A Day in the Life: Project Manager, Dave Manson Jul 27, 2022

We caught up with Dave Manson, a project manager for Western Pacific Enterprises (WPE) in charge of Trans Mountain Pipeline, a nearly 1,000-mile pipeline connecting Alberta to the British Columbia coast. WPE is managing the upgrades and new construction of 14 substations that power the pipeline pumps, which transport oil in Western Canada.

Manson provides an overview of the main responsibilities of a project manager and the essential tools that help him – and the company – succeed in a multi-year project. A wide range of obstacles from multiple stakeholder interests and materials being shipped from overseas to, yes, even birds nesting their young, keep Manson and his team on their toes every day.


Q: What is a project manager at WPE and why is it important?

A: The main objective of a project manager is to support the interests of the company in relation to the execution of a project. Thus, meet the expectations of the customer and meet the requirement of the contract; no more no less. This is a client relationship exercise to ensure that you are not only delivering the project they expect, but that you intend to create a lasting relationship that goes beyond the current project you are on.

If you were to ask what my job is, it’s communication. Communicating with everyone, all stakeholders, operating from that 30,000 foot level and seeing all the players on the board, and speaking with the right people at the right time.

But it’s fun! When you see a project start to come to fruition, it’s a thing of beauty. It is excellent work and very rewarding.


Q: What are your daily duties and responsibilities?

A: Making sure we have the people on site with the right safety and quality mindset so we don’t do things twice. I make sure we strive to meet the client’s schedule by tracking labor and staying on budget. But there is also the possibility of being a problem solver.

We oversee contract deliverables such as quality, schedule, contract budget and ensure projects are completed in a safe and professional manner.

We have a great support system here, from my immediate supervisor up two or three levels from there. It’s almost like we don’t really have job titles, we’re all here as a team. And it’s a corporate culture. We have it here at WPE and I have seen it throughout the MYR group as well. There is a culture of camaraderie. We realize that if we all do it together, everyone benefits. It’s a good feeling to be supported.


Q: What does a typical day look like for you?

A: A typical day starts with a morning meeting, and we go over the plan for the day, what their challenges are, and talk about things like sourcing materials, engaging contractors, and engaging the customer. It’s a daily discussion of things to come and putting those plans in place before they become emergencies, and instead it’s just planned activities.

The rest of my day is spent on bookkeeping and invoices, updating schedules, following up with our quality manager to ensure deliverables are on schedule, and working with our joint venture partners on safety and quality, which are the two main drivers of the project; they go together. You always look at the schedule or the situation and adapt as the project progresses.


Q: What do you like most about your role?

A: Teamwork! There are two parts to this: the team that I am responsible for, but there are also all the other stakeholders involved who support you, understand you and work with you. Contracts by their nature can have friction due to money at stake and egos etc., but if you can involve all stakeholders and see that you are there to be the solution, that is great. It’s not about money, it’s about having a plan for their request and providing that solution; find ways to bring things together. It’s winning and it’s rewarding – they give you that confidence to do what you need to do to do it.


Q: What do you like about being a project manager for WPE and MYR Group?

A: We have a great support system here, from my immediate supervisor up two or three levels from there. It’s almost like we don’t really have job titles, we’re all here as a team. And it’s a corporate culture. We have it here at WPE and I have seen it throughout the MYR group as well. There is a culture of camaraderie. We realize that if we all do it together, everyone benefits. It’s a good feeling to be supported.


Q: What skills or qualities do you think are important for someone in your role?

A: Organization and planning. If you’re organized and have good plans in place, that communication with everyone is confident, concise, and everyone stays informed. Keeping everyone informed reduces stress and reduces reactive circumstances. Organization and planning are really very important for any project.


Q: How did you end up in this role? What has you professional path been ?

A: I started as an apprentice electrician and worked my way up to journeyman, then foreman, then general foreman, then superintendent, working my way up. I got involved in estimating because I wanted a new challenge and was interested in project management and budgeting. Ultimately, I became the chief estimator and it allowed me to see things from a high level and how to switch between low level and high level thinking. I wanted to get into project management and I joined WPE as a project manager, and it was great!


Q: What advice would you give to someone interested in pursuing a career in your position?

A: My first piece of advice would be to pay attention to everything around you if you cross the terrain. Ask your supervisors questions. Most people are ready to talk. Ask ‘why is this happening?’ or ‘why are we doing it this way?’ Talk to a project manager, be curious and understand the big picture to understand why you are doing what you are doing. There are no silly questions when you learn something.

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