I'm occasionally asked about how to become a project manager (and sometimes about how to become a good one, which is the better question). Usually these questions come from someone looking to make a transition from some other role in research (sometimes from a trainee looking balefully ahead to a life as a PI, casting about for a more palatable alternative), but sometimes also from someone inquiring about our team and how it came together and works so well.
Here's a brief and non-comprehensive list of the things I think are the most important characteristics of a good project manager in research:
With the exceptions of organization and communication (and I'd personally debate on those ones), these are characteristics inherent in an individual and therefore not teachable - coachable, expandable, but not teachable. People either have these strengths or they don't, and while they might develop them if given an opportunity, they need to have a kernel of them to start with.
It would be great in the research project management world to have the capacity (and the funding, of course) to allow us to engage interns or trainees, but in the research world it is not conceivable these days to spend funding on much of anything that is not supporting the science. What we have been able to develop is a Jedi-like approach to the team structure, where newer staff are paired with one or more veterans to help learn the ropes and learn through doing and observing. And perhaps a Borg-like collective of knowledge that makes the whole better than any individual part.
Who is Robyn?
My career as a research project manager is rewarding, dynamic, challenging, and fun. I'm looking forward to sharing my knowledge and experience in communication, organization, and common sense approaches in research management and leadership, and to enabling others to learn and grow in this exciting career.