Learning at Work Week is a unique annual event to build learning cultures at work. It aims to put a spotlight on the importance and benefits of continual learning and development. We caught up with Max Edwards, Project Manager in Octopus.
Max’s learning journey at Octopus
Max started at Octopus back in 2015 as a Business Development Manager in Octopus Investments. “Before Octopus, I worked as an Account Manager in Branding and Design and I knew next to nothing about financial services before joining. The training the team provided gave me the financial services background I was missing but having that customer focus and a willingness to learn was so beneficial in being offered the role at Octopus.”
After 3 years as a Business Development Manager, Max came to the decision that he was looking for a change. After a short time, an opportunity arose for a Project Management position in the Change Team which involved looking after a portfolio of projects that impact teams across the Octopus Fund Management group. Max thought this opportunity would be great to use his existing people skills and come across new challenges that he would have to learn.
“I thought about two things about this opportunity. I would be using my people skills when helping manage stakeholders and secondly, it was an opportunity to be challenged again and learning what it is like on different projects, teams, amongst different personalities and areas that I knew nothing about. A big thing for me is to feel like I am continuously learning and what I needed was a new learning curve in my career. I successfully became a Project Manager for the Change Team in 2019.”
In this blog, Max tells us more about the adaptation needed when changing roles and skills developed.
In more recent times, Max revealed that he will be moving to a new position within Octopus Group. “A great job came up working as Deputy Chief of Staff which I will start officially in a couple of weeks.” Congratulations Max!
Transitioning from Business Development Manager to a Project Manager
“I’m a fairly reflective person, which helped as I moved into the new role. In my career changes over the years, I have gotten into a great habit of checking in at regular intervals or when changing roles and writing down all the things I have accomplished or could improve to help me in my new roles. I ask myself: What would I have told myself starting in this role knowing what I know now? This helps me learn from experience and improve in my next role.
Max told us that there were transferable skills learnt from the Account Manager and Sales roles, but also new skills “I found myself picking up new skills when I started in the Projects team. I was using a lot of the skills which I was hired when working as an Account Executive, but I had not consciously embraced to the fullest potential at the time.”
Adapting in roles
“Project Management is all about working with key stakeholders at all levels, clear planning and communication, and making sure momentum is kept up throughout the lifecycle of a project. Being adaptable and empathetic to different teams’ needs and priorities is key in Project Management. It also helps if you can understand processes and work closely with Business Analysts and subject matter experts within teams. The good news is you’re not expected to know everything as a Project Manager – what you need more is a high-level understanding of how things fit together and then a collaborative, trusting relationship with the members of the project team to help you all get the project done.”
“I have joined onto various courses and received accreditation, throughout my time at Octopus.” Whilst in the Sales team, Max completed his IMC (Investment Management Certificate) Level 1. Additionally, since being in the role as a Project Manager, Max has gained accreditation with the PRINCE2 Project Management course, which provides a firm grounding in the basics of how to successfully manage a project, through a series of processes.
Max also certified with a Diploma in Business Analysis after diving into analysis work on some projects “This helped to understand more techniques and become adaptable when working on various projects.” As Max moves into the Deputy Chief of Staff role, he is looking for ways to learn and fill in gaps to help his agenda. “I know there are a few gaps of learning that I could fill which would be really useful in my new role. The great thing is Octopus have lots of courses on our training site which I can pick up.”
3 words of encouragement from Max:
- In areas you want to learn and develop, be open to asking for feedback. People who are willing and open to being adaptable may find their learning journeys easier.
- Keep learning and take risks as you don’t know what the outcome could be. If you don’t succeed, at least you will have hopefully learned something along the way and you give yourself a better chance of succeeding at the next thing. At the very least you will still learn something and be open to change.
- Where you are now, today or in a few years, is not your end point. Careers are marathons not sprints and you never know where you will end up. Keep working hard and if you see an opportunity work towards it. Believe that you can find a way or make a way.