The Key to Successful Project Management

Matthew Beck (EMDC '19) talks about his work at electrical contracting firm Hatzel and Buehler and how he grew as a project manager thanks to Northwestern Engineering's EMDC program.

Matthew Beck is a project manager at the Hatzel and Buehler electrical contracting firm, a role he's held for more than 12 years. It's a job that comes with a wide variety of responsibilities, from creating and managing project budgets and coordinating resources to targeting specific customers and markets for future projects. Beck also creates project schedules, negotiates purchase orders, and monitors projects for changes in scope or cost.

The variance in his work requires a wide-ranging skill set, but his most important skills are not related to numbers on spreadsheets.  

“To be a successful project manager, you must listen to your team,” Beck said. “The team members are your best chance for success. You need to give them the tools, equipment, materials, and resources to be successful. If you are not listening to the team's needs, you create a risk of failure in the project.”

That point was driven home to Beck during his time in Northwestern Engineering’s Master of Science in Executive Management for Design and Construction (EMDC) program. And it's not just listening to your internal team that matters.

In Advanced Business Strategy, Beck (EMDC '19) and his classmates discussed project bids and what it takes to win a project. Some contractors focus solely on the cost it takes to compete and win a project bid, but Beck explained the class focused on the importance of listening to what the customer said matters to them.

"The professor advised us to talk with the customer to find what the specific goals and needs are of a project," Beck said. "Then incorporate those items into your proposal. Customers want to know that the contractors performing the work are aligned with the project's goals and needs."

It was this type of lesson and example that drove Beck to EMDC in the first place. EMDC had a distinct focus that appealed to Beck and could not be found at any other school.

"I was searching for an executive training program, and what I found was that so many programs were just built on a standard MBA program," he said. "The EMDC program offered that advanced MBA course work, but it was specifically tailored to the construction and design industry."

In EMDC, Beck found a collection of classmates with similar experiences. They often talked about challenges they faced in their work and opportunities for growth.  

"It was encouraging to know that other people struggle with similar issues," he said. "We were able to advise and encourage each other on some of these issues." 

In his role as a project manager, Beck enjoys interacting with owners, general contractors, trade contractors, material distributors, and manufacturing representatives. It was those same varied conversations that made EMDC so valuable for him. 

"I felt I grew professionally knowing that the challenges I faced in the contracting industry were very similar to those of my colleagues," Beck said. "We were able to help each other through difficult situations with advice and encouragement. I found confidence that the knowledge gained and people met in this program would allow me to find solutions to most industry issues."

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