Project management is above all the art of making things happen and finding ways that reliably lead to the goal. This requires an understanding of the respective environment, being a good team player as well as smart and visionary, and having the courage to take responsibility in difficult situations. This is also the claim of Habib Shafik, who has now committed himself even more firmly to TSCNET Services: At the beginning of 2019, Habib joined us for 18 months as a seconded employee of our shareholder TenneT Germany, and now he has joined TSCNET Services directly as Senior Project Manager in the Portfolio Management Business Unit. For us, this is a welcome opportunity for an in-depth talk.
How did you first hear about TSCNET when you were still at TenneT?
In different ways. On the one hand, through discussions with colleagues, on the other hand, in the company’s internal communication. At a meeting with my former manager, I had discussed the future role of the European Regional Security Coordinators. For him, the influence of the RSC was supposed to increase over time and at some point TSOs would even completely hand over system operation to one coordinated service provider. I took this fascinating vision with me from the conversation. At that time, I already knew that if you work for a transmission system operator like TenneT, you can go to TSCNET for a year and a half. However, as it seemed to focus on technicians and grid specialists, I at first did not really think about a secondment at all. My decision came much later when it became clear that TSCNET was also hiring project managers.
When you started at TSCNET in 2019: Which expectation turned out to be true and which not?
The vision of the immense importance of an RSC has already been fulfilled. And our work is steadily growing in importance, as recent political developments regarding future mandatory RSC services show. Fortunately, my original vision of this company as a place specifically designed for engineers has not proved true. In reality, the employees bring with them vastly different backgrounds and also various personalities, and everyone contributes to doing great work in a variety of areas.
When you look back on your time at TSCNET so far, which project are you particularly proud of?
To answer this question, let me first define successful project management. In my opinion, success does not mean that every originally planned milestone must be reached, nor that the intended schedule must always be meticulously adhered to. Ultimately, a successful project is defined by the satisfaction – first and foremost of the customer and the stakeholder, but also of the project management team. If the result is satisfactory and proves itself in practice, the project has been successful. In this sense, if I may say so, I am particularly proud of a project that was not completed. This probably sounds a bit weird, so let me explain it briefly. The development of the project was accompanied by a number of unforeseen, external factors, which led to high monthly project costs without satisfactory results. To prevent further damage to all parties involved, a courageous step was taken, and it was decided by mutual agreement to terminate the project. Today it is clear that this decision saved us all a lot of time and money and was more beneficial to the company and our customers than to complete the project by hook or by crook. This would not have been possible without a great team and a management that takes transparency and integrity seriously.
What do you think about TSO employees working at TSCNET today?
It is a great idea as it will allow each programme participant to broaden their skills, horizons and understanding of energy infrastructure in Europe. However, I believe that this exchange needs to be promoted and facilitated much more. As a TSO staff member, you have to be very proactive to get information about it. This is not only about potential vacancies, but also about the various administrative steps involved in the process of filling a vacancy, such as travel costs or bureaucratic issues. It would be nice if this knowledge were more widely available and promoted in a transparent way, so that standardised processes make it easier for all parties involved in the posting and everyone knows what they are getting into.
What does it take to work at TSCNET Services?
In my opinion these three factors are the most important: Intercultural competence, initiative, and motivation. This also fits in with the question about my motives for signing directly with TSCNET now that the 18 months are over. The more personal environment here allows a much greater commitment than a large organization. Here you can really help shape and make a difference. This freedom also means more responsibility for each of us. I personally enjoy this very much, especially the fact that colleagues back each other up to realize new ideas together. I also want to emphasize the corporate culture. Colleagues are very supportive, cooperative, and motivated to create opportunities where others might see a dead end. In addition, the enormous diversity and internationality are a great source of inspiration and enrich everyday work enormously.
What are your plans here?
In my view, the advantages of good project management are still far too little known. As a result, many resources are not used effectively. I see our business unit in the responsibility to change this. The success and efficiency of every project undertaken at TSCNET is the foundation for successful service provision. We want to create understanding for our work and make it clear where we can provide effective support. We have launched a small internal information campaign in 2019 for that purpose. In addition, we introduced the bimonthly “Meet the Business Unit Portfolio Management” offer at the beginning of this year. Our co-workers can ask us anything they want to know and get concrete help from us.
And when it comes to actual project management: what is the biggest challenge?
As someone who is not from the field of electrical engineering, I would say understanding technical terms and their implications. It is also important to keep abreast of the latest regulatory developments so that you can plan projects accordingly. In short, I work proactively to stay up to date and understand all changes in my field.
Our last question relates to what is happening around the world right now, Habib: How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your work?
To ensure that we can also do our work well from home, we have further standardized our communication processes. This has worked extremely well so far. Although I am pleased that everything went great despite the difficult circumstances, I am very much looking forward to seeing my colleagues again in the office and to working with them again personally soon.