Habib Shafik: “Speaking up for a project”

08.06.2020

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.

Habib Shafik, Senior Project Manager in the Portfolio Management Business Unit

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New Project Manager in Portfolio Management

08.08.2019

The origin and meaning of the name Monica are not fully clarified. It could come from the Greek Monos and mean something like “unique”, or from the Latin Monachus for “monk”. Both should be fine in the case of Monica Fabi, the new Project Manager in the Portfolio Management business unit. It’s simple with the monks – the city of Munich is named after the monks and therefore has a very similar name in Italian: Monaco. And the “unique” we adopt for Monica’s professional skills.

Born in Rome, she has been working in IT for around 20 years, mainly in application development and maintenance, and has mostly worked in international teams. The 46-year-old has been living in Munich for several years now and loves meeting people from all over the world and talking to them about their different habits and cultures. That’ s why TSCNET Services is the right place for her.

Monica studied mathematics at La Sapienza University in Rome and holds a Project Management Professional certification from the Project Management Institute (PMI), the world’s largest project management organisation. She wants to use her experience and knowledge to help her new co-workers cope with the many challenges that projects present, from deadline pressure and task volume to budget. Ultimately, it’s all about customer satisfaction, explains Monica. “I want to contribute to the growth and success of the company – and continue to enjoy my work,” she adds.

Next to work, she enjoys reading, trekking, visiting art museums and studying new methods and techniques related to her discipline. Even the museum trips could prove helpful: “Being a Project Manager is like being an artist, you have the different coloured process streams combining into a work of art,” as her well-known colleague Greg Cimmarrusti puts it.

Monica Fabi, the new Project Manager in the Portfolio Management business unit (picture: TSCNET Services)

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Effectiveness in project management

15.06.2017

Strengthening the individual performance to contribute to an organisation’s common goals – with this idea in mind, five employees of TSCNET Services recently have taken part in a two-day PRINCE2 Foundation course. PRINCE2, an acronym for PRojects IN Controlled Environments, is the name of a widely used de facto process-based method for effective project management, emphasising the power of clear and efficient communication. It applies to all types of projects. The course with a very international atmosphere was designed to get a firm understanding of how to successfully manage projects and control change on them. It took place in the heart of Munich, Germany, and was followed by the certificate exam for all five delegates.

To fully meet the requirements as a European Regional Security Coordinator (RSC), TSCNET Services usually runs several projects in parallel on a continuous basis. Many of them are highly complex and technically very challenging. They all must be managed in time, within budget, and at the required high level of quality within the TSCNET project management framework. As Denis Waitley, the American motivational speaker, writer and consultant, said: “Expect the best, plan for the worst, and prepare to be surprised.”

Martin Mach, Data Quality Manager at TSCNET, has participated in the course and passed the exam. “Getting a detailed overview of all the PRINCE2 principles, processes and themes helps us to organise resources, manage costs and quality, and cope with project risks,” he says. With him and his four co-workers being in the vanguard, project management best practices will redound to the benefit of the whole company. A PRINCE ennobles all the clan …

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Like building timelines and milestones

03.07.2016

“A project is a temporary endeavour undertaken to create a unique product, service or result,” says the Project Management Institute, the world’s leading not-for-profit professional membership association for project, program and portfolio management. “Project management, then, is the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements.” Conducting an orchestra may be a good example, building a house is propably an even better one: There are a lot of people with different jobs and abilities involved, materials and equipment is needed at a certain place and a certain time, and it’s essential to keep costs, time and quality under control.

The coordination of TSC’s activities and the rendering of tailor-made coordination services for the European grid market requires professional management of coordination mechanisms, too. As a service providing company, TSCNET strives for best performance and high quality support for customers. In order to ensure that high quality services are delivered in this complex business environment, a clear focus on operational excellence was set for 2016. With the strategic priority of TSCNET to elevate organisational performance, the increase of excellence in project management became apparent. Therefore, TSCNET employed a three-step strategy to further professionalise project management.

  1. Project management training
    Project managers received a two-day training from an external provider. The training was adjusted to the needs of TSCNET and was held at the premises of TSCNET.
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  2. Implementation of standards
    Based on existing project management standards, such as PMI and PMBOK a tailor-made and organisation-wide project management guide was implemented in order to further increase efficiency and effectiveness of projects.
    The “TSCNET Project Management Guide” describes rules, guidelines and standardized processes for project management. As a result, the establishment of a strong framework for projects, not only internal and external transparency is guaranteed, but also organisational set-ups of projects are clarified.
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  3. Continuous improvement
    Changing demands and needs require businesses to adapt constantly. Therefore, it is necessary to continuously improve project management practices. With the establishment of the project management group, TSCNET created a platform for project managers to exchange knowledge and contribute to the refinement of project management standards.
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“Why do so many professionals say they are project managing, when what they are actually doing is fire fighting?” asked Colin Bentley, a project management expert and best-selling author. At TSCNET Services, we want to avoid fire fighting by mitigating risks and solving problems before they become insurmountable.
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