time is running. I enjoy my daily run (my hour of power) to relax, generate new ideas, release stress, clear my mind, think about project management… I always say this is meditation with adrenalin. A few years ago two friends and I implemented an idea to do a run from Feldberg to Basel (along the Wiese River for a total of 59 km – partial distance possible) and collect a €1 donation by the participants per km they run. We donate 100% of the money to establish water distribution systems in Cameroon, Africa and collected more than €100,000. My background in project management helped us to implement our plan, to get organized and quickly react to changes.
How do you see PMI in terms of participating in the development of the project management profession?
PMI is constantly working on the foundation of project management. For example, education programs, e-learning, events and of course the PMBok Guide help people to take on the profession of project management and achieve deeper insights. The Agile Practice Guide, which was released with the 6th edition of the PMBok Guide gives new insights to the latest developments in project management. This is a great opportunity. PMI and especially the Swiss Chapter connects people with similar backgrounds.
Any other thoughts and information you would like to share with our readers?
I hope to see as many readers at this years PMI Event at Endress+Hauser on the 5th of December. I look forward to further exchanges and inspiration. Thanks for the interview.