Sofia Makri is a freelance Project Manager and certified Career Coach based in Greece. In this interview with Women4IT partner CreThiDev, she discusses the importance of digital and soft skills, as well as her own experience as a project manager.
W4IT: Could you tell me more about who you are and what you are doing?
Sofia Makri: My name is Sofia Makri and I am freelance Project Manager and Certified ICF Career Coach, offering online services.
My academic background is in political sciences and public policy, and European law and affairs. Over the last 13 years, I have devoted myself to people and project management. I am cofounder of the NGO AELIA working life lab (founded in 2013), which supports young people and professionals with improving their employability and professional development.
Recently I launched my new e-business ‘AELIA Consulting & Coaching’, with the vision to support businesses and organisations in making the best of their people by offering HR empowerment services from my own perspective, a perspective of care, learning, growth and connection.
Right after my studies, I developed a career in the design and management of EU and NSRF projects, mainly in the field of education and HR development. I had the honour of working with EU projects beneficiaries such as the Greek Ministry of Education, Greek Universities and the Greek National Opera.
From 2009 to 2012 I served as Advisor to the Special Secretary of Primary & Secondary Education in the Ministry of Education and Research, for the design and implementation of key projects in educational reform.
Since 2013, parallel to my career as EU/NSRF projects manager, I cofounded the NGO AELIA, where, along with the AELIA team, I design and implement career empowerment educational labs and the three major projects of AELIA, offering career support to university students and professionals all over Greece.
W4IT: What is it like to be a woman working in the tech sector?
SM: I guess it is like working in any professional sector. Either you are a woman or a man, but the important thing is to deliver successfully. The main goal of a project manager is to coordinate and complete projects on time within the budget and scope, similar to each profession.
As a project manager, the primary daily tool is the ability to manage several things at once. Multitasking is almost a given. That doesn’t mean, however, that it comes naturally to everyone. It is important to own some essential soft skills such as: communication, leadership, prioritisation, analytical thinking, effective and timely decision making, as well as creativity, problem-solving and change management skills.
Hard skills are also important. For example, you cannot even start the project management procedure if you are not an experienced user of the MS Project and MS Office toolset. Technology makes daily life much easier and faster. Advances in software, hardware, communication technology and other areas transform the world of project management. From easier collaboration to more accurate reporting, there is no doubt that technology has made every project manager’s life a little bit easier.
But soft skills are the ones that make the difference.
One of the good things about being a woman is that we typically excel in emotional intelligence when compared to our male peers. That means that soft skills such as communication, organisation, empathy and attention to detail are more likely to be second nature to us. It seems that we lead differently and offer unique management and interpersonal skills which frequently encourage motivation, performance, and communication.
Last but not least, it is important to refer to the digital skills that a project manager has to acquire and develop. There is no doubt that we tend to live in a digital world of constant change. Thus, a digital mindset is a necessity nowadays for all individuals. Being digitally literate is more than obtaining some technological skills. Rather, it is a set of attitudes and behaviors that enable people to understand the digital environment and its rules, adapt fast to new contexts, incorporate technology into a daily working routine and extract value from it. So, no matter if you are a man or a woman, digital mindsets still need to be developed.
W4IT: What characteristics of yours helped you get to where you are now in your career?
SM: I was always wondering how the parallel circles of my career (political sciences, project management, social entrepreneurship, training, coaching) were connected. I am so proud that recently it has become clear that who I am now is defined by the choices I have made, the actions and risks I have taken, the people I have met, the emotions I have felt, the work towards personal development I have done and my need to connect and offer.
Dedicating time to these fields separately offered me a unique mixture of knowledge and experience, which led me to bring the circles closer to each other and finally build my own career identity.
After 13 years of continuous work experience, I realise that the secret of my personal happiness and success was that I treated and managed every change and challenge of my life as a project, with the same passion and commitment.
My experience in project management has played a crucial role in my way of thinking and acting. Through project management, I learnt how to plan, structure and successfully execute a project, including tools and templates for setting smart goals, how to collaborate effectively with stakeholders and team members to achieve goals, how to schedule my work to avoid panic, and finally, how to learn from mistakes. All these factors are very important in dealing with daily life.
W4IT: What do you think we should be doing more of to encourage more girls to consider a career in tech?
SM: I believe that we need to debunk the myth that women are not meant for a career in tech. We just have to question who says that and who knows better than us. It has nothing to do with the capabilities of individuals but instead personal choices and preferences. “If you like it girl, believe you can and go for it… prepare and take the risk, otherwise you will still wonder…”.
Interview by CreThiDev